Team Penske swept the first three spots in qualifying for the season-ending MAVTV 500 IndyCar event but the squad's championship contender, Helio Castroneves was denied by Will Power who scored the pole for Saturday's race.
Castroneves enters the race 25 points behind Scott Dixon and could have used the one bonus point awarded to a pole winner. As it stands, both Castroneves and Dixon will lose 10 spots for an unapproved engine change, a standard procedure for championship contenders before the final race.
Power hates that he was the one to deny his teammate the bonus point and argued that there wasn't a lot he could do to guess where both he and Castroneves would have qualified, leaving him no choice but to go all-out in his two time trial laps.
"It's hard to predict the lap you're going to do anyway, but obviously would have been nice for Helio to get the point," Power said. "He needs to lead the most laps and I'll just do whatever I can to help him out. I want to have a good race, and if that means just sitting behind him all day, that's fine. It's about the team.
"Scott didn't (get the bonus point), so it still kind of keeps it alive."
Dixon originally qualified seventh before the engine change announcement.
The starting spot will not matter quite as much as the race is a 500-miler and will feature a three-wide start as the third leg of the Fuzzy's Triple Crown. Dixon will automatically clinch the championship if he finishes fifth or better, leaving Castroneves to only focus on his own race.
"We're going to race as hard as we can and see what happens," Castroneves said. "Good effort for the entire Team Penske. Unfortunately, we didn't have a crystal ball to tell my buddy (Power) to slow down. Those Ganassi cars were behind him, so I'm glad he went for it. That's what the car was able to do."
Dixon appears poised to take the conservative approach early in the race and during his pre-race strategy. He recognizes what problems a three-wide start could provide and the engine change was just a way to avoid a costly engine failure.
"For us, it was more paramount to change the engine and make sure we took maybe the performance gain than sort of just have the straight-out speed and go off whatever qualifying we would have qualified," Dixon said. "Three-wide should be pretty interesting around here."
Dixon is on the five-year plan as far as championships are concerned having captured the crown in 2003, 2008 and is leading with one race remaining in 2013. Castroneves is still seeking his first season championship.
Team Penske's AJ Allmendinger, Sebastien Bourdais in his last race for Dragon Racing and Charlie Kimball completed the top-5. The complete qualifying results (not a starting lineup) can be found below. The starting lineup will be released on Saturday morning.