IRL: Chicagoland: Chevy qualifying report

Hearn puts Chevy on Chicagoland Pole JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 6, 2003 - Richie Hearn's patience was rewarded in qualifying for Sunday's IRL Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. The last driver on the qualifying list, Hearn was the first driver on...

Hearn puts Chevy on Chicagoland Pole

JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 6, 2003 - Richie Hearn's patience was rewarded in qualifying for Sunday's IRL Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. The last driver on the qualifying list, Hearn was the first driver on the speed chart when qualifying ended. Hearn circled the 1.5-mile speedway at 223.159 mph in Team Menard's Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara, putting the Chevy Indy V8 on the pole for the second time in 2003 and setting a track qualifying speed record. He earned Team Menard's record 24th IRL pole - all won with GM engines - and extended the team's streak of pole-winning performances to eight consecutive seasons.

Substituting for injured Vitor Meira, Hearn first drove the Team Menard Chevrolet Dallara in a test at Chicagoland last week. He ran the fastest speed in today's practice session, and needed only one of his two qualifying laps to knock Tomas Scheckter's Toyota off the pole by .0084 seconds. Hearn last qualified on the pole in IRL competition in August 1996.

"It's been a long road, but I'm very appreciative of what Menard and Chevy have given me," said Hearn. "We had a good test last week, and when we unloaded the car it was spot on. We didn't do a lot for qualifying; took the fuel out, made a few adjustments, and went for it. I think I could have gone a little quicker if we had to, but there was no reason to push it."

If history is a guide, Hearn is a good bet to win the 300-mile race. In both of the two previous IRL events at Chicagoland Speedway, the pole winner has gone on to victory - Jaques Lazier in Team Menard's entry in 2001 and Sam Hornish Jr. in Panther Racing's Chevy Dallara in 2002.

"This proved to me I shouldn't give up," said Hearn, who has been seeking a full-time IndyCar Series ride. "I still believe I can do it, and I'm glad these guys gave me a chance to prove it to them as well."

Robbie Buhl was the second fastest Chevy qualifier, putting his Purex/Aventis Dreyer & Reinbold Chevy sixth on the grid at 221.532 mph.

"The car was really good," Buhl reported. "We did some things to free the car up and the track conditions got better at the end of the day. I'm excited to go racing.

"I wanted to qualify in the top 10, and we accomplished that," Buhl noted. "If we don't leave here with a top-five finish, I'll be disappointed. This is going to be our third race with the new Chevy motor, and our learning curve is incredibly steep. It's exciting and fun for all the right reasons."

Defending Delphi Indy 300 champion Sam Hornish Jr., who put the Chevy Indy V8 on the pole at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval, qualified Pennzoil Panther Racing's Dallara eighth at 221.265 mph.

"We're not quite where we want to be, but that's racing," Hornish conceded. "Sometimes you don't start where you want to, but it's where you finish that counts. Hopefully the outcome will be the same as last year.

"We made sure the car handles good in traffic, and a lot of people forget that," Hornish noted. "The big thing in the race is to stay out of trouble."

Alex Barron made his debut with Red Bull Cheever Racing this weekend, qualifying 13th at 220.500 mph. "I thought we were going to be a little faster, but that's pretty much what we ran in practice by ourselves," Barron said. "We need to make sure that we can pass high and low, and that's what we've been working on. With me being new to the team, the Dallara chassis, and the Chevrolet engine, I think it's really important that we do well in the race. The difference from last year is great; compared to last year's Chevrolet engine, it's a huge jump in power. It's exciting to be involved in that."

Rookie Ed Carpenter finished second in the Chicagoland 100 Pro Series race just minutes before IndyCar Series qualifying began. He made the transition quickly, putting PDM Racing's Metabolife Chevrolet Dallara in the show at 219.783 mph, good for 16th on the grid.

"We're just easing into it," said Carpenter. "We didn't want to get crazy and free the car up a whole lot. This was the first time I've gone out on cold tires to qualify, so it was a learning experience. The plan here is to get into the race, run 300 miles and see where we end up.

"The biggest adjustment was jumping out of a 400-horsepower car into a 700-horsepower Chevrolet," Carpenter continued. "It went smooth. I've made enough laps this weekend to switch my brain to IndyCar mode."

Sarah Fisher rebounded from an accident in practice at the preceding race. She will start alongside Carpenter on the eighth row in her GMAC/AOL Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara.

"We were working mainly on our race car setup and not on a qualifying setup," Fisher said. "I'm feeling good; to come back after what I went through is great. No pain at all."

The Delphi Indy 225 will start at 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Sept. 7. The 200-lap, 300-mile race will be televised live on ABC and broadcast on the IMS Radio Network.

1. Richie Hearn/Chevrolet, 223.159 mph
2. Tomas Scheckter/Toyota, 223.083
3. Felipe Giaffone/Toyota, 222.646
4. Kenny Brack/Honda, 222.038
5. Scott Dixon/Toyota, 221.674
6. Robbie Buhl/Chevrolet, 221.532

8. Sam Hornish Jr./Chevrolet, 221.265
13. Alex Barron/Chevrolet, 220.500
15. Sarah Fisher/Chevrolet, 219.871
16. Ed Carpenter/Chevrolet, 219.783
19. Buddy Lazier/Chevrolet, 219.046


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Sarah Fisher , Felipe Giaffone , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Jaques Lazier  , Scott Dixon , Kenny Brack , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing