Will Power gave the home fans something to cheer by becoming the first Australian to claim pole position for the race at Surfers Paradise.
Power's held provisional pole position from Friday's opening qualifying session, and despite the 25-year-old Team Australia driver again topping the times in second qualifying, was unable to improve his time.
That meant that his Friday best of 1:31.409 was enough to secure his maiden pole.
Championship leader Sebastien Bourdais, who can become the first man to win three straight titles with ninth place on Sunday, crashed out against a wall on Saturday.
His incident caused race officials to put out the red flags to clear up the mess left by his Newman/Haas car.
Under ChampCar rules, anybody causing a stoppage loses all their lap times from that session. That was particularly unlucky for the 27-year-old Frenchman, who's 1:31.536 lap would have secured him pole.
Instead, he had to rely on his best time from Friday's opening session and will start the race from second.
Canadian veteran Paul Tracy had looked set to set the pace in second qualifying - something that would have guaranteed a front-row start.
But instead, Power's table-topping time demoted him to second in the session and third overall.
Fourth and fifth on the grid will be Bourdais' Brazilian team-mate Bruno Junqueira, and CTE-HVM driver Nelson Philippe, who took the best grid spot of his career.
AJ Allmendinger, the only man that can now deny Bourdais the title, was out of luck in Australia. The Forsythe driver took pole position by 0.004 from Power.
But there were only comiserations from his team as a red flag caused by the spun Katherine Legge elsewhere on the track rendered the lap null and void. He will start seventh.