Ryan Briscoe wins Australia IndyCar race
Briscoe beat reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon by 0.5019 of a second to win the inaugural Nikon Indy 300 on the streets of Surfers Paradise, which since 1991 was run as a Champ Car event.
Briscoe started third in the No. 6 Team Penske car while Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, had started on the front row.
Although Briscoe had the fastest car on track after Will Power crashed out, keeping Dixon at bay was not an easy task. “Dixon is very quick and consistent, and he was in my mirrors all day long, but I just had to focus on not making a mistake and bringing it all home,” said Briscoe, who set the fastest lap of the race with only three remaining. “Dixon made me work for it, for sure - as his fuel load got lighter, he kept coming on stronger, but I knew I had the equipment to keep ahead of him.”
Pole sitter Will Power led the initial 16 laps easily, but he made a mistake in the backstretch Esses and clipped the concrete retaining wall, broke his left front wing and suspension and ended his day.
“Obviously, I am very disappointed,” said Power.
“The KV Racing Technology – Team Australia car was very quick. You could see how fast we were at the start of the race.
“Then I backed off to save a lot of fuel, not pushing hard, and then got caught out and clipped the inside wall and ricocheted into the next one.
“It was a really bad mistake, the worst of my life. It was a very bad day for me and I am very disappointed.
“But I want to thank all of the KVRT Team Australia crew for all of their hard work this weekend. They gave me a great Aussie Vineyards car and it’s a shame we could not finish this race.”
Briscoe had the Brisbane-born Kiwi Scott Dixon in hot pursuit for the entire 60 lap race as he led the way from lap 17, before taking the checkered flag to be the 17th different winner of the Event.
“What a way to come off the year, with a win in my home country. It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Briscoe.
“A lot of credit to my guys at Team Penske, and my new engineer Eric, who did a great job this weekend. We’re so happy for all the fans – what a turnout and great event.
“Track position was everything at the race. My first pit stop I was into some lapped traffic and instead of getting held up we dove into the pits a little early. And that’s what helped maintain the track position and maintain the lead, and from there it was all uphill.
“Dixon is very quick and consistent, and he was in my mirrors all day long, but I just had to focus on not making a mistake and bringing it all home.
“It means a lot to me to win a race here in front of my family and friends, as I haven’t raced much in my home country.
“This race is important for the 2009 season, as the first two races are on street courses next year. And I also had a new engineer on board – it was great having the opportunity to work with him.”
“It’s a big honor to win here.”
Dixon tried everything he knew to catch and pass Briscoe but in the end he had too much rear wing in the car and hence not enough speed on the long Surfers Paradise straights to overtake Briscoe.
“(My run) wasn’t too bad…could have been a big staggered at the start, (and I) had to give my spot back to Ryan,” said Dixon.
“I figured I was in front going into the Chicane and then obviously two of us weren’t going to fit through there so I decided to set it up and then I had to get back behind and then pretty much that’s where I saw his rear end.
“It wasn’t too much fun for me and I got pretty good time on the pit stop I think, and that yellow came out and as we were doing our pit stop the pace car stopped in front of us so we couldn’t get out of the pits and therefore Briscoe passed the pace car and we lost the spot again and it was a bit of pain there.
“Obviously we just didn’t have enough speed to pass, he was super quick especially on the longer runs, we were a little quicker at traffic (because of the more downforce).
“It was a great day, it was a bit of a mixed up race in the middle part there, but obviously I feel bad for Will, I think he was really quick and if he hadn’t made the mistake I think he was going to be very tough to beat.”
Conquest Racing scored its best IndyCar Series finish of the 2008 season. The finish was a fourth place by Canadian Alex Tagliani who put in an impressive run aboard the #36 Conquest Dallara-Honda.
Starting in seventh place, Tagliani immediately gained a position at the start and kept up with the cars of Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves ahead of him. When the first yellow flag came out on lap 8, the 36 crew elected to stay out. By the time the second caution came out, Tagliani was running in third position and remained there after his pit stop.
The Canadian was still in third when he came in for his second and final pit stop on lap 41, two laps later than the leaders. However, upon exiting the pits, he found himself in fifth behind Ryan Hunter-Reay and EJ Viso who was on a different pit stop strategy.
Tagliani was pushing hard behind Viso, which caused the Venezuelan to make a mistake and cut the chicane, consequently allowing Tagliani to get by him for fourth place, where he would take the checkered flag, giving Conquest Racing its best finish of the season in the unified IndyCar Series.
Sunday’s race will be rebroadcast in the U.S. on ESPN2 on Sunday, October 26 at 11 p.m. EDT. The 2009 IndyCar Series season is scheduled to open April 5 with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
NIKON INDY 300 POST-RACE NOTES:
· Ryan Briscoe won for the third time in 2008. He previously won at the Milwaukee Mile and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
NIKON INDY 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, Nikon Indy 300 winner): "What a way to cap off the year and in my home country. It doesn't get better than this. I have to give credit to the guys at Team Penske. My new engineer Eric (Cowdin) did a great job all weekend. I'm just so happy for all the (Australian) fans. It was a great event and we're going to turn up the wick tonight."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished second): "We had a bit bad start and had to shortcut the track and give (Ryan) Briscoe a position back. It was unfortunate because it's so hard to pass on track. The traffic at the end made it exciting. (If there was another lap, could you have passed?): "We were quicker in different spots. He was quicker than me, but we were quicker on the backside. I don't know, if he had made a mistake, we could have got him."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol, finished third): "It was a long race with those curbs. They beat the hell out of you. It was nice to get by Dario (Franchitti) in the beginning. From there I picked off good laps. Unfortunately, I got held up by (Alex) Tagliani for good while there, but the guys did a great job in the pits to get us by him, and I did my usual deal at Surfers. I've never been out of the top-five here."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 36 Conquest Racing, finished fourth): "I’m very happy with this result for the Conquest team, Brandon (Fry) and Eric (Zeto) worked so hard on the engineering aspect of the car. They saw potential in Detroit and were very excited with the feedback they received. They were able to take that prepare for this race in Australia. I’m pretty sure that the winter will be much sweeter for this with this good result. Coming here and fighting with Dixon, the champion of the series, Briscoe with Team Penske, it was a great showing for our team. The last pit stop is kind of what cost us a podium. We had a problem with the fuel going in the car and Ryan Hunter-Reay passed us. I think the team finished the season the way we wanted and now we will continue working over the winter.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 KV Racing Technology-Team Australia finished fifth): "I finished the season with another top-five, which is great, but it was a race where I think KV Racing Technology – Team Australia had the dominant car. KVRT has shown that on road/street courses that we have everything it takes to win. It's just tough racing out there and everything has to go your way. Again, we got very close to a great race, and actually, I think we had a good race, going from 15th to fifth. We passed a lot of cars on track, which is not very easy these days, so I am very happy with the race. We have the potential to win races together, but we just need to keep working hard."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, finished eighth): "The Formula Dream car was really good today but what got us a top-10 finish was the race strategy. The yellow came out at one point and I was able to pass a few cars and stay upfront. I’m looking forward to my second season with 2009 season with Andretti Green Racing.”
WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia, finished 22nd): "Obviously, I'm very disappointed. The KV Racing Technology – Team Australia car was very quick. You could see how fast we were at the start of the race. The I backed off to save a lot of fuel, not pushing hard and then got caught out and clipped the inside wall and ricocheted into the next one. It was a really bad mistake, the worst of my life. It's was a very bad day for me and I am very disappointed. I want to thank all of the KVRT Team Australia for all their hard work this weekend. They really gave me a great car, and it's a shame we could not finish the race."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, finished 21st): "Unfortunately our right rear suspension broke and it’s a real shame. I didn’t hit anything and I think it was just the stress on the part. We worked really hard after struggling the first couple of days and the Team 7-Eleven car was very good for the race. I think we could have finished on the podium so we’re obviously disappointed."
Winner's average speed: 95.068 mph
Time of race: 1:45:50.3868
Margin of victory: 0.5019 of a second
Cautions: 3 caution flags for 6 laps
Lead changes: 7 among 6 drivers
Lap leaders: Power 1-16, Briscoe 17-19, Dixon 20, Franchitti 21-22, Briscoe 23-39, Tagliani 40, Viso 41, Briscoe 42-60.
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