Will Power will start Saturday night's IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway from pole position after triumphing in a difficult qualifying session on Friday.
Limited practice time and substantially warmer conditions than earlier in the day left many drivers battling understeer toward the end of their runs.
Power was one of the few who managed to be both fast and consistent across both of his laps, and a 218.896mph average was the Penske driver's reward.
"I could see that people were dropping off a lot on the second lap," he said.
"It was a bit loose for me on the first lap and I wasn't sure what I was going to do on the second, but I managed to keep it almost flat. I was actually a bit surprised by the speed when I saw it on my dash."
Also surprised by his own performance was Josef Newgarden, whose 217.835mph average was good enough to put him on the front row despite him claiming that his team had done virtually zero work on qualifying preparation.
"Our theory is if we made the race car as good as possible, it should be OK for qualifying," said the Sarah Fisher Hartman driver.
"I didn't know how much speed we'd have - I was hoping for top 10. I almost thought we didn't do enough; it almost felt too easy. We've just got a bit of mojo on our side."
Tony Kanaan briefly held provisional pole before being bumped by Newgarden, although he still finished up third-fastest alongside Juan Pablo Montoya, who was one of many to go quick on the first lap and then struggle on their second.
Ed Carpenter was disappointed with his time after being happy with his car in opening practice - mid-way through the session he told AUTOSPORT that he expected to end up 10th. As it was, he will start from fifth alongside Scott Dixon, who was also mystified at where his speed from earlier in the day had disappeared to.
Power's mid-session prediction for pole was team-mate Helio Castroneves, and no one was more surprised by the Brazilian when he finished up 14th.
"I couldn't even go flat," he said. "It was so bad. And it's very weird, because in practice it was so good.
"It's strange, because the three of us [Penske drivers] have a very similar set-up, and I don't understand why I had so much more understeer."
Ryan Briscoe was another who faded relative to his performance earlier in the day; the Ganassi driver explaining later that a gearing problem had contributed to his qualifying 12th.
Pos Driver Team/Engine Speed 1. Will Power Penske/Chevy 218.896 2. Josef Newgarden Fisher/Honda 217.835 3. Tony Kanaan Ganassi/Chevy 217.826 4. Juan Pablo Montoya Penske/Chevy 217.724 5. Ed Carpenter Carpenter/Chevy 217.677 6. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda 217.222 7. Scott Dixon Ganassi/Chevy 217.128 8. Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda 217.007 9. James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Honda 216.967 10. Carlos Munoz Andretti/Honda 216.960 11. Mikhail Aleshin Schmidt/Honda 216.880 12. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Honda 216.823 13. Ryan Briscoe Ganassi/Chevy 216.667 14. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevy 216.591 15. Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Chevy 216.151 16. Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda 216.064 17. Marco Andretti Andretti/Honda 215.697 18. Sebastien Bourdais KV/Chevy 214.407 19. Sebastian Saavedra KV/Chevy 214.156 20. Jack Hawksworth Herta/Honda 214.145 21. Graham Rahal Rahal/Honda 213.292 22. Carlos Huertas Coyne/Honda 212.191 All drivers use Dallara chassis Qualifying order set by average speed of two-lap run