Briscoe's thoughts on the new Indy car at the Milwaukee Mile
Penske Racing's Ryan Briscoe was in town Tuesday to talk up Milwaukee IndyFest, the June 15-16 return of the IZOD IndyCar Series to the Milwaukee Mile.
(And to chat Packers -- the Australian is a big fan, thanks to his wife, ESPN's Nicole Briscoe, who is a Wisconsin native. But that's another topic altogether.)
Our half-hour interview took numerous turns, ranging from the Lotus news of the week, the dominance of his teammate Will Power, the test of the new car at Texas Motor Speedway, the challenges facing Formula One veteran Rubens Barrichello as an IndyCar and oval-track rookie and, of course, the Mile.
Briscoe has thought about the historical significance of the race here, the in-law aspect and how good the track has been for Indy-style racing and for him in particular. But he hasn't had much occasion to think about how things might go with the new car on the flat oval.
"We're sort of waiting to get here and test on the 29th because it's been all about the road and street courses and Indianapolis and Texas. I'm not sure what to expect."
A test session is set for May 29, and the top teams all are expected to participate. Iowa Speedway (June 23) is the only other short oval on the IndyCar schedule.
"The car is producing more down force on the street and road courses, and we run basically a road-course configuration on the short ovals. A lot of down force. It's going to be fast. It depends on what horsepower they give us.
"We'll have to see what tire we have again. That always makes a huge difference."
Briscoe was cautious with his predictions because of those unknowns: power, aero and grip.
"If it's run-everything-you-want, I think it'll be flat around here, it'll be wide open at least in qualifying and the first 10 laps or so," he said.
What would Briscoe like to see?
"We've always flirted with going flat here, and actually the last couple of years one of the qualifying laps, if your car's good you go flat but you're on edge," he said. "That's usually ideal. You've got to . . . be brave and you've got to have a good car.
"And then in the race, you never run flat. You're lifting a lot. Which is good. If the car was a little easier to go flat with in qualifying, it's always going to be a challenging race. You're never going to be wide-open in traffic.
"Ideally around a short oval you'd want to run road-course horsepower because you need the power because traction becomes a big part of setting up the car on a track like Milwaukee. If we come here with a reduced boost that we run at Texas and Indy, it just might be underpowered for a track like this and the down force we run.
"Maybe that's the way it is. I don't even know because I haven't talked about the short oval yet. Maybe we do come here with the full horsepower, and that's the case it'll be much like previous years."