Alex Tagliani and Sam Schmidt Motorsports earned a sensational pole position for the centenary Indianapolis 500 as they proved their practice and early qualifying form was no fluke in the final pole shoot-out.
Despite suspecting that the likes of Ganassi and Penske would be able to raise their game for the decisive 'fast nine' session - as had been the case 12 months ago when he had also led the first part of qualifying - Tagliani proved up to the challenge this year with a four-lap run averaging 227.472mph to secure a shock pole.
Ganassi's efforts were blunted by both its cars running low on fuel. Scott Dixon looked like he might have been slightly too quick for Tagliani to beat, but he lost speed on his final lap as the car ran dry exiting Turn 4, leaving Dixon second on the grid.
His team-mate Dario Franchitti, last year's Indy winner, was even worse affected, not even completing his qualifying run before his fuel ran out.
For a while Oriol Servia looked like he might give Newman/Haas its first Indy 500 pole since 1987, as he held the provisional top spot until Tagliani and Dixon's late runs. The Spaniard completed the front row in third.
Sam Schmidt's excellent day continued with Tagliani's team-mate Townsend Bell taking fourth, and Dan Wheldon's Schmidt-assisted Bryan Herta Autosport car qualifying sixth.
They sandwich championship leader Will Power, as Penske's muted qualifying day continued with fifth on the grid for its only driver in the pole shoot-out.
2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice took seventh for Panther, ahead of Sarah Fisher Racing's Ed Carpenter.
The remaining grid positions will be set during Sunday's Bump Day qualifying. Leading drivers still trying to get into the race include Penske's Ryan Briscoe, Ganassi's Graham Rahal, Dreyer & Reinbold driver Paul Tracy and all four of Andretti Autosport's full-time entrants.
Pos Driver Team Speed 1. Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt 227.472mph 2. Scott Dixon Ganassi 227.340mph 3. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas 227.168mph 4. Townsend Bell Sam Schmidt 226.887mph 5. Will Power Penske 226.773mph 6. Dan Wheldon Herta 226.490mph 7. Buddy Rice Panther 225.786mph 8. Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher 225.121mph 9. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 10. Takuma Sato KV 225.736mph 11. Vitor Meira Foyt 225.590mph 12. JR Hildebrand Panther 225.579mph 13. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas 225.572mph 14. Bertrand Baguette Rahal Letterman Lanigan 225.285mph 15. Davey Hamilton Dreyer & Reinbold 225.250mph 16. Helio Castroneves Penske 225.216mph 17. John Andretti Petty/Andretti 224.981mph 18. EJ Viso KV 224.732mph 19. Bruno Junqueira Foyt 224.691mph 20. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 224.511mph 21. Jay Howard Rahal/Schmidt 224.483mph 22. Tomas Scheckter KV/SH 224.433mph 23. Tony Kanaan KV 224.417mph 24. Simona de Silvestro HVM 224.392mph Yet to qualify: Paul Tracy Dreyer & Reinbold 224.353mph Charlie Kimball Ganassi 224.262mph Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 224.258mph Ryan Briscoe Penske 224.134mph Marco Andretti Andretti 224.074mph Danica Patrick Andretti 223.831mph Graham Rahal Ganassi 223.822mph Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne 223.564mph Pippa Mann Conquest 223.070mph Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 222.951mph Raphael Matos AFS 222.786mph Mike Conway Andretti 222.247mph James Jakes Dale Coyne 221.846mph Sebastian Saavedra Conquest 221.526mph Ho-Pin Tung Schmidt/Dragon