Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Briscoe, Penske benefit from mutual patience

Ryan Briscoe was pleased May 10 after qualifying on the front row at 226.080 mph for today’s Indianapolis 500.

Associated Press

Ryan Briscoe was pleased May 10 after qualifying on the front row at 226.080 mph for today’s Indianapolis 500.

Ryan Briscoe was interviewing for a job that wasn't even open. More than 200,000 people were watching. And anyone this boss brought in was going to be scrutinized.

So in last year's Indianapolis 500, Briscoe put on his best suit — in this case canary yellow, fireproof Nomex — practiced his interview for a month and nailed it. Seven months later he had the job.

Today he makes his first Indy 500 start for Team Penske, which has won open-wheel racing's greatest event a record 14 times.

Like everyone else, Briscoe, 26, had heard rumors that Sam Hornish, Indy Racing League's career leader in wins (19) and championships (three), would switch from Penske's ultrasuccessful open-wheel program to its NASCAR operation. An open-wheel vagrant since Ganassi Racing ignominiously dumped him as he recuperated from broken clavicles and a bruised lung in his rookie season of 2005, Briscoe had driven in five international series looking for the next opportunity.

It came in late 2006 when Penske hired Briscoe to drive its Porsches in the American Le Mans series, putting him into the conversation when team owner Roger Penske's son, Jay, decided to field an Indy 500-only program for his part-time Luczo Dragon team. It was practically a third Team Penske endeavor.

"I had kept my eye on the prize, I guess, but no one knew what Sam was going to do. But I knew it was going to be important to have a real good solid run there,'' Briscoe said of the extended job interview last year. "I didn't want to mess that up."

Briscoe, who had raced just four times in the IRL since a crash split his car in half Sept. 11, 2005 at Chicagoland Speedway, started seventh and finished fifth.

With Hornish driving Penske's No. 77 Dodge in the Sprint Cup series, Briscoe prepares for his first official Indy 500 for the team from the front row, in third.

Penske president Tim Cindric first noticed Briscoe outdriving now teammate Helio Castroneves at a 2005 Sebring test and was reminded of his availability in 2006 by sports car driver Wayne Taylor.

Briscoe competed in four IRL races, two Champ Car races, A1GP, Grand Am, V-8 super car (Australian NASCAR, sort of) and endurance racing that season. He unknowingly responded, just as Cindric began tracking his career, by finishing a career-best third for underfunded Dreyer & Reinbold at Watkins Glen. Cindric established a relationship with Briscoe and was convinced the driver was technically gifted but said "we had to teach him patience" after he crashed out of seven of 15 races in 2005.

"At that point we had won Indy with Hornish, so I knew there was a good chance that at some point when the moons aligned that Hornish would take a chance at NASCAR," Cindric said, "so we looked at how we would position Ryan or at least see if he fit or not."

Briscoe wrecked in his first two IRL starts this season (though one was not his fault) then finished ninth and seventh in the next two events.

The Australian said he understands why Ganassi released him. Replacing him with 2005 Indy and IRL champ Dan Wheldon made sense, he said. He just wanted a little more forthrightness. Briscoe was rehabilitating in Italy in November 2005 when the call came. He said Ganassi ultimately offered him a ride in the Grand Am series, a departure from their earlier agreement.

"I had a lot of accidents in 2005 and it's understandable, the situation,'' Briscoe said. "He wanted to go back to a two-car team, and Wheldon came along with some pretty good Honda backing. (But) I could have been given a bit more notice because I felt as though I was being promised a ride the following year and then all of a sudden I found out Wheldon was signed."

Cindric said he'd "love to help (Briscoe) go from the bottom to the top" but has made it clear that results matter most. Briscoe is racing on a one-year deal.

"He's gone through his season of rookie mistakes. He's gone through the 'I'll-drive-for-food' program,'' Cindric said. "He's been through appreciating what you've got and hoping you get another chance-type situation. He's been through the sportscar (series) at the highest level and now, from our standpoint, the timing's right."

Brant James can be reached at brant@sptimes.com.

Today's races

Indianapolis 500

1 p.m., Indianapolis

TV/radio: Ch. 28; 620-AM

Weather: Mostly sunny, 20 percent chance of rain, 77 degrees

Top three starters

1. Scott Dixon 226.366 mph

2. Dan Wheldon 226.110

3. Ryan Briscoe 226.080

Coca-Cola 600

5:30 p.m., Concord, N.C.

TV/radio: Ch. 13; 1470-AM

Weather: Mostly sunny, 0 percent chance of rain, 79 degrees

Top three starters

1. Kyle Busch (Toyota) 185.433

2. Kasey Kahne (Dodge) 185.300

3. Brian Vickers (Toyota) 185.249

Back to his best scene

Defending Coca-Cola 600 winner Casey Mears hopes to turn around his season again. 8C

Forecasts from weather.com

Times online poll

Who will win the Indianapolis 500?

Danica Patrick 43%

Helio Castroneves 20%

Dan Wheldon 15%

Other 11%

Tony Kanaan 6%

Scott Dixon 4%

93 total votes

Briscoe, Penske benefit from mutual patience 05/24/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 25, 2008 11:23am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. What you should know about new Rays slugger Lucas Duda

    Blogs

    The MLB trade deadline is a few days away, but the Rays aren't procrastinating. Earlier today, they swung a deal for the Mets' Lucas Duda, sending minor league right-hander Drew Smith

    Slugger Lucas Duda will add some (more) power to the Rays lineup.
  2. Rays add a bat, too, acquiring Lucas Duda from Mets

    Blogs

    The Rays made another big move today, acquiring 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.

    Duda, 31, is a lefty slugger who will take over as the Rays primary DH against right-handers, with Corey Dickerson now playing most of the time in the outfield.

    To get Duda, the Rays gave up minor-league RHP Drew Smith, …

    The Rays acquired 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.
  3. Bucs do their best to stiff-arm the expectations

    Bucs

    TAMPA — If you want to see a team giving the Heisman trophy stiff-arm to expectations, check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    As always, the key to the Bucs success will be Jameis Winston. He still is only 23, but a charismatic leader that this team and this town believes deeply in. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. A trip down memory lane of Bucs' preseason expectations

    Bucs

    With HBO's Hard Knocks in town and the Bucs opening training camp Friday with their highest expectations in a decade, here's a look back at Tampa Bay's preseason expectations since their last playoff appearance in 2007 — and the results.

    2008

    Jameis Winston and running back Peyton Barber celebrate a touchdown last season against the 49ers. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Get the latest Tampa Bay Buccaneers news delivered daily to your email inbox

    Bucs

    They narrowly missed the playoffs by this much.

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrates with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) after they connected for a touchdown during a win over the Seattle Seahawks in November in Tampa. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]