Will Power claimed a record eighth pole position in an IndyCar Series season as he made a spectacular return to Sears Point, the scene of his back-breaking 2009 crash.
The championship leader left it late before using the faster 'red' tyres in his group session to make it through, then was knocked out of the top six in round two in the closing stages and had to produce a last-minute lap to secure his place in the Fast Six pole shoot-out. But having reached the crucial segment, there was no stopping Power, as he beat his Penske team-mate Helio Castroneves to the top spot by 0.037 seconds.
Dario Franchitti, Power's nearest title rival, was nearly half a second behind in third.
As practice had hinted, it was Alex Tagliani who infiltrated the Penske/Ganassi group in the Fast Six. The Fazzt driver took fourth place, pushing Ryan Briscoe (Penske) and Scott Dixon (Ganassi) back to the third row.
Dreyer & Reinbold's Justin Wilson missed out on a Fast Six spot by a narrow 0.0088s and will start seventh, ahead of Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan. Raphael Matos (De Ferran Dragon) completes the top 10.
Simona de Silvestro had another strong run for HVM in 11th, while Dan Wheldon (Panther) led his group for a while, was pushed down to seventh and outside the cut-off, then squeezed back in at the expense of Graham Rahal, who then lost another place to his Newman/Haas team-mate Hideki Mutoh. Wheldon went on to qualify 12th in round two.
Wilson only just made it through to the top 12 with a last gasp effort - which came at the expense of Formula Renault 3.5 champion Bertrand Baguette, who will therefore start 13th for Conquest.
Pos Driver Team Time Session 1. Will Power Penske 1m16.5282s Fast six 2. Helio Castroneves Penske 1m16.5652s Fast six 3. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1m16.9437s Fast six 4. Alex Tagliani Fazzt 1m17.2068s Fast six 5. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1m17.2108s Fast six 6. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1m17.3469s Fast six 7. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 1m16.9447s Round 2 8. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 1m17.1317s Round 2 9. Tony Kanaan Andretti 1m17.3181s Round 2 10. Raphael Matos De Ferran Dragon 1m17.3710s Round 2 11. Simona de Silvestro HVM 1m17.7429s Round 2 12. Dan Wheldon Panther 1m17.8280s Round 2 13. Bertrand Baguette Conquest 1m17.5238s Group 1 14. Hideki Mutoh Newman/Haas 1m17.5186s Group 2 15. EJ Viso KV 1m17.6825s Group 1 16. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas 1m17.5284s Group 2 17. Takuma Sato KV 1m17.7112s Group 1 18. Marco Andretti Andretti 1m17.6216s Group 2 19. JR Hildebrand Dreyer & Reinbold 1m17.7659s Group 1 20. Mario Moraes KV 1m17.7532s Group 2 21. Vitor Meira Foyt 1m17.9149s Group 1 22. Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne 1m18.0422s Group 2 23. Danica Patrick Andretti 1m18.3995s Group 1 24. Milka Duno Dale Coyne 1m22.2980s Group 2 25. Francesco Dracone Conquest 1m21.2262s Group 1