Rookie Juan Montoya edged Paul Tracy by .040 of a second Saturday to earn his fifth pole with a lap of 114.773 mph at the Grand Prix of Detroit.
Montoya brushed the wall, leaving a trail of sparks during his fastest lap. But it didn't slow him down much on the 2.3-mile temporary road course on Belle Isle, in the middle of the Detroit River.
"I just touched the wall," Montoya said. "That didn't help me, but it didn't slow me down. It didn't damage the car at all."
Gil de Ferran, who made news off the track this weekend by signing a three-year contract to drive for Roger Penske starting next year, was third in the final qualifying. He will start beside Dario Franchitti in the second row.
Qualifying is vital because the Belle Isle course is very narrow, making passing next to impossible. Last year's race, for example, was won by Alex Zanardi, who led for 50 of the 72 laps. Pole-sitter Greg Moore led the first 22 laps before relinquishing the lead to Zanardi during a pit stop.
Montoya, who leads the CART Series championship race with 129 points _ 13 better than Franchitti _ will be aiming for his fifth victory of the season. He is the only driver on the circuit with more than one win.
Although he is a rookie on the CART circuit, Montoya, the 23-year-old from Colombia, drove this course in 1994 during a support race.
"I like this track," Montoya said.
The course has been changed somewhat since then, but nothing new seems to bother him. Montoya, who finished second in the U.S. 500, has won at Long Beach, Nazareth, Rio and Cleveland. Two of those victories were on ovals, two on road courses like Detroit.
Tracy, who won the provisional pole on Friday, blamed himself for not holding it. He hasn't started on the pole since 1997.
"When the tires were fresh, I pushed hard and that was a mistake," Tracy said. "I felt there was more time there. But to do what we did, seven laps into the run, I felt that was good."
Tracy, whose lone victory this season was at Milwaukee, has a history of running well in Detroit, winning in 1994. Tracy, who finished third in the U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway two weeks ago, was seventh at Detroit in 1998.
"The car was better today," Tracy said. "I just made mistakes at the right time."
SPRINT CARS: The fast-growing World of Outlaws sprint-car circuit is aligning itself with one of the top promoters on NASCAR's Winston Cup circuit. Speedway Motorsports Inc. is planning to start holding World of Outlaws races next year at its Winston Cup properties in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas and Las Vegas and televise them on The Nashville Network.
The arrangement calls for Concord-based SMI, which holds nearly one-third of the races on NASCAR's top circuit, to build half-mile dirt tracks at its Winston Cup properties in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.
The arrangement would improve the visibility of the Outlaws series, a circuit that surveys have shown to be one of the fastest-growing in racing.
AUTOLITE NATIONALS: Whit Bazemore set a track record for elapsed time to earn his second No. 1 qualifying effort of the season in Funny Car at Sonoma, Calif.
Bazemore covered the quarter-mile in 4.931 seconds at 305.77 mph, edging John Force for the top spot. Force ran a 4.949 at 307.86.
Bob Vandergriff Jr. and Kurt Johnson led qualifying in their respective categories.
Vandergriff earned his second Top Fuel qualifying pole position of the season, standing on Friday's run of 4.552 at 317.49.
Johnson led Pro Stock qualifying with a track record of 6.898 seconds at 199.91 mph. Warren Johnson, who failed to make the 16-car lineup during his first three attempts, made good on his last run to earn the second spot in the lineup, covering the distance in 6.925 at a track-record speed of 200.77.