A.J. Foyt IV had to deal with wind and then fire Sunday before his starting spot in the 92nd Indianapolis 500 was secure.
At least it didn't rain.
The grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt began the final day of qualifying for the May 25 race as a non-qualifier, needing to bump his way into the 33-car field.
The biggest obstacle was the howling wind, blowing at a steady 20 mph and also gusting at times at least 10 mph harder.
But Foyt, who tried twice Saturday to qualify _ getting caught by the wind and nearly hitting the wall on his first attempt and having the second try aborted before he even began by a broken gearbox _ persevered. Moments after the 2.5-mile oval was opened for qualifying at noon, the 23-year-old driver gritted his teeth and made a solid, four-lap qualifying run averaging 219.184 mph.
That was easily good enough to bump Marty Roth, the slowest of the first 33 qualifiers at 215.506, from the tentative field.
"It's not easy," Foyt said. "Each corner you have to approach a little bit differently. It is really tough, especially the speed you carry around here. ... I'm just glad to get out there and put four laps in."
About 90 minutes later, Roth, a 49-year-old Canadian land developer and father of five, bounced back into the lineup with a four-lap run of 218.965 that knocked 1996 Indy winner Buddy Lazier's 217.939 out of the field and put the 218.010 of Roger Yasukawa "on the bubble" as the slowest qualifying speed.
"We're not focusing on a track record here, folks," Roth said. "Just focusing on the bottom two rows where bumping is going to take place. We just have to play it safe. It's just being responsible and not going crazy, crossing the line resulting in a crash and missing the show."
After Roth's run the track opened for practice and Foyt was involved in the scariest moment of the day.
He was running laps, working on race setup and preparing for the possibility of being bumped and having to requalify, when the cover to his fuel tank blew off. That allowed fuel to pour out of the tank and ignite from the heat of the engine. Within seconds, the rear of Foyt's Vision Racing entry was a ball of flame and his car backed hard into the outside wall.
The fire left Foyt, seeking his fifth Indy start, with a small burn on the back of his neck and singed hair. But he was cleared to drive as the team prepared a backup car, just in case.
"I'm fine mentally, and crashes like this, where you know what happened and what caused it, you can brush those off pretty quick," Foyt said. "It's when you snap loose and crash and don't really know what happened, that's what gets to your head."
Still, he acknowledged this was a scary incident, particularly because of the fireball.
"Anyone who is not afraid of fire, I think is crazy," said Foyt, standing in his grandfather's garage. "Fire's the worst thing for me. It was scary. The important thing is that the protection we had, was why we had no (other) burns.
"We know who did it. I don't want to single anyone out, but he's probably going to be looking for a new job and it's too bad because he's a good guy. He just made a mistake."
Foyt was asked if the elder Foyt, his former boss who has two cars of his own in the field, was upset by his scary crash.
"He was worried," the youngster said. "You know, he's a grandfather first of all. And then he gets mad at the guy who did it. There's really no excuse for that."
Tony George, founder of the IRL, head of the speedway and owner of Vision Racing, agreed the mistake in leaving the cover loose was inexcusable.
"Any time you have human beings involved, there's always the potential for human error and that's what it was in this case," George said. "It doesn't change the fact that this is a business where attention to detail is critical and waking up every morning and understanding that you are responsible for people's safety and lives. It's unfortunate. I'm sure the person responsible is very sorry and very aware of it. It's just one of those things."
There was still plenty of action to come, though.
Under the unique Indy qualifying format, each entry is allowed up to three qualifying attempts on each of the four scheduled days of time trials. If knocked out of the field, a driver with attempts left can bump his or her way back in until the 6 p.m. end of the session.
At 4:20 p.m., Mario Dominguez, who had crashed on Saturday _ his second crash of the month _ made a qualifying run with his rebuilt car. But his 217.775 failed to make it.
There were no more qualifying attempts for a while as drivers waited, hoping the wind would die down. It didn't, but things finally heated up on the cold track in the last half hour.
First, Lazier tried to get back in the field, but waved off the effort after three laps at 217.191. Dominguez then made his second try and bounced Yasukawa out with a run of 218.620 that left the Mexican rookie as the slowest qualifier.
Yasukawa tried to get back in but was too slow at 218.559.
Lazier then drew loud cheers from the chilled crowd spread around the sprawling speedway with a four-lap run of 219.015 that bumped Dominguez and put the Indy veteran in the middle of the last of 11 three-car rows and Roth back on the bubble.
"It was a hairy one," Lazier said. "It was such a late start. We didn't get into the car until Friday."
Yasukawa then put together a four-lap run of 218.409, just a bit too slow to bump Roth.
Finally, Dominguez went out for his final try moments before the gun sounded to end qualifying. His first lap was plenty fast at 219.780. But, coming off of turn one on his second lap, Dominguez lost control and slid hard into the wall.
He was not injured.
Scott Dixon, among the 11 drivers who qualified last weekend, won the pole at 226.366, more than 7 mph faster than Roth, the slowest qualifier for the second straight year.
The final field includes former Indy winners Dan Wheldon, Helio Castroneves, Buddy Rice and Lazier, as well as 11 rookies, led by 19-year-old Graham Rahal, one of the drivers making the transition from the defunct Champ Car World Series to the recently unified IRL IndyCar Series.
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot contributed to this report