WATKINS GLEN - Everything is beginning to trend upwards for Alexander Rossi.

Friday, the 25-year-old Californian announced a contract extension with Andretti Autosport and sponsor, NAPA. Saturday, he claimed his first Verizon IndyCar Series pole position at Watkins Glen International.

From his stunning upset victory at the 2016 Indianapolis 500 to Saturday's qualifying battle with four-time Glen winner Scott Dixon, Rossi is poised to become a strong presence in IndyCar.

"I certainly hope so, the momentum is building," Rossi said.

His competition has certainly noticed.

"You're starting to see the real deal, Alexander is starting to figure things out more and more," said IndyCar points leader, Josef Newgarden.

After spending five years of racing in Europe, culminating in making five starts for the Marussia Formula One team, Rossi put the full spectrum of his skills on display at Watkins Glen International this weekend. He was near the top of the speed charts in every practice session, advanced through each round of knockout qualifying and on the final lap of time trials, bested Dixon's best lap by .0529 seconds.

"We were never outside the top five in practice and we tested here a few weeks ago with Scott, and we were right there," he said. "So I knew we had a good package.

"I knew as the grip came up (in the tires), all I needed to do was clean up a couple things to go faster."

He did.

His speed of 147.119 mph just beat Dixon for pole position, but wasn't enough to top Dixon's new track record - which is now officially 1:22.4171, and set in the second round of Saturday's qualifying.

Dixon blames himself after failing to clear Helio Castroneves during a flying lap.

"The frustrating part is, we had it in hand," Dixon lamented. "We straight up didn't get the gap right."

Also frustrated was Newgarden, who went wide exiting turn 9 on his flyer - kicking up a massive dust cloud and scrubbing off too much speed.

"I think I messed up a pole run, to be honest," said Newgarden, the leading qualifier for Team Penske. "I feel kind of stupid, I feel so silly to mess up a pole run."

2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, Rossi's teammate, qualified fourth by .25 seconds over Dixon's Chip Ganassi Racing stablemate Charlie Kimball. Changing to the Firestone black tires didn't work for Helio Castroneves, who will start sixth for Team Penske.

Again, the Firestone "reds" only made a marginal impact at The Glen, but for the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen on Sunday, the only tires that could matter have treads on them.

There's a 95 percent chancemail of rain when the 60-lap race starts at 1:47 p.m. The new tire tread pattern and construction, while employed in practice and testing, has never been used in IndyCar competition.

"It will be a lot higher attrition if (the rain) plays out, it will make for a very interesting race," said Dixon. As for Rossi, he has no fear - his last pole position was on a soaked Monaco street circuit while he was racing in the F1 junior series, GP2.

"Bring it on," he said with a grin.