Laurent Redon continued his impressive debut season in the Indy Racing League with Eric Bachelart's equally professional Conquest Racing team by setting fastest time in the opening day of practice at the Kansas Speedway.

An Infiniti-powered driver led the first day of practice for the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 at Kansas Speedway, which isn't surprising considering the engine's strong performance on 1.5-mile tracks so far this Indy Racing League season.

But the driver who guided that Infiniti to the top spot might be a bit of a surprise: Laurent Redon.

Bombardier Rookie of the Year points leader Redon was the fastest driver overall around the 1.5-mile oval on Friday with a top lap of 25.0019 seconds, 218.863 mph during the second practice in the No. 34 Mi-Jack Dallara-Infiniti. His top lap was 4.2 mph faster than his best lap of 214.671 during the first practice.

Redon led four Infiniti-powered drivers to the top five spots overall during practice today despite racing with a severely bruised hand suffered in a crash during the SunTrust Indy Challenge last Saturday night at Richmond.

"Much better," Frenchman Redon said of his hand. "All the blue on the finger went out so I feel like I'm new. The team did a very terrific job because in just two and a half days, they had to fix another car and change many things. They were working really hard until midnight, which I really appreciate."

The only Chevrolet driver in the top five also was a bit of a surprise, Richie Hearn. He ended up second overall with a lap of 25.0739, 218.235 after a late shock-absorber change during the second practice in the No. 20 BG Products/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara-Chevrolet.

Tomas Scheckter, second to Redon in the rookie points, was third overall at 25.0782, 218.197 in the No. 52T Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara-Infiniti and fastest of all in the morning session. Billy Boat, who switched to Infiniti starting at this race, was fourth at 25.0856, 218.133 in the No. 98 CURB Records Dallara-Infiniti despite not making any laps in the second session.

1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr., Scheckter's boss and teammate, rounded out the top five at 25.1183, 217.849 in the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara-Infiniti. Scheckter and Cheever swept the front row, respectively, during MBNA Pole Qualifying last month on the last 1.5-mile track on which the IRL competed, Texas Motor Speedway.

Indy Racing League points leader Helio Castroneves was 11th overall at 25.2109, 217.049 in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet. His teammate, Gil de Ferran, was sixth at 25.1188, 217.845 in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet. Castroneves leads de Ferran, 280-277, in the points.

Third-place Sam Hornish Jr., winner last Saturday at Richmond, was eighth overall at 25.1389, 217.671 in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara.

Redon now can win his first career MBNA Pole during qualifying at 3:30 p.m. (CDT) Saturday. His career-best start is fourth, last month at Richmond International Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway.

But he remains focused on the race at noon (CDT) Sunday.

"We have a pretty decent car," Redon said. "There's more testing tomorrow, so I believe then if we keep going like this, we're going to have a pretty good car for the race."

1999 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year Robby McGehee was unhurt and cleared to drive after hitting the outside retaining wall exiting Turn 4 during the second practice. The right-front wheel and suspension on his No. 54 Norwalk/Parsons Motorsports Dallara-Chevrolet suffered damage.



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