AJ Foyt IV made it into the Indianapolis 500 field on Bump Day and then escaped a dramatic accident on a practice run, while Mario Dominguez, Roger Yasukawa and Max Papis missed out on the last grid spots in a thrilling final half-hour of qualifying.
Having failed to make it into the field yesterday after an error on his first run and a gearbox failure on his second, Foyt IV wasted no time in booking his place on the grid today, immediately producing a four-lap average of 219.184mph.
That proved to be easily sufficient to guarantee Foyt's place in the race - which was fortunate for the Vision Racing driver as two hours later he suffered a massive accident while on a practice lap. A missing component in the fuel system caused Foyt's Dallara-Honda to burst into flames at the rear and then spin into the Turn 2 wall, but he emerged with only minor burns.
"It's been a tough month so far," Foyt admitted, "but that's the way Indy is."
Foyt's lap bumped Marty Roth out of the field, but he was not sidelined for long, getting back onto the grid at Buddy Lazier's expense, and putting Yasukawa on the bubble.
The Beck driver hung on until the final hour before Dominguez - whose first qualifying attempt had been too slow - mustered enough speed to bump him out of the field.
Yasukawa immediately launched a response only to fall short, but Lazier proved more successful. He had waved off a previous attempt, then made set-up changes and returned to produce an average of 219.015mph and grab 32nd place.
The 1996 Indy winner's successful final attempt was the wildest ride of the day - an edgy, dangerous run with a car that had little downforce on a track that had no grip.
"It was a hairy run, no doubt," Lazier said. "The emotions run the same when you get everything out of a great car as they do when you get everything out of it just to get in the race. It was a very emotional run, a very serious run, a very on-the-edge run.
"It was a wicked racetrack today, everybody could tell. There was no grip."
That bumped Dominguez from the field and left Roth to endure a nervous final ten minutes on the bubble before he was confirmed as the final qualifier after Dominguez's last attempt ended in a crash at Turn 1.
The Mexican's first lap looked like he was set to comfortably make the grid, but he lost control on the next tour and hit the wall. He escaped without injury, but having lost his chance to qualify for Indianapolis.
Like Dominguez, Papis was trying to get a rebuilt car up to speed after a practice crash yesterday. The Rubicon driver struggled for pace throughout his practice laps, then had to call off a last-gasp qualifying attempt when his car developed a clutch problem just as he was about to take to the track.
American Dream Racing abandoned their short-lived Indy 500 attempt following Phil Giebler's violent accident on Saturday. Giebler was released from hospital after sustaining bruised lungs and a neck sprain, but was not cleared to drive, and the recently-formed team ultimately decided against making another qualifying bid with a substitute driver.
While the focus was on the fight for the final spots on the grid, pole-winner Scott Dixon was fastest among the drivers who practiced in the gaps between qualifying attempts. His Ganassi teammate Dan Wheldon took second on the timesheets, ahead of Newman/Haas/Lanigan's Graham Rahal.
Final Indianapolis 500 grid:
Pos Driver Team Speed (mph)
1. Scott Dixon Ganassi 226.366
2. Dan Wheldon Ganassi 226.110
3. Ryan Briscoe Penske 226.080
4. Helio Castroneves Penske 225.733
5. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 225.197
6. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 224.794
7. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 224.417
8. Vitor Meira Panther 224.346
9. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 223.887
10. Ed Carpenter Vision 223.835
11. Tomas Scheckter Luczo Dragon 223.496
12. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold 222.539
13. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 222.531
14. Darren Manning Foyt 222.430
15. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne 222.330
16. Justin Wilson Newman/Haas/Lanigan 222.267
17. Buddy Rice Dreyer & Reinbold 222.101
18. Davey Hamilton Vision 222.017
19. Alex Lloyd Rahal Letterman/Ganassi 221.788
20. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman 221.579
21. John Andretti Roth 221.550
22. Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher 221.246
23. Will Power KV 221.136
24. Jeff Simmons Foyt 221.103
25. Oriol Servia KV 220.767
26. EJ Viso HVM 220.356
27. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold 220.305
28. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne 219.716
29. Enrique Bernoldi Conquest 219.422
30. Jaime Camara Conquest 219.345
31. AJ Foyt IV Vision 219.184
32. Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn 219.015
33. Marty Roth Roth 218.965