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Ryan Briscoe edges Danica Patrick for IndyCar victory

Times wires

FORT WORTH, Texas — Ryan Briscoe pushed the button and quickly got back in front of Danica Patrick.

All the way to Victory Lane at Texas.

Briscoe pulled away in the closing laps after briefly losing the lead to Patrick and won the IndyCar Series race at the high-banked, 1½-mile track Saturday night, winning there a year after dominating only to finish second.

When Patrick rocketed past him after he emerged from the pit from his last stop, Briscoe wasn't so sure he wouldn't be able to get back in front.

"Absolutely not," Briscoe said. "She had been running strong all night long."

Patrick took her first lead of the season, but it lasted only a lap before Briscoe hit his push-to-pass button coming onto the frontstretch at the end of the 193rd of 228 laps.

"I was hoping that having gone a lap extra (before pitting) I was going to be able to put some distance," Briscoe said. "I was able to sort of slingshot back and carry some momentum using the Honda push-to-pass button. ... If I didn't get her there, I'm not sure I would get her at all. I knew it was going to be an important time and that's why I was being aggressive."

It was the fourth time in the last five races at Texas that a Roger Penske-owned car drove to Victory Lane. It was the first victory this season for Briscoe, who started the race on the pole.

A year ago, the Australian dominated at Texas, leading 160 laps and having almost a 10-second lead before two late cautions bunched up the field. That allowed his teammate, Helio Castroneves, to get ahead and win the race.

This year, Briscoe led 102 of 228 laps and finished 1.463 seconds ahead of Patrick, who followed up her sixth-place showing at the Indianapolis 500 with her best finish on an oval since her historic win at Motegi two years ago.

And Castroneves wasn't around at the end. He was knocked out of the race with 100 laps to go when he was pushed up into the wall by Mario Moraes, sending both mangled cars into the infield.

Patrick's teammate, Marco Andretti, was third. Scott Dixon was fourth, followed by Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, who took over the series points lead from Penske driver Will Power. Power finished 14th and dropped out of the top spot for the first time this year.

Briscoe gave up the lead when he made a green-flag pit stop with 38 laps to go, after Patrick had already gotten back on the track from her last stop.

When Briscoe pulled away from his pit box, Patrick was coming onto the frontstretch and was already back to full speed.

After Briscoe got off the apron and pulled back on the track on the backstretch, Patrick easily got past him. When they finished that lap, Patrick had her first lead all season.

"It felt great to get into the lead again," Patrick said.

Except it didn't last long.

Within a lap after that, Briscoe was able to get the No. 6 car around the outside of Patrick. Once he did, Briscoe stayed there and built as much as a 2-second lead before setting for the win.

"I was hoping that there would be a whole lot of lapped traffic to show up," Patrick said. "I guess I knew when he just drove around the outside of me when I had my foot down, he was pretty fast."

Early in the race, Briscoe was running more than 3 seconds ahead of Power soon before the first pit stops. But when he got caught in his pit box by a car in front of him, he came out fifth.

On the radio after that, Penske reassured Briscoe that there was nothing that could have been done to avoid it, and "We've got a good car."

They certainly did.

"This is a huge win," Briscoe said. "It has been a rough start. My two teammates have won races this year. It is a great feeling to join them in the winning list. ... Hopefully, we can get a few more victories this season."

Franchitti started second and was either leading or near the front of the pack throughout much of the first two-thirds of the race until after a pit stop when he came out second.

Within a few laps after that, handling problems dropped him out of the top 10 before he made a closing surge to get in the top 5 in his Target Chip Ganassi Racing No. 10 — and ahead of Power in season points.

Franchitti led 86 laps.

Power won the first two races of the season and had led until Saturday night.

During one stretch, Power dropped from second to 18th place after he had to pit multiple times to remove the piece of somebody else's car that was dragging under his car.

Tony Kanaan finished sixth and Ryan Hunter-Reay, whose future with Andretti Autosport after this race is uncertain because of a lack of sponsorship, was seventh. Rookie Alex Lloyd finished eighth.

Ryan Briscoe edges Danica Patrick for IndyCar victory 06/06/10 [Last modified: Sunday, June 6, 2010 12:25am]
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