As has come to be the norm in recent IRL IndyCar Series events, the first practice session of the Delphi Indy 300 weekend at the Chicagoland Speedway ended with a Target sponsored G Force-Toyota on top of the charts as Tomas Scheckter led the way around the 1.5-mile oval.

However the talk of the session was the performance of IRL returnee Richie Hearn, who was just two hundredths of a second (24.5651secs-24.5884secs) slower than the South African Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver on his first run with Team Menard's #2 Dallara-Chevrolet.

Making his first IRL appearance since Indianapolis, Hearn stunned the rest of the establishment in a car that hasn't turned many laps with the new Chevrolet Gen IV engine due to the recent accidents suffered by Vitor Meira and Jaques Lazier that have also caused the team to withdraw from the last two races.

Hearn sandwiched the two Target G Force-Toyota's as Scott Dixon set third fastest time with another returnee, Felipe Giaffone fourth and Bryan Herta fifth.

Briton's Dan Wheldon was sixth quickest for Andretti-Green Racing while Alex Barron, drafted in as a last minute replacement for Buddy Rice in the Red Bull Cheever Racing operation, finished up 10th fastest.

Debutant Ed Carpenter put in a performance almost equal to that of Hearn as he placed the PDM/Metabolife sponsored Dallara-Chevrolet an outstanding 11th fastest, comfortably ahead of Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran and Sam Hornish Jr.

Owner/driver Greg Ray suffered a major blow when he crashed Access Motorsports' primary G Force-Honda and now faces an anxious wait to see if he can race on Sunday.

 

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