IRL: Scheckter, Hearn top practice sheets at Chicagoland

After two practice sessions for Sunday's Delphi Indy 300, a 200-lap romp around Chicagoland Speedway's 1.5-mile oval, Tomas Scheckter was class of the 21-car IndyCar Series field in his ...

After two practice sessions for Sunday's Delphi Indy 300, a 200-lap romp around Chicagoland Speedway's 1.5-mile oval, Tomas Scheckter was class of the 21-car IndyCar Series field in his #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, logging a lap of 24.4493 seconds (223.810mph).

"Yeah," the South African said, "It's been a really good day," after leading both morning and afternoon testing sessions. "We've run about 90% in race setups today. In race trim, in traffic, the times really come together," Scheckter revealed. "The track is in really good shape and the high line, in particular, since we all tested last week is good. Plus, it's nice and cool and not very windy." Temperatures were in the mid-70s and mostly sunny skies prevailed.

Richie Hearn, performing in one-off race date for Team Menard, took the #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet to second overall, second in the morning and afternoon sessions to Scheckter and first in his group. Out of a car since the 87th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in May, when he was driving a completely different package (Panoz G Force/Toyota). His lap of 24.4820 seconds (223.511mph) was set in the afternoon session.

Smiling wide, the Henderson, NV native was pleased he'd had the chance to test last week to "get the bugs out. The car is great, the Chevy engine is strong and I'm pretty happy," Hearn said. "It's tough getting back into the car. My brain's not used to 220mph, but I've done whatever it takes to get adjusted.

"Last week we practiced pit stops and getting in and out of the pits quickly. There's not a lot of opportunities for professional drivers these days and it's been tough to sit back. "I hope," Hearn pronounced, "to give John Menard a win on Sunday and maybe, with a good result and some luck, I can get my name back on the mind of some team owners."

Menard intends to put Vitor Meira back in the #2 car for the California Speedway round on September 21st, and Hearn hopes a good result will convince the team owner that he should run two cars for the balance of the season. "These guys are really motivated and they've put a well-prepared car together for me to drive," Hearn declared.

What was intended to be a 22-car grid diminished by one early in the first morning practice session, when Greg Ray clouted the outside Turn 4 retaining wall and demolished the #13 TrimSpa Special Panoz G Force/Honda he co-owns.

The driver from Plano, TX was fine, but his Access Motorsports team was forced to withdraw from the proceedings, as they had only that one tub - which they've been using since beginning their season at Twin Ring Motegi in April. Incredibly, Greg has finished every race but the last event at Nazareth, using this one tub.

Kenny Brack was third in the afternoon and combined totals with a lap of 24.5524 seconds (222.870mph) in the #15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda saying, "The car felt pretty good and I think we learned a little bit about this place" in the test. Up from 7th in the morning session, Brack thinks, "It is very fast here!"

Bryan Herta took fourth in the #27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda after being fifth in the morning, with a lap of 24.5596 seconds (22.805mph). Scott Dixon, third in the morning practice took fifth in the afternoon, hustling his #9 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota to a lap of 24.5796 seconds (222.624mph).

He might have needed crutches to maneuver out of the #21 Hollywood Panoz G Force/Toyota, but Felipe Giaffone had no trouble circling the mile and a half circuit this afternoon, with a lap of 24.5893 seconds (222.536mph). In fact, he only felt pain entering and exiting his car. ""It's been a very good first day and we've been concentrating on race setups," Giaffone said. "We're close to where we want to be."

Teammate Tora Takagi practiced both his Dallara and Panoz G Force/Toyota entries, settling with the latter, quicker car to take seventh in the afternoon practice. "The G Force chassis has a lot less drag so we were able to put together more consistent laps. I think that's the way to go for qualifying."

Alex Barron, running in the #52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet turned the eighth quickest lap of the day, using this combination for the first time this season. "I'm really happy with the progress we've made. We had a good car in both sessions and just focused on making small adjustments to figure our best qualifying setup," Barron noted.

Point leader Helio Castroneves was ninth in the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota, starting "with what we learned from the test last week. We need to continue to improve, so we'll focus on qualifying setups in the morning." Buddy Lazier, who's had nothing but trouble all season long, came to grips with this big circuit, earning the 10th best lap of the day in the #91 Metabolife/Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet.

Today's practice sessions weren't terrific for championship contenders Sam Hornish Jr. (12th in the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevy), who said "It went pretty well, but we're still working on it, still working on the race car." Gil de Ferran took 13th in the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota and said the team focused on race preparation today, while former point leader Tony Kanaan was 16th driving the #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda.

Another sunny day is on tap for single-car qualifying tomorrow afternoon and 21 cars and drivers are ready to take their tries for MBNA Pole Position. ABC Sports will telecast Sunday's Delphi Indy 300 race live at 2PM EDT.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Buddy Lazier , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske