|Ryan Briscoe celebrates first IndyCar win|
Ryan Briscoe, rumored to be driving for his job, took the lead on lap 177 of the 2008 ABC Supply / AJ Foyt 225 en route to winning his first Indy car race. Dodging a late-race crash involving Marco, Ed Carpenter and Vitor Meira, he held off Scott Dixon, who dominated the first half of the race.
"About a foot." According to Ryan Briscoe, that's the margin of victory in today's race, the difference between winning his first race for Team Penske — and Team Penske’s 300th win — and crashing out with 3 laps to go.
The race got off to a rocky start when, on lap 2, several cars bunched up resulting in a damaged front wing for Oriol Servia. On lap 10, the green flew again, and Scott Dixon started his march to the front. He took the lead on lap 41, and for a long while it looked like it was his race to lose.
Caution flew on lap 130 when Graham Rahal hit the wall. Graham was trying to pass Darren Manning, but Manning was himself passing Buddy Rice, leaving Rahal in the marbles. Rahal finished 25th, complaining about Manning, race officials — in other words, everyone but the driver who tried to make it 3-wide in the corner.
The green flew on lap 140, with Dixon still in the lead, with Helio stalking and biding his time. Briscoe, who had started 11th, had been steadily marching his way throughout the field, and on lap 161 he passed Helio for second. By lap 175 Briscoe was filling up Dixon's mirrors, and on lap 177 Briscoe passed for the lead, his first lap led on an oval. He relinquished the lead for a pit stop on lap 194, but when the pit stops were all completed, he lead Dixon by .11 seconds. He stretched that lead until encountering traffic on lap 220, when Dixon closed the gap.
With 3 laps remaining, Marco got loose in turn 2, and slid into Ed Carpenter. Vitor Meira, who'd crashed heavily the day before, was vaulted over the spinning Marco and into the wall. Hideki Mutoh also scraped the wall as he avoided the worst of the wreck. Even more dramatically, Briscoe narrowly missed Andretti's car -- by a foot, according to Ryan -- and only because the impact with Vitor's car pushed it out of the way. What could've been a spectacular 3-lap shootout in traffic — including those caught up in the wreck — was not to be.
The series now moves to Texas Motor Speedway for next weekend, before taking a break for Father's Day weekend.
NOTE CORRECTION — Briscoe passes for the lead on lap 177, not 173 as reported earlier.
- In the words of one long-time Milwaukee staffer, the event today was the best in the past 10 years or more. Part of the credit goes to good weather, something not enjoyed the past 2 years. However, there is no doubt that the mostly-full grandstands (roughly 80% full, around 32,000 people) is due to the unification. It was an event where people in Champ Car shirts and hats sat along side people in IRL gear, and everyone saw a great race. While the damage caused by the split is far from repaired, it certainly keeps building the momentum that will return Indy car racing to glory.
- The win is Briscoe's first in Indy cars, and the 300th for Team Penske (a figure that does not include Roger's wins as a driver). Briscoe is the 15th driver to win an Indy car race for Team Penske.
- Scott Dixon remarked how much fun he had at Milwaukee — "Racing fun". In previous years he didn't have fun here, including a disastrous 2004 weekend where he destroyed 2 cars. "...there's more driver input. You can manipulate the car, you can try to run up high, you can try to set up the car to run on the bottom... that's the hardest race I've had in a long time to finish... it was just a lot of fun."
- Oriol Servia overcame an early mishap to finish 6th, the last car on the lead lap. He was the top-finishing "unified" team in today's race. Justin Wilson ran strong all day to finish 7th, and EJ Viso finished 8th. Will Power, an early favorite for the win, finished 14th.
INDYCAR SERIES POST-RACE QUOTES:
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, finished first): “It feels so good to win, my first IndyCar (Series) win, and it feels so good to do it here in Milwaukee. I’m really happy.” (How will you celebrate): “We’ve got Texas next week, so there’s not too much time to enjoy it. I’m certainly going to enjoy it for the next few days.” (About bouncing back after incident last week at Indy): “Ever since Indianapolis, we had that get-together in pit lane, and it was really unfortunate. I was having a really good race and looking at a top-five (finish). We just had to put it behind us and move on to this race. It’s a long championship, and it’s just great. We were focused on this race. We knew we had a good car off of last year’s results of Helio (Castroneves) and (Sam) Hornish (Jr.). Just stayed focused in the race. It’s great to win my first race for Team Penske.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, second): “It was a pretty good day for Team Target. We were dominant early on, and the car was really good early on in the stint. I think where we struggled was towards the end of the stint. It didn’t seem to be a problem early on, because the other guys were falling off, too. Briscoe, you got to give him credit. He drove the wheels off that thing. He could really take advantage of the high line when I tried a couple of times and nearly ended up in the fence. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time, to be honest. It was a hell of a race towards the end. I’m just glad it didn’t come down to traffic being the deciding factor, and it almost was with Briscoe almost being taken out by those guys crashing. It was a tough race. I’m a little disappointed we didn’t come up with the win, but it’s fantastic points for the championship.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, third): “Ryan (Briscoe) was really strong, and I’m always in favor of the fast car winning the race. He deserved it from where he started. He earned every position. He passed everybody at the racetrack, so congratulations to him. We’re happy with third. When you don’t have a car to win, you have to understand what you have in your hands, and that’s what we had today. It’s good momentum for Team 7-Eleven and for the championship. To think championship, you have to finish in the top three. The way these guys are going, it’s how it has to be.” (How bad was traffic?): “The traffic was bad, but my car wasn’t behaving the way I wanted it today. I would say traffic was an issue, but it was an issue for everybody.”
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth): “I had a car that was just a little conservative, so that’s why it was difficult for me to run up high. For the most part, I think it was a pretty good race. (Racing) kind of swayed back and forth.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, fifth): “Definitely, (Ryan Briscoe’s) car was much quicker than mine. It’s good to see that he’s coming. Now it’s going to get better and better. This place is amazing; there are so many things happening. I broke the curse. Every time we were here, I’ve never been able to finish. Finally I’ve been able to finish, and fifth place is good enough for points. Not good enough for a win, but we’ll keep working hard.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 KV Racing Technology, sixth): “I am very happy. I have no idea what is going on. It seems like the last five races something has happened at the start. Either I stall or crash. Then we came back through the field and it was tough, especially for the KV Racing Technology crew. For me, it was great fun, a great race, but a very tiring race. I was hoping for a podium finish here, but finishing sixth with this big field and this tough competition feels like a podium. The crew did a great job, and I am just very happy for the KVRT team. The whole team really stepped up this weekend. We are getting close to the established IndyCar teams, and that is encouraging, but we still have a way to go on the bigger ovals.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team, seventh): “It was a very hectic race; I’m trying to remember everything that happened, because there was a lot. On the first lap, I had passed a load of cars, and I was coming out of the inside of Turn 4 because there was a bit of a stack-up on the outside, and (Oriol) Servia came from the outside across the front of me and into the pit lane. I had to hit the brakes and went to last, so I wasn’t too happy about that. We kept battling on, and the team did a great job; the McDonald’s car was much better in the race. I was very pleased with the progress. We got up to the front and were about seventh, and we were due to pit and had begun the countdown. That’s when Graham (Rahal) had his accident, and they closed the pits and we had to come in on a closed pit or run out of fuel. That put us last on the lead lap and at the back of the line. That got us lapped on the next stint even though we were moving forward again, because we were at the back of the line. After that, we kept pushing and trying to move forward. We did it and got back to seventh. It was a busy race, and I was expecting more yellows, but everybody did a good job.”
E.J. VISO (No. 33 PDVSA HVM Racing, eighth): “Today was a roller coaster of a race. We ran well early on, but the car started to go away in the third stint. It was difficult to maintain my position at the end, and I just got too close and hit the wall. Despite that, a top-10 finish is good for the team, and it’s our best so far on an oval. Now we have to face the challenge of Texas next week, and I’m definitely up for it.”
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, ninth): “We started the race today with a balanced Motorola car, and as the race went on I really struggled to keep it. We were able to make improvements, but they were not able to hold the entire stint of the run. I had some understeer issues all day, and this is where we as a team need to find out what the problem is and find a solution. On a good note, we finished the race which we have not been able to do in the last two races.”
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, 10th): “A pretty good day for Dreyer and Reinbold Racing. I have to thank Dennis (Reinbold), J.D. (John Dick), the Honda and Firestone guys, and all my crew guys for a great job. It was also cool to see Townsend’s (Bell) Emu car on the track for the first time. That and the William Rast car were some nice looking cars. In the race, I made a mistake coming into the pits for the first pit stop, and that cost us a bunch of track position. The crew kept working with me and the car with some small changes, and at the end, we were pretty good. We managed to keep our nose clean and pick up some spots as the race was ending. What was looking like a bad weekend turned out to be pretty good. I can’t thank my guys enough for their effort.”
GRAHAM RAHAL “I was just on the outside of (Darren) Manning going into 3 and 4,” explained Rahal. “He previously had kind of been all over the track anyway so I was struggling to get by him. I don’t think the officials were doing enough to help the leaders with the traffic. It was definitely tough. I was on the outside of Manning, I don’t think it was necessarily him but for sure his spotter didn’t tell him I was there. He was still racing me in every corner. He moved up on the outside of Buddy and I was going to hit him if I didn’t move. I didn’t think I was too wide but once I was in the marbles I was fully off the throttle and the brakes but I couldn’t get it to turn. It’s unfortunate.”
||Target Chip Ganassi Racing
||Target Chip Ganassi Racing
||KV Racing Technology
||McDonald's Racing Team
||PDVSA HVM Racing
||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
||EMU/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
||ABC Supply Co./AJ Foyt Racing
||Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia
||Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol
||Sangari Conquest Racing
||A.J. Foyt IV
||Lilly Diabetes/Vision Racing
||Menards/ Vision Racing
||Team Indiana Jones presented by Blockbuster
||Delphi National Guard
||Hole in the Wall Camps
||Visit Mexico City/PCM Racing
Winner's average speed: 133.428 mph
Time of race: 1:42:41.7387
Margin of victory: Under caution
Cautions: 4 caution flags for 29 laps
Lead changes: 5 among 4 drivers
Lap leaders: Andretti 1-40, Dixon 41-176, Briscoe 177-193,
Dixon 194-204, Castroneves 205-206, Briscoe 207-225.
Point standings: Dixon 234, Castroneves 206, Wheldon 185,
Kanaan 174, Patrick 144, Andretti 142, Servia 140, Briscoe
134, Carpenter 132, Mutoh 131.