IRL returnee Richie Hearn put himself in prime position to be 'hero for a day' as he placed John Menard's distinctive #2 Dallara-Chevrolet at the top of the timesheets in final practice at he Chicagoland Speedway.

In the final warm-up for Saturday's MBNA Pole Qualifying session, which will decide the grid for the Delphi Indy 300, Hearn lapped the high-banked 1.5-mile 'cookie cutter' oval in a best time of 24.5120secs to head Andretti-Green Racing's Bryan Herta and Friday pacesetter Tomas Scheckter.

Hearn, who has spent the last year searching for full-time employment after Sam Schmidt elected to shift his focus from the IRL to the Infiniti Pro Series at the end of 2002, has been making the most of his first run with Menard and was the only driver above the 223mph average speed barrier on his qualifying simulation run.

Herta was still only four hundredths behind his fellow American with Scheckter a further three hundredths slower in the fastest of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force-Toyota's.

Mo Nunn Racing's Felipe Giaffone continued to show that he is fully recovered from the injuries he suffered in Kansas as he set fourth fastest time with Kenny Brack fifth and Helio Castroneves sixth.

Briton Dan Wheldon was seventh fastest at the track where he made his IRL debut for Panther Racing one year ago while Scott Dixon drove his spare Target sponsored machine to eighth fastest time. Tora Takagi and Tony Kanaan rounded out the top ten.

 

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