AJ Foyt IV and Mario Dominguez head a quartet of drivers still to make the Indianapolis 500 field, ensuring that Bump Day 2008 will have more drama than recent seasons.

After last Sunday's second scheduled qualifying day was washed out by the rain that has plagued the build-up to the 92nd running of the 500, positions 12-33 were duly filled on a busy third day Saturday.

The first eleven positions were determined on Pole Day [10 May] so, when Townsend Bell posted the fastest qualifying effort of the third day, averaging 222.539mph in his four laps around the historic 2.5-mile Indianapolis oval, he earned the twelfth starting position, joining Ed Carpenter and Tomas Scheckter - already in the field from Pole Day on row four.

"We always say we just want to be comfortably in the show but, when you get out there, it's one less car you have to pass if you can get a good run in," Bell admitted, "We just nipped Graham [Rahal] as he had a big first lap then slowed down a lot. We had a decent first lap then slowed down a little."

Row five will feature rookie Rahal, Darren Manning and 2002 pole sitter Bruno Junqueira.

"It was actually a pretty good run," Rahal insisted of his four laps, "It was a bit tough, because my first lap was solid at 223.6mph but, the laps after that, I could just feel [the wind] every time I went through Turn Two.

"I couldn't get the car to turn, so I had to lift every time. It was a pretty big lift, too, and it costs you a lot of time. Obviously, we're disappointed with that but, after last weekend, it is nice to put it into the race."

Manning was also happy with his run, which looks likely to lock the AJ Foyt Enterprises car into the field in 14th spot, despite day three of qualifying being considerably slower than Pole Day.

"I've been struggling with my car all month, and that's the best it's been," the Briton said, "I've been loose all month, and then, all of a sudden, we made a few changes and then I had understeer.

"The day's not very nice, with all this wind and the temperature has been getting up there, so we were a bit cautious on downforce. As a result, we were actually surprised to go so fast, but it was just because the car was that much better. I had to actually come off the gas a little on Turn Two on the last lap, which dropped me out of fastest for the day but, with the downforce we got in, we're nearly on race set-up, so that really bodes well for the race."

Junqueira overcame the lack of a back-up car to reward the hard work of his Dale Coyne Racing crew with 15th spot, ahead of Justin Wilson and 2004 race winner Buddy Rice.

"Every corner was different - and difficult," Wilson reported, "Turn Two was the worst. Every time you turned in there, if felt like the front end was lifted off the ground and skated off the track. You're reluctant to lift, but you have to, so you do a quick lift and back on. It feels good to get in the show, but I wanted to go again. I think we could do a much better job the second time around. But that's quite a gamble."

Row five was completed by veteran Davey Hamilton, but there was bad news for Vision Racing team-mate AJ Foyt IV, who failed to post a time and will require another attempt on Bump Day.

Foyt prepared to qualify twice on Saturday, but waved off the first attempt after a bobble in Turn Two, and then experienced mechanical difficulties on the out-lap of his second attempt.

"The gearbox went to crap out there," he complained, "When I tried to shift, it just wouldn't go into second. It jumped into third and, then, when I finally got up to speed, it jumped back into second. It's a bad day here today, but hopefully we'll come back out here tomorrow and get in the race."

Owner-driver Marty Roth bagged the 33rd and last qualifying spot but, having averaged 215.506mph in the final qualifying attempt of the day, is poised to be the first man 'bumped' on Sunday after opting to withdraw a better time from earlier in the day.

"I'm just wondering why I threw away the 219 I had this morning," the Canadian mused, "That's just how it goes - we were chasing that 222 that we posted first thing this morning.

"We were kind of happy. The guys had been working all night, and were up to two in the morning, just going through things. We were really happy we had the car up to that 222 mark - and we really thought we could get it back there. But, as the day wore on, the temperatures and wind came up, and we were just going backward.

Joining Foyt in hoping to bump their way into the field on the final day of qualifying will be Mario Dominguez, Max Papis and Phil Giebler, who all missed out on a spot in the 33 after crashing. Dominguez and Papis both crashed during morning practice, but expect their cars to be repaired in time to make qualifying attempts, while the already qualified Hideki Mutoh and hopeful Phil Giebler both found the wall during the afternoon. Giebler, last year's 500 rookie of the year was later admitted to Methodist Hospital with pulmonary contusions.

"I just lost the rear end going into Turn One," Dominguez admitted, "We've been fighting understeer there all week and working hard to stabilise the car.

"This is a huge setback for us. Fortunately, I wasn't going that fast at that point, and I lost it early so I scrubbed a lot of speed, so it looks like the damage isn't too bad. The boys think they may be able to get it fixed in time to qualify todayv - if they can get the parts. I am keeping my fingers crossed."

Between Hamilton and Roth, the field was filled by numerous stoies, with John Andretti - who only replaced Jay Howard at the Roth team on Wednesday - taking 21st spot, one ahead of owner-driver Sarah Fisher, who appeared on the brink of missing the chance when she was let down by sponsors last week.

Reigning Indy Pro Series champion Alex Lloyd bounced back from his own stay in Methodist Hospital to out-qualifying Rahal Letterman 'team-mate' Ryan Hunter-Reay in 19th and 20th respectively, while Jeff Simmons put the second AJ Foyt Enterprises entry in the field in 24th.

"It feels good to be in - we wish we were quicker, and I thought we could run around a 222, which would have moved us up a couple of spots - but, coming to the track, I didn't know if I was going to have a ride at all, so I'm really thankful for AJ Foyt Racing and ABC Supply Co for giving me the opportunity."

Bump Day will conclude the qualifying procedure for the 92nd Indianapolis 500, with six hours available for those outside the 33 - and subsequently pushed out - to stake their claim for a place on the grid next weekend.

 

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