In 2005, Australian IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe was involved in one of the most spectacular crashes ever seen. He broke both clavicles and was nicknamed the "Briscoe Inferno'' after surviving the spectacular fire-ball explosion. Dropped by Chip Ganassi Racing before 2006, Briscoe's career appeared stalled. But now life is good. Briscoe worked his way back to the series and now finds himself with the mighty Penske Racing team. Plus, he's engaged to be married in December to ESPN's NASCAR Now host, Nicole Manske. Briscoe, 27, spoke with Times staff writer Tom Jones as he prepared to travel here for this weekend's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
What is it like working for Roger Penske?
Oh, man, it's unbelievable. It's a huge step for my career. I get the opportunity to be with a first-class operation. It's a total change from where I was earlier in my career.
Could you have imagined after 2005 and the crash that you would be where you are now?
Well, you still hope things will work out. But there's no denying I got the feeling that things weren't where I wanted them to be. I'm just so happy it worked out in the end, but at the end of 2005, things weren't looking terrific.
Do you ever watch the tape of your crash?
Yeah, I've seen highlights. It's not like I go searching for it.
What do you think when you watch it?
I think of how lucky I was. You've seen many drivers killed in accidents that seem much smaller. I definitely feel extremely lucky to have gotten through that.
How do you even get back into a car after that?
Well, right after, it wasn't the first thing I wanted to do. It was a little bit daunting the first time I got back in. But once I was through the first couple of laps, it was full speed ahead.
How do you like being teammates with Will Power?
It has been great so far. He's a fellow Aussie so it's nice having someone who speaks the same language (laughs).
What do you miss about Australia?
Besides family, I don't really miss that much. I'm enjoying living here at the moment. All my family is back in Australia and I miss them and it's nice to go back. But I like living here now.
How are the wedding plans coming?
Most of it is planned. We wanted to get most of it done because now we get busy with the season under way. I'm not worried about the planning that much.
I bet Nicole still is.
Yeah (laughs). You're probably right.
You're getting married in Hawaii?
Yeah, I was there when I was like 8, but I don't remember it. It was the first place that popped into our minds. It's sort of halfway between Nicole's family here and my family in Australia. The weather is great that time of year. So it seemed to make perfect sense.
What do you think of St. Petersburg?
I love that place. Not just the track, but the town. It's beautiful weather and it's a great time of year to be there. Everything about the race is great and I always enjoy coming there.