|Ryan Briscoe and the Penske team celebrate in Victory Lane after Briscoe won the second-fastest Indy Racing League race, the Meijer Indy 300, at Kentucky Speedway Saturday night. Photo by Wade Bell|
Briscoe gives Kentucky a kiss, races to victory
Race second fastest in IRL history
August 05, 2009Penske team driver Ryan Briscoe gave the turn four wall at Kentucky Speedway a little kiss Saturday night, but came back to win the Meijer Indy 300 in the second-fastest race in Indy Racing League history. Briscoe and runner-up Ed Carpenter also gave the thousands of fans a wild night, as the Penske car crossed the finish line just 0.0162 of a second ahead of Carpenter.
"I want to get that win," Briscoe said after the race. "It's been a while coming. I hadn't had an oval win since Milwaukee last year. We've been leading laps, and we've been running at the front. I just haven't been able to get the job done. This was important to me and whole team."
For Carpenter, it was his best career finish, but it was still bittersweet with victory being just a split-second away.
"I think I would have been happier in second if he had been 15 car lengths in front of me and ran away with it," Carpenter said. "It's a little harder to swallow when you're that close. It's the most laps I've led in any single race."
Something different for this race was an aero package change and a press-to-pass button which allowed all the drivers 20 shots of extra boost for 12 seconds. For most of the drivers, the aero package was more important than the extra boost.
"The press-to-pass helped, but you have to have the right gear to do it because it will only give you 200 extra revs after turn three, which is our maximum revs," third-place Tony Kanaan said. "They did a great job, but I think the aero package brought the race back to what it really was."
The first half of the race saw pole-sitter Scott Dixon fend off Briscoe to stay in front. In addition, there were two incidents, one in the pits involving Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mario Mora and Mike Conway, and another when Conway came in hot on pit road and slid into the grass, but neither warranted a caution flag. The only yellow flag of the night came on lap 121, when Justin Wilson's car began to smoke from the rear because of an electrical problem.
Briscoe's kiss of the turn four wall came on lap 130 when his car slid high, leaving tire marks against the white safety barrier.
"It was pretty scary," Briscoe said. "I saw that wall coming at me quick. It doesn't take much to bend the suspension and the day is over. I was able to catch it before actually going up there. … On the straightaway, I felt there was no damage."
The leaders, except for Will Powers, came in for service when the caution flag came out. Carpenter joined Powers up front and the pair battled until Powers pitted on lap 156.
Carpenter took over at that point with Helio Castroneves running in second, nearly a second behind, with 30 laps to go. With 25 laps to go, Carpenter visit the pits for service, handing the lead to Kanaan. However, as the stops cycled around, Carpenter was in front of Kanaan by 0.3657 of a second with 20 laps remaining.
Briscoe, however, had pulled himself back toward the front and moved into the second position with 10 laps to go. From there, it was a side-by-side race as the pair battled back and forth through each lap. Briscoe had the better line out of turn four, however, and Carpenter knew it would be tight at the finish.
"He was beating me to line about every time," Carpenter said. "I may have beat him one time. I knew I was fighting an uphill battle at that point. When I saw him get around (Kanaan), I knew it was going to be hard to win. I was just committed to give it all I've got."
With five laps to go, Briscoe led by just inches (0.008 of a second). When the white flag flew, the lead was only 0.0123. The pair came through turn four for the final time, and Briscoe made the move he was waiting for, crossing the finish line a half-car length ahead of Carpenter, who was followed by Kanaan. Castroneves was fourth, and Graham Rahal rounded out the top five.
"I thought the best option was going to be on the outside and to see what I've got," Briscoe said. "He surprised me. He was actually very good. He could run low, and he held it low till about five to go, then it started getting pretty racy to the finish."
"It was definitely the most fun I've had in a long time," Carpenter said. "This year hasn't been a very good year for our team, and it's been a rough couple of months for our family. So, tonight that makes everything feel better. I was trying to stay calm and after that last pit stop, when we cycled through in the lead, that's when I realized how really close we were and what a good shot we had at winning the race."
The race was the second fastest in Indy Racing League history with an average speed of 200.893 mph for the 300 miles. The margin of victory of 0.0162 second was the 11th closest for the series and closest in Kentucky Speedway history.
The race was especially important for Kanaan, who received burns on his face and arms from a pit fire the previous week. The Brazilian driver said for a while the incident caused him to question whether the profession was still fun enough to keep going.
"I've been bouncing back for quite a while, since Indy," Kanaan said. "Actually bouncing a lot, hitting the walls. I just kept my head up. … I've been very miserable myself, but it was really important. The guys put a lot of effort. It's hard to keep everybody up when you have four weekends in a row, the guys are working back-to-back and we're demolishing cars, burning cars, burning people."
"Today, I just went in there and drove," he said. "The last two months I realized it was not fun, and it has to be fun. I tried to have fun this weekend, and I think a positive attitude helped a lot. I came this weekend with the mindset that it had to be fun again or there's no point for me to keep doing this. I guess I'm having fun again."
The win also was important to Briscoe in the season points, as he jumped in front of second-place Scott Dixon by eight points. Dario Franchitti is in third place, 11 points behind Briscoe.
"You get very well rewarded with this points system with a win, at least 10 more than the second-place car," Briscoe said. "It means a lot to win races here, so I don't care who it is."
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1. Ryan Briscoe 200 Running
2. Ed Carpenter 200 Running
3. Tony Kanaan 200 Running
4. Helio Castroneves 200 Running
5. Graham Rahal 200 Running
6. Dario Franchitti 200 Running
7. Scott Dixon 200 Running
8. Danica Patrick 200 Running
9. Will Power 200 Running
10. Marco Andretti 200 Running
11. Dan Wheldon 200 Running
12. Sarah Fisher 200 Running
13. Hideki Mutoh 200 Running
14. Ryan Hunter-Reay 197 Running
15. E.J. Viso 197 Running
16. Raphael Matos (R) 196 Running
17. Mike Conway (R) 192 Running
18. Mario Moraes 188 Running
19. Robert Doombos (R) 185 Running
20. Milka Duno 165 Running
21. Justin Wilson 120 Mechanical
22. Tomas Scheckter 59 Mechanical
23. Jaques Lazier 43 Mechanical
Time of Race: 1:28:24.3246
Average Speed: 200.893 mph
Margin of Victory: 0.0162 of a sec.
Fastest Lap: Carpenter 218.498 mph
Lead Changes: 20 among 7 drivers
Cautions: 1 for 6 laps