Richie Hearn put the ...
Richie Hearn put the #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet on the MBNA pole for Sunday's Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway today, as the penultimate driver to take two timed laps in a late afternoon qualifying session, held under clear, sunny skies with temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s. Track temps ranged from 106- 110 degrees.
Hearn, fastest in the morning practice said the team "just waxed it and let it sit after this morning. We didn't change a thing. This car was good out of the box this weekend and I'm sure last week's test had a lot to do with that. It's days like this that remind me I can drive a car," he said, "and take the downside away. We were pretty confident a week ago."
Richie Hearn's most recent MBNA pole position came at New Hampshire Speedway in 1996 while driving for John Della Penna. "Tomorrow I think you're going to see a big pack of cars running around. I don't think anybody will be able to pull away. I just need to be in the lead pack at the end. I've got opportunity and I'll push to get more out of myself but, really, I can't predict tomorrow."
Hearn, of course, has been hired to do only this race for Team Menard, but is hoping to be able run the final two events of the IndyCar Series season as teammate to regular driver Vitor Meira.
Hustling his car to a lap of 24.5208 seconds (223.159mph), Hearn beat out Tomas Scheckter's #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, which toured the 1.5-mile banked oval at 24.5290 seconds (223.083mph). Scheckter wanted to make sure he has "a good race car for tomorrow. I don't mind a loose car," he said, "because I want the least amount of steering. That way I won't scrub too much speed."
Felipe Giaffone was third quickest of 21 qualifiers with a lap of 24.5771 seconds (222.646mph) in the #21 Hollywood Panoz G Force/Toyota. "I knew I had a strong car but I was surprised by our time. We've got very good qualifying and race setups for this track. The last few months were really hard and it's good to get something back what I lost. Here," Giaffone noted, "traffic is a big concern and I'm happy with that."
Kenny Brack's lap of 24.6444 seconds (222.080mph) in the #15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda was good for fourth on the grid and, in between plugging his Kenny Brack and the Subwoofer CD that benefits CARA Charities, Brack talked about his run. "That felt good and was the fastest we have gone by ourselves all weekend. I'm pretty pumped up for Sunday's race" because his Team Rahal squad has concentrated on race setups the last two days.
Scott Dixon's lap of 24.6849 seconds (221.674mph) in his spare #9 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota for fifth grid slot had the mild-mannered Kiwi shrugging his shoulders. "The car is very neutral but we ran out of gears yesterday. I thought the run was pretty decent. The way we unloaded this weekend, we really didn't have a car that could shoot for the pole."
Starting sixth in the #24 Purex/Aventis Dallara/Chevrolet, Robbie Buhl was ebullient over his 24.7007-second (221.523mph) lap: "We were flat out there and that's what we'll have to do tomorrow. We've got to be able to run high and low in traffic. I've got a motor that keeps me in the game now and I'm happy with everything."
Bryan Herta was one of the first to qualify when the session began at 4:30PM CDT. His lap of 24.7241 seconds (221.323mph) in the #27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda for seventh was "a bit slower than we ran this morning by ourselves, but it's a bit hotter this afternoon. We've been concentrating our effort on race setups all year so we put some emphasis on qualifying today. I think we'll be good on Sunday."
Defending Delphi Indy 300 winner Sam Hornish Jr. starts eighth in the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet, turning 24.7305 seconds (221.265mph). "We're set up more for racing than qualifying and you can win from anywhere on this track with a good car. Obviously, though, we are not where we want to be today."
Point leader Helio Castroneves will bring the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota ninth to the grid after lapping at 24.7500 seconds (221.091mph). "I think we need to be safe and look in our mirrors tomorrow. We're going to have to be clever to win here, but the car is very strong."
Rookie Dan Wheldon holds tenth on the 21-car grid in his #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda at 24.7543 seconds (221.053mph). "Frankly, we expected better so I'm a bit disappointed. We worked on our qualifying setups harder than before now but the car is race trim should be good."
Tora Takagi starts 11th in the #12 Pioneer Panoz G Force/Toyota, again finding this chassis more to his liking yet the Japanese ace thought it "a bit frustrating finding just the right combination to give us speed." Gil de Ferran starts 12th in the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota and believes his car is "handling well. We can't find the ultimate speed for the front row and we're wide open here."
"The track is the same as it was earlier but it is a bit hotter," said Alex Barron, 13th in the #52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy. A disappointed Tony Kanaan starts 14th in his #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda and said, "I have no words to say about this. The race car seems good but we have no speed."
After finishing second in the Infiniti Pro Series race just before qualifying for his first IndyCar Series contest, Ed Carpentier was the second highest rookie qualifier, 16th in the #18 PDM Racing Dallara/Chevrolet and pronounced "the whole weekend has been great. We qualified with what we're going to race with and I'm just looking forward to tomorrow."
Finding speed on this tricky 1.5-mile oval was a trial for many this afternoon, but not for Richie Hearn. The polesitter has won the last two Indy Racing League IndyCar Series events held at Chicagoland Speedway. Will this Cinderella story have a similar ending? The race begins at 1PM CDT and ABC will show the 200-lap contest live.