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Practice: Buhl sets the pace

Robbie Buhl has done practically everything this season except win a race in the Indy Racing League.

He has led laps and dominated races, only to have his chance at victory spoiled by crashes, mechanical failures, running out of fuel and plain old bad luck.

Buhl hopes to end the misery this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Sunday's Delphi Indy 300. Buhl had the fastest speed of the day at the 1.5-mile track at 221.002mph in a G Force-Infiniti. That was quicker than Scott Sharp's 220.424mph in a Dallara-Oldsmobile Aurora.

Eddie Cheever was third at 220.380mph in a Dallara-Infiniti followed by Buddy Lazier's 219.786mph and Jaques Lazier's 219.639mph.

"For us, we're not in the point's battle and our black-and-white results are pretty horrible," Buhl said. "We are just doing what we can to win."

The new race track located about 35 miles south of downtown Chicago is a near duplicate of Kansas Superspeedway, which hosted the IRL on July 7 in a race won by Cheever.

"This is another first-class facility," Buhl said. "The track is smooth and there will be some great racing. We saw what Eddie did with that motor at Kansas City by winning the race.

"The motor is there. It's always good to be at the top of the charts, but our team needs to convert that on Sunday."

Cheever gave his approval of the race course and believes it has all the elements for three-wide racing on Sunday.

"The track is very fast and very smooth," Cheever said. "We worked on our qualifying setup this morning and tried a few things that didn't work. We need to find a way to take more drag out of the car. The track has a tremendous amount of grip. There is actually more grip here than in Kansas.

"You might see three-abreast, which is awkward if you are the guy on the outside."

Sharp said his speed may have been aided by a "tow" - getting a draft from another race car which boosts the speed.

"We were running in a big pack of cars running and that helped us post that time a little bit," Sharp said. "It's nice to be towards the front and hopefully, we will have a very good race car in qualifying and in the race."

Sam Hornish Jr. enters Sunday's race with a 45-point lead over Buddy Lazier in the battle for the $1 million season title. If Hornish has a 53-point lead after Sunday's race, he clinches the championship.

"We want to win the race, but under no conditions whatsoever, I don't want to have a negative impact on the drivers that are running for the championship," Cheever said. "We will take extra care giving them as much room as possible. That's not to say we are going to wave them by to pass, but it would be very unfair to have a negative impact for those drivers in their bid to win a championship."

Hornish had the ninth-fastest lap of the day at 218.868 mph.

"We've got a really good race car," Hornish said. "We've been working on a set-up that lets me run strong anywhere I want to go on the track with good grip. We'll be able to find some more speed. Andy Brown (team engineer) is good at that. We're hooked up anywhere we choose to run on the track.

"Jim Harbaugh (co-team owner and Detroit Lions quarterback) was nicknamed `Captain Comeback' for his great fourth quarter play. This is the fourth quarter. We're ready."

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