INDIANAPOLIS -- At least he's in the race.
When Scott Dixon takes the green flag from the pole position on the inside of the front row, Marty Roth will be far, far back in an all-too-familiar spot at the tail end of the Indianapolis 500 lineup on Sunday.
It's the second year in a row the Canadian driver has been the slowest qualifier and the fourth time in as many races he'll start 29th or worse in the 33-car grid. He's used to it.
"The car has been consistent," said Roth, a former motorcycle racer who owns his own IndyCar team. "Right now our focus is trying to get out in traffic, put some downforce on it and make it a race car. Hopefully we can get away from the qualifying side of this month."
Dixon, who won the pole at 226.366 mph, and front-row mates Dan Wheldon and Ryan Briscoe were among the 11 first-day qualifiers, along with Helio Castroneves, Danica Patrick and Tony Kanaan on the second row. Marco Andretti, Vitor Meira and Hideki Mutoh, the fastest of 11 rookie qualifiers, qualified on the third row; and Ed Carpenter and Tomas Scheckter earned spots on the fourth row, along with Townsend Bell, the fastest of the second-day qualifiers.
Roth, who qualified at 218.965 mph, will be joined on the 11th and final row by A.J. Foyt IV, grandson of four-time winner A.J. Foyt, and former winner Buddy Lazier.
Now, with qualifying over, most of the work before the race will be in the garages. The last chance for on-track testing of race setups will be in a one-hour practice on Friday, Carburetion Day.
"I'm relaxed," said Roth, one of only 10 drivers to be the slowest qualifier more than once and the first since Billy Boat in 2001 and '02. "I was definitely pumping away at it after rolling off the scales (to qualify). You realize the gravity of it, if you don't make the show. It's huge."
If it's any consolation, the last-place qualifier gets a $50,000 bonus from Firestone.
Roth first qualified Saturday at 215.506 mph, more than 2 mph slower than the next-slowest qualifier. He was quickly bumped from the lineup Sunday by Foyt, but he bumped his way back into the field about 90 minutes later.
After some late jockeying for the final few spots, Roth found himself on the bubble as rookie Mario Dominguez took the track for one last attempt before the 6 p.m. end of qualifying. Dominguez had one lap at 219.780 mph, more than enough to knock Roth out of the lineup again, but coming off turn one on his second lap, Dominguez lost control and slid hard into the wall.
A qualification attempt consists of four laps, with the average speed of those laps counting as the official time.
"I was in the car, had everybody around me getting our car together and getting ready to run," Roth said of a possible last-minute attempt to re-qualify had Dominguez not crashed. "I really wasn't privy to his times or anything like that. ... We had our own game plan going, you know. And it's too bad that Mario lost it there at the end. I'd much prefer a time game. But, you know, this is Indy and anything can happen."
Roth's best finish at Indianapolis was 24th as a rookie in 2004, and his best finish in nine career IRL starts was 14th at Chicagoland last fall. In three races so far this season, his best finish was 17th at Japan last month. At 49, Roth is also the oldest driver in the Indy lineup for the fourth time in the past five years, and with 45-year-old John Andretti driving a second Roth entry, he has the oldest team, too.