Qualifying: Hearn claims pole

Richie Hearn, driving for Team Menard in a one-race deal, won the pole position Saturday for the IRL IndyCar Series race at Chicagoland Speedway, his first pole in the series in seven years

Qualifying: Hearn claims pole

Hearn hadn't won a pole position in the Indy Racing League since he competed in the series' inaugural season in 1996. Team Menard hadn't started better than ninth this season with its two drivers, Vitor Meira and Jaques Lazier.

Two weeks ago at Nazareth, Lazier crashed during practice prior to qualifying. The team did not start the race. Four weeks ago at Kentucky, Meira broke a wrist in a practice-session crash; Menard also withdrew from that race.

Hearn, who hadn't raced since he crashed out of the Indianapolis 500 in May, was summoned to Chicago this week to fill the void until Meira returns to the car in September. The down-on-their-luck duo - Hearn and Menard - hooked up to win the pole with a record lap of 24.5206s (223.159mph).

"It's easy to get down on yourself when you're sitting at home watching races on TV," Hearn said. "This helps to remind me that I can drive a race car. Hopefully I'll get some more chances. This just takes all the down side away and changes everything for a little bit."

Hearn will start alongside Tomas Scheckter, who knocked down the track record before Hearn bumped him from the top spot. Scheckter recorded a lap of 24.5290s (223.083) mph around the 1.5-mile tri-oval - just 0.0084s off Hearn's pace.

"It was good," Scheckter said. "But not good enough."

Felipe Giaffone, in his first race since sustaining leg and pelvic injuries in a crash in July at Kansas Speedway, will start inside the second row Sunday. Kenny Brack, Scott Dixon, Robbie Buhl, Bryan Herta and Sam Hornish Jr. fill the first four rows.

But it was the coupling of Hearn and Menard - and their earth-shattering qualifying lap - that left the infield buzzing Saturday.

"It's only a one-race deal," Hearn said. "But I think if I can do well enough, I might be able to talk John into running two cars. I think he might be able to swing that."

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