Practice: Red Bull cars on song

Tomas Scheckter might be regretting his decision to leave the Red Bull Team Cheever squad right about now, after the two blue Infiniti-powered Dallaras of Buddy Rice and owner/driver Eddie Cheever topped the speeds on the opening day of practice for Sunday's Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, the penultimate round of the Indy Racing League

Practice: Red Bull cars on song

The Cheever cars have been regular pace setters on the IRL's longer tracks all year, and rookie Rice did the honours this time with a lap of 24.4578sec (223.732mph) in the first of two sessions around the 1.5-mile tri-oval.

It was a troubled first session for the third and fourth-place drivers in the title chase, Sam Hornish Jr and Felipe Giaffone, who collided late in the opening session. Both drivers were unhurt, but Hornish's Pennzoil Dallara came off worse in the encounter with a bent left-front suspension, broken front wing and a punctured tub.

However, Hornish shook off this setback without missing a beat, eclipsing the Red Bull men in the afternoon session with a lap of 24.4910s/223.429mph. Even so, that still left him third overall on aggregate, as the hot conditions evidently slowed the course slightly. Cheever and Rice were right behind Hornish in session two, while rookie Vito Meira and veteran Billy Boat were also both top-five runners in both sessions.

Marlboro Team Penske - one-two in the points coming into this race with Helio Castroneves behind team-mate Gil de Ferran - appears to have some work to do. De Ferran was 12th overall on the day, while Castroneves was 15th.

Briton Daniel Wheldon, who is making his IRL debut this weekend, got his weekend off to a great start and was seventh fastest by the end of the day.

Buddy Rice Dallara-Infiniti 24.4578s 223.732mph 1
Eddie Cheever Dallara-Infiniti 24.4690s 223.630mph 1
Sam Hornish Jr Dallara-Chevrolet 24.4910s 223.429mph 2
Vitor Meira Dallara-Chevrolet 24.5731s 222.683mph 1
Billy Boat Dallara-Infiniti 24.5529s 222.866mph 1
Sarah Fisher G-Force-Infiniti 24.5870s 222.557mph 1
Daniel Wheldon Dallara-Chevrolet 24.6226s 222.235mph 1
Laurent Redon Dallara-Infiniti 24.6674s 221.831mph 1
Felipe Giaffone G-Force-Chevrolet 24.6674s 221.831mph 1
Al Unser Jr Dallara-Chevrolet 24.6864s 221.661mph 2

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