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Posted: Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:47 pm
Briscoe Wins for Team Penske in Thrilling Finish at Kentucky
SPARTA, Ken. (August 1, 2009). - In a thrilling finish to an action-packed race, Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe edged Ed Carpenter at the finish line by just 0.0162 seconds Saturday night in the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Briscoe's second win of the season allowed him to reclaim the lead in the race for the IndyCar Series championship.
Briscoe's No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda raced side-by-side with Carpenter for the final 10 laps of the 200-lap race, with Briscoe using the outside line to his advantage as the cars reached the finish line on the 1.5-mile tri-oval. The margin of victory was the 11th-closest in IndyCar Series history.
Briscoe's teammates also fared well. Helio Castroneves finished fourth in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, while Will Power finished ninth in the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Honda. All three Penske drivers led laps in the race.
"This is a great finish for the entire team," said Briscoe. "Everyone worked toward the same goal, and we were able to attain it. I'm very satisfied with that."
The race was the first to feature new aerodynamic and power changes instituted by the IndyCar Series to enhance competition. Drivers used push-to-pass technology that provided short bursts of extra horsepower, as well as several aerodynamic changes that helped the cars race side-by-side.
"Up until now, you could get within about two or three cars lengths of someone and your car would get loose and you would have to get out of the throttle," said Briscoe. "Now you can run down under people and get aggressive. That's what made the racing so good. The aero changes, the tires, the push-to-pass - I don't think you can put your finger on one thing that made it better. It's always going to be a combination of things."
For the second consecutive week, the drivers ran a remarkably clean race, with only one caution period. Briscoe's winning average race speed of 200.893 mph was the second-fastest in the history of the IndyCar Series.
Briscoe now holds an eight-point advantage (416-408) over Scott Dixon in the IndyCar Series championship standings, behind his seventh podium result this season.
Castroneves closed strong in the final laps to finish fourth for his sixth top-five result of 2009. The finish kept him fourth in the championship standings - now 75 points behind his series-leading teammate, despite missing the first race of the season.
"Unbelievable. I have to say, great package. That push to pass, at the beginning we didn't really feel anything but then all of the sudden, man! It was incredible," Castroneves said. "I got a little greedy towards the end, tried to help my teammate so we could do a 1-2 finish and man, I went way high and then I started coming back again and it was awesome, awesome. I had a lot of fun."
Though he started 20th when the starting grid was set on points after qualifying was canceled on Friday, Power appeared to be in control of the race about two-thirds of the way through. Fresh off his first IndyCar Series win last week in Edmonton, Power and his team elected to stay out on track during the lone caution period with the threat of rain in the area looming. The move allowed Power to take the lead and he paced the next 29 laps of the race. He eventually fell back in the running order when the rains never came and he was forced to make a green flag pit stop with 45 laps remaining.
"It was a good night for the Penske Truck Rental team," said Power. "We certainly passed a lot of people on track tonight. We took a gamble with the rain when we stayed out under the yellow flag and it was worthwhile because we're not fighting for the championship. It was good to lead some laps and we feel pretty good about a ninth-place finish. It would've been better to be top-five, but we started pretty far back and worked hard to get to where we finished."
With five races remaining on the series calendar after Kentucky, Briscoe knew that a strong performance this weekend in the Bluegrass state was paramount to a championship run.
"The win is important," Briscoe said. "We're very well rewarded with a win in this points system. It's been a while coming. I haven't had an oval win since Milwaukee of last year. We'd been leading laps and running up, but we hadn't been getting the job done. This was very important for me and the entire team."
The IndyCar Series season continues next weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where Briscoe and Castroneves finished 1-2 last season.
Posted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:35 am
Briscoe, Castroneves Aim to Improve After Mid-Ohio Practice
August 7, 2009 - LEXINGTON, Ohio - The bottom-line results may not have been spectacular on Friday, but both Team Penske drivers feel that they are in good shape after the first practice session before qualifying for Sunday's Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The cars of the IndyCar Series took to the track for a one-hour practice session late on Friday afternoon.
Ryan Briscoe had the seventh-fastest lap of the day - 1:09.1440 (117.563 mph) - around the 2.24-mile road course in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda.
"The track was not very fast today, so we waited for a good portion of the session before we went out," said Briscoe, the defending champion at Mid-Ohio, who is coming off a win last week at Kentucky. "The Team Penske car looks good and I feel like we are on the right track. I don't think we will be doing any big changes going into tomorrow."
Teammate Helio Castroneves couldn't get a clear lap but still posted the 12th-best lap of the day - 1:09.4989 (116.963 mph) in the No. 3 Team PenskeDallara/Honda.
"We were able to take a couple short runs this afternoon, but unfortunately we got stuck behind traffic," said Castroneves, last year's polewinner at Mid-Ohio. "The Team Penske car felt good out there, and I think we'll be fine for the rest of the weekend. We just need to get some clean laps tomorrow morning to see exactly where we sit."
Briscoe, who leads the IndyCar Series championship standings, says he's looking forward to the road-racing debut of push-to-pass technology.
"I think it will add another element of excitement to the racing," he said. "I always like competing at Mid-Ohio, and I am excited for a good weekend."
After a morning practice session, qualifying is scheduled to begin Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Posted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:36 am
Briscoe Wins Mid-Ohio Pole, Castroneves To Start Fifth
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 8, 2009) -- Team Penske captured two of the top five starting positions Saturday afternoon - including a record-setting run to the pole position by Ryan Briscoe - in qualifying for Sunday's Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Briscoe, who won last year's IndyCar Series race at Mid-Ohio, set an event record with a lap of 1:06.6814 around the 2.25-mile road course. Teammate Helio Castroneves will start on the inside of row three after his top lap of 1:07.1809.
It marked the seventh all-time pole for Penske Racing at Mid-Ohio and it was third consecutive pole earned for the team at the classic road course.
Briscoe said he caught a break in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda by being in the second group, which was cut short because of a late caution.
"It really came down to timing," said Briscoe. "We had the lucky group today, and we were able to save our tires for the end. The car can be a little bit better. It's tricky getting used to the conditions out there on the circuit, but overall I was pretty happy with it."
Castroneves didn't get the lap he wanted with the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, but he thinks the race might hold some surprises, just as qualifying did.
"It was interesting," said Castroneves. "We felt like there was a big difference between the (Firestone) red and black tires. In Q2, we had a faster car on reds, but we were trying not to use them too hard. Tire management was the key to being on the front row. It should be an interesting race."
Briscoe leads the IndyCar Series championship standings with just five races remaining in the 2009 season, but he said he doesn't expect to do anything differently in Sunday's race or the other four races after that - at Infineon Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway, Twin Ring Motegi and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I don't think any of us up front are going to change what we're doing," Briscoe said. "It's been a tough battle. We just need to stay focused. That's the key. Just stay focused and keep pushing."
Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:52 pm
Briscoe Finishes Second To Lead Team Penske at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, Ohio - Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe held on in a frantic duel at the end of the Honda Indy 200 to finish second Sunday and keep himself in the thick of the IndyCar Series championship race.
Briscoe, who came into the race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the lead in the drivers' standings, now trails Sunday's race winner, Scott Dixon, by just three points with four races remaining in the 2009 season. The IndyCar season resumes on Aug. 23 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California.
Briscoe worked hard to keep the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda ahead of Dario Franchitti's car during the final laps of the race, eventually claiming second place by three-tenths of a second.
"We were dynamite out of the pits on the last stint, and it kept up that way for about four laps," Briscoe said. "Then our lap times dropped off about a second. I was pretty scared because we still had about 15 laps to go. I thought, 'This is going to be terrible if it keeps dropping off.' But after that I was able to maintain a pretty decent lap time. It was good enough that I was able to hold off Dario."
Meanwhile, Team Penske's Helio Castroneves recovered from a mid-race spin to finish 12th, but ultimately lost some ground in the championship chase. Castroneves remained in fourth place in the standings, but fell 101 points behind Dixon.
"Obviously, I'm very disappointed with our result today," Castroneves said. "We lost it in Turn 9 and we dropped back in the field. We tried a different fuel strategy than the other guys, but it just didn't work out in our favor. Now we just have to move on and look toward Sonoma."
The runner-up finish was Briscoe's sixth in 13 races this season. He started from the pole position Sunday and led twice for a total of six laps, but couldn't threaten Dixon in the second half of the race.
"It was a lot of hard work out there," Briscoe said. "I was holding off Scott and Justin (Wilson) at the beginning, but I could see that Scott was fast. A couple of times I put in really good lap times, and he'd still be right there behind me. He just wouldn't let up, so I knew he was going to be fast throughout the race."
Still, Briscoe said he likes his championship chances because of Team Penske's strong history in the final four races of the season.
"There have been 13 changes in the lead in the championship, which is really incredible," Briscoe said. "It's the first time for me to be in the middle of the championship, and I'm excited about that. It's been a fantastic year. I feel like I'm still learning and gaining experience with every race."
Following the Infineon race on August 23, the IndyCar Series moves to Chicagoland Speedway on August 29 before traveling to Twin Ring Motegi in Japan for another oval race September 19. The season finale is set for October 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:51 pm
Team Penske Hopes to Repeat Last Year's Results at Sonoma
SONOMA, Calif. (August 20, 2009) - Last season, Team Penske dominated the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, with Helio Castroneves winning the pole and the race at Infineon Raceway and Ryan Briscoe coming home in second place.
The team would relish a repeat of last year's performance this weekend at the picturesque Northern California road circuit. In the midst of a tight IndyCar Series championship chase that is coming down to the wire with only four races remaining, both Briscoe and Castroneves need a strong weekend to bolster their title hopes. For Will Power, this weekend's event marks another opportunity to showcase his skills as he competes in his second-to-last event of his limited schedule with Penske Racing this season.
Briscoe enters this weekend just three points out of the championship lead, as he sits second behind defending champion Scott Dixon. Briscoe claimed his first-ever pole in the IndyCar Series at Sonoma in 2005 and he qualified second last year before leading 19 laps and producing his runner-up finish in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda.
The native of Sydney, Australia has won the pole at each of the previous permanent road course events this season - Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio - and he produced second-place results at both of them. His history and the strong performance of Team Penske this season give him confidence heading into the weekend.
"Sonoma was the site of my first career IndyCar Series pole, so Infineon Raceway will always be special to me," said Briscoe. "The track is very physically and mentally demanding in that the steering gets really heavy around the circuit, the corners are very taxing and there are a lot of ups-and-downs with blind turns. Even though it's one of the most challenging tracks we go to, I can't wait to get back there because it really is a fun course to drive.
I've earned poles at both permanent road courses this season, and finished second twice. Hopefully this weekend, we'll be able to move up just one finishing spot. The championship battle is coming down to the wire, so we have to make sure we maintain our focus from here on out."
For Castroneves, dreams of a championship are not ready to fade this season, though he knows he has a challenge ahead of him. Trailing Dixon by 101 points in fourth place, Castroneves is keenly aware that Sonoma is the place where his dramatic push for the championship began last season. He won from the pole at Infineon Raceway and captured another victory and a second-place finish to push the battle for the series crown down to the final lap of the season. The popular Brazilian racer has also won at three of the final four events remaining on the series calendar, so he believes he will still be a force to be reckoned with, beginning with this weekend's race.
"Infineon Raceway is one of the most technical tracks we run on all year," said Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda. "It's fast with big hills and big turns, so it makes running well there very difficult. We've finished in the top-five the past three years, including a win last season and hopefully we'll be just as competitive this year.
We're coming off of a tough race in Mid-Ohio, but we're still in the points battle. We have a lot of work ahead of us in the next four races if we want to compete for the championship, but we certainly proved last year that you can never count us out. A solid weekend in Sonoma will bring us one step closer in our battle for the 2009 championship."
After producing his first IndyCar Series win in his last road course event at Edmonton, Power also expects to be competing for the victory this weekend. Unlike Briscoe and Castroneves, Power did not test last week at Infineon Raceway, but he will rely on his Penske Racing teammates advice and feedback and he has proven all season long that he's one of the strongest competitors in the series, especially on road circuits.
"I am really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel this weekend," said Power, who will once again pilot the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Honda for the team. "Infineon Raceway is a very challenging track and I know that the Team Penske cars were both very strong there last season and they did well at the test. We don't have a lot of track time this weekend but we will make the most of what we have and I know that the team will give me a great car and we'll have the opportunity to have a strong result."
Several new elements to this year's race at Sonoma should also make for some challenging strategy for each Penske Racing team. The race has been shortened from 80 to 75 laps, creating larger fuel mileage windows and the opportunity for more wide-open racing. The Firestone alternate "red" tires will also come into play and the recently-introduced "push-to-pass" overtaking feature will also be new to the event this season, now giving competitors 15 bursts of extra horsepower for 15 seconds at their disposal with the push of a button inside the cockpit.
Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:21 am
Second-Place Run at Sonoma Gives Briscoe Series Lead
SONOMA, Calif. - Another solid second-place finish for Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe led to another championship lead change in the IndyCar Series on Sunday.
Briscoe finished second for the seventh time this season and recaptured the lead in the IndyCar Series championship standings with just three races remaining in the 2009 season. It marked the 13th lead change in 14 series races this season.
After starting second in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, Briscoe finished just .2488-of-a-second behind winner Dario Franchitti in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, but the result put Briscoe four points ahead of Franchitti in the standings. Just three races remain - next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, Sept. 19 at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan and Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Briscoe's teammate, Helio Castroneves, ran third behind Briscoe for much of the race, before contact with the car driven by Tony Kanaan dashed any hopes for victory. Following the wheel-to-wheel contact with Kanaan, the suspension broke on the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda on the 66th lap, forcing Castroneves off track. He finished 18th in the final running order.
Briscoe said he just couldn't find a place to pass Franchitti, who led all 75 laps.
"I think if I would have had clean air I would have been quicker than Dario," Briscoe said. "With dirty air, there wasn't much I could do. Unfortunately, it is a really tough track to pass on if the guy in front of you doesn't make mistakes. I don't think that Dario made one today, but congratulations to him and his team."
Briscoe thought he might be able to gain an edge on Franchitti by saving fuel, but soon discovered that Franchitti was also in fuel conservation mode.
"I was pretty conservative on the fuel during that first stint and I actually thought I was going to be able to get him by going a lap further," Briscoe said. "I was surprised to see that he went a lap further than me. That's something we need to work on for this track -- fuel mileage -- but the Team Penske car was pretty good today."
Despite the result, Castroneves remains fourth in the standings and mathematically still in championship contention, 126 points behind Briscoe.
"All of a sudden, the right front suspension collapsed going into Turn 2 and we went off the track," Castroneves said. "We were very lucky that there wasn't more damage. It's really a shame because the Team Penske car was great. Now we just have to move on to Chicago. The good news is that Ryan was able to retake the lead in the championship."
Penske Racing driver Will Power, who was injured Saturday in an accident during practice, will remain in Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment of his injuries, which include compression fractures of his L2 and L4 vertebrae and a concussion.
Power is expected to remain in the hospital for a few more days before being transported to Indianapolis, where he will undergo further examination by IndyCar Series orthopedic specialist, Dr. Terry Trammell. Power is also being fitted for a custom back brace.
The series resumes Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway in the Peak Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300.
"We're leading the championship," Briscoe said, "Hopefully we can hang onto it."
Power released from hospital
Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:16 pm
Penske Racing driver Will Power was been released from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Aug. 27 and was to return to his Indianapolis home.
He will undergo further examination by IndyCar Series orthopedic specialist Dr. Terry Trammell on Aug. 31 to determine the next course of treatment and rehabilitation. Power suffered a concussion and compression fractures of his second and fourth lumbar vertebrae during a practice crash at Infineon Raceway on Aug. 22.
Posted: Sun Aug 30, 2009 10:53 am
Briscoe Wins Chicago Pole as Team Penske Qualifies 1-2
JOLIET, Ill. (August 28, 2009) - Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe scored an important championship point Friday by winning the pole position for the Peak Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. Briscoe now leads the IndyCar Series championship standings by five points over Dario Franchitti after capturing the pole for Saturday night's race. His teammate, Helio Castroneves, will start second and still has an outside shot at the championship in fourth place with three races remaining.
Briscoe's four-lap average of 1:48.632 - 215.364 mph - in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda was less than a tenth-of-a-second faster than Castroneves' average. It marked the fourth pole for Team Penske at Chicagoland and the team's third 1-2 start this season.
"The car was solid," said Brisoce. "All four laps were really strong. We made a couple of adjustments in the car during the four laps to keep the front end under me. I could see the speed, so when I saw the first lap was a little quicker than the pole time, I just knew I had to keep doing the same thing. I was able to do that. It was a pretty smooth run."
Perhaps even more important than starting up front was the point earned. In a tight championship battle that has seen the lead change hands 13 times in 14 races this season, Briscoe knows he can ill afford to leave anything on the table if he wants to secure his first series title.
"It's important for the point," said Briscoe. "As far as what's going to happen in the race, it doesn't matter where you start. Helio won the race from the last position last year. It's exciting. A Team Penske front row means the team is working well. We have strong cars and hopefully we can carry that into the race. I've had a few firsts this year so hopefully I can have my first win from the pole."
Castroneves said he will be pushing for the race win on Saturday, but he will also help his teammate in the chase for the championship, the way Briscoe helped him at Chicago last season as he pursued the series crown.
"It's pretty close between the two Team Penske cars," said Castroneves. "I'm happy to be on the front row, and we'll do everything we can to get Ryan more points for the championship."
Briscoe predicted a difficult race, noting the cool conditions anticipated for the first IndyCar night race at the 1.5-mile oval.
"It's going to be a tough race," said Briscoe. "There are probably 10 or 12 cars that can win, so it should be a pretty exciting race for the fans. I think we're going to see a lot of pack racing, running two- or three-wide all night long. Hopefully we can stay out of trouble, stay in the front and bring it home in front."
Posted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 4:02 am
Briscoe Edges Scott Dixon for Team Penske Chicago Win
JOLIET Ill. - Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe produced a dramatic victory at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday night in an evening filled with thrills and memorable side-by-side racing.
Briscoe drove from 13th place to Victory Lane to pad his lead in the IndyCar Series championship standings with just two races remaining in the 2009 season.
As he narrowly beat Scott Dixon to the finish line by little more than two feet - 0.0077 of a second - Briscoe captured the Peak Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300 for the fourth-closest margin of victory in IndyCar Series history. "It was a good night," said Briscoe. "It definitely wasn't as smooth as I would have liked, but we had a very good car. It was fast and consistent. I didn't think I was going to have enough for Scott, but as soon as I was able to get beside him, it really slowed both of our cars down a lot and really evened things out. That gave me the chance to beat him across the line."
Briscoe now leads Dario Franchitti, who finished fourth, by 25 points and Dixon by 33 in the drivers' standings with just two races left on the 2009 schedule - Sept. 19 at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan and Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Briscoe's teammate, Helio Castroneves, was running third when a suspension part failed on the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda and sent him into the wall with 15 laps remaining in the race. Castroneves was examined and quickly released from the infield medical center.
As he finished 20th in the final running order, Castroneves was eliminated from the championship race. He fell 167 points behind Briscoe as he remained fourth in the standings.
"We had a great race going until that incident," said Castroneves. "The Team Penske car was running very well, but then we had an issue with our front suspension and I ended up in the wall."
The victory was Briscoe's first at Chicagoland Speedway and third win of the 2009 season. He won earlier this year at St. Petersburg and Kentucky. He had finished second seven times this season, but won from the pole Saturday for the first time in his career.
"We've got to stay focused," said Briscoe. "The Target cars (Franchitti and Dixon) are going to be there in Motegi and Homestead, so we just have to stay focused. We've had good cars on all the mile-and-half ovals this year. We've just got to keep it together. We had a couple of mistakes tonight but were able to come back. We've just have to try to avoid those situations."
Briscoe was running fourth when he missed his marks on a pit stop, which created difficulty in fueling the car and the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda fell to eighth place. Briscoe then dropped to 13th before he rallied, moving into the lead with 40 laps to go.
After the green flag race restart following Castroneves' accident, Briscoe and Dixon staged a memorable battle. The two title contenders swapped the lead four times over the final nine laps to highlight a race that featured two- and three-wide battles throughout the field.
"It was really good racing, really close," Briscoe said. "I was just happy when after about 40 laps or so, my spotter said 'Clear all around.' It was the best thing I'd heard in a long time."
Castroneves' crash ended his bid for the championship, but it didn't end his drive to finish on a positive note while helping his teammate pursue his first series title.
"It's unfortunate because we could have battled for the win there at the end," said Castroneves, who edged Dixon in the second-closest finish in series' history last year at Chicago. "The good news is that I'm OK and now we just have to move on to Japan. Congratulations to my teammate, Ryan. He ran a fantastic race and made some good headway in the championship."
The IndyCar Series will enjoy a three-week break before traveling to Motegi for the Indy Japan 300.
Posted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 4:03 am
WILL POWER RECOVERY UPDATE
Penske Racing IndyCar Series driver Will Power was examined in Indianapolis Monday by series orthopedic specialist Dr. Terry Trammell. Power was injured in a practice accident at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma. California on Saturday, August 22.
Dr. Trammell determined that Power suffered fractures of his second, third and fourth lumbar vertebrae, and a fracture of his fifth thoracic vertebra, in the accident. Surgery will not be required as Dr, Trammell expects Power to recover with rest and rehabilitation. Power will continue to wear a back brace during an expected recovery period of at least four months. Power, who also suffered a concussion and a chipped left front tooth in the incident, will begin physical therapy for his back injuries this week.
After completing his rehabilitation, Power is expected to be ready to compete by the IndyCar Series season-opening race in March of 2010.
Posted: Sat Sep 19, 2009 12:32 am
Team Penske Ready for Memorable Weekend in Motegi
MOTEGI, Japan (September 16, 2009) - Team Penske enters this weekend's Indy Japan 300 ready to create some special Motegi memories.
Entering the second-to-last round of the 2009 IndyCar Series, the team has a chance to do some special things at the Twin Ring Motegi oval. Ryan Briscoe carries a 25-point lead in the championship standings into this weekend's race and he actually has a chance to clinch his first series title if he is able to build a lead of more than 54 points after Saturday's race.
After winning two of the last four events on the series' calendar, including last round at Chicago, Briscoe is in the championship driver's seat. He has claimed victory in the last two 1.5-mile oval races (Chicago and Kentucky) and with both Motegi and the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway also being 1.5-mile tracks, the driver of the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda is well positioned for a strong title run.
Though he only earned a ninth-place finish last season at Japan, Briscoe enters this weekend as a strong favorite to earn his fourth win of the season.
"I'm really excited about going to Japan and have always enjoyed the atmosphere of racing there," said Briscoe. "Team Penske has done an amazing job all year long, and I'm hoping to continue our streak of 1.5-mile circuit performances going into the final two rounds of the Championship."
Helio Castroneves has a solid record of success at Twin Ring Motegi that he hopes to build on this weekend. Castroneves has started on pole at the unique oval each of the last three seasons. He won the event in 2006 for Team Penske and is looking to become just the second driver to earn a pair of wins at Motegi (Dan Wheldon won in 2004 and 2005). Last season, the three-time Indy 500 winner led 94 laps and finished second at Motegi.
"I've always liked the track at Motegi," said Castroneves. "It's a very challenging oval, with two different ends; so it's difficult to get the set-up right to handle well in both Turns 1 and 2 and Turns 3 and 4. We've achieved some great results in Japan and I'm hoping for more of the same this year. I've started from the pole the past three years and I won in 2006, so we know we can win there. Team Penske has been performing well on the 1.5-mile ovals all year, which gives us a lot of confidence heading into the race."
Posted: Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:46 am
Motegi: Team Penske qualifying report
Racing series INDYCAR
Briscoe Qualifies Fourth; Castroneves Hits Wall in Japan
MOTEGI, Japan (September 18, 2009) -- Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe continued his quest for an IndyCar Series championship Friday with a solid qualifying effort that earned him a fourth-place starting position for the Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi.
Briscoe completed four laps in 1:48.9772 - an average speed of 200.849 mph around the 1.5-mile oval - and will start Saturday's race on the outside of the second row. Briscoe enters the second-to-last event on the series' calendar 25 points ahead of his closest competitor, Dario Franchitti, who will start third.
"It was pretty good," said Briscoe, driver of the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, after the qualifying run. "I was just a little bit loose on the first two laps, so I really didn't have the confidence to put the throttle down out of turn 4. I left a bit on the table, but the car was pretty good in practice, and we had some long runs today. It's going to be a tough race here. It always is here. Hopefully it doesn't come down to a fuel event, which it usually does. But if it does, we'll be ready for it."
Meanwhile, Team Penske's Helio Castroneves looked to be on his way to securing a starting spot inside the top-five before he made contact with the wall in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda during his qualifying attempt. After leading the morning practice session, the winner of the 2006 event at Motegi crashed on his third qualifying lap after positing two solid opening laps. Castroneves will start 21st in the 23-car field.
"Everything was going great and then we just had unexpected understeer in the exit of turn 4," Castroneves said. "I really don't know why. The Team Penske car was running smoothly, but unfortunately it didn't work out the way we wanted. I feel bad for the team but I know they'll work hard tonight and we will have a good car tomorrow. We will do our best to drive from the back and make our way up front."
Briscoe said his approach Saturday won't necessarily be conservative, but it will be cautiously aggressive. Franchitti needs to finish third or better to stay in the championship race heading into the season finale October 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"If I don't win it, one of the Ganassi cars (Franchitti or pole winner Scott Dixon) probably will," Briscoe said. "Twenty-five points might sound like a lot, but it doesn't seem like much to me. We've got to go out and try to beat those guys. That usually means winning the race. The pressure is on them to beat me, but it's definitely not a comfortable situation for me. It's the equivalent of a six-point lead in Formula One. Our point system just makes it sound like it's more than it really is."
Briscoe is buoyed by the fact that he was solid throughout Friday's two practice sessions, even though the team was searching for more consistency at the unique oval track. "We've been here and there during practice, so I haven't found all the confidence I've needed," Briscoe said. "I was probably hesitant on the cold tires to really go for it in qualifying, but the car felt good for four laps. We finished strong. It's not pole, but we stayed toward the front."
The Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 begins shortly after 11 p.m. ET on Friday night - noon Saturday in Japan. Live television coverage on Versus begins at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Posted: Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:46 am
Motegi: Team Penske race report
Racing series INDYCAR
Castroneves Finishes 10th at Japan, Briscoe Loses Lead
MOTEGI, Japan (September 19, 2009) - Ryan Briscoe and Team Penske battled to the finish Saturday and their championship dreams are still alive, despite an untimely incident that cost the team a solid finish in the Bridgestone Indy Japan 300.
Briscoe and the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda crew will compete for the IndyCar Series crown in three weeks at the winner-take-all season finale in Miami.
On Saturday, Briscoe was leading at Twin Ring Motegi when his car spun and made contact with the retaining wall while Briscoe was exiting the pits on the 106th lap of the 200-lap race. His crew worked hard to repair the damaged car and Briscoe returned to the track to finish 18th to keep him in contention for the championship.
After entering the weekend with a 25-point lead in the title chase, Briscoe is eight points behind Motegi race winner Scott Dixon going into the October 10 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and just three points behind Dario Franchitti, who finished second in Saturday's race.
The incident, which occurred as Briscoe appeared to be on his way toward a good result that would bring him one step closer the championship, was disappointing but simply provides another challenge for the team.
"I saw a great opportunity to come out of the pits in the lead and I was trying to get to the blend line as quickly as possible," said Briscoe. "I just got on the throttle too hard, lost it and hit the wall. The team did a great job fixing the car but we just lost too many laps in the pits.
"The good news is we're only behind by eight points in the standings. I feel really good about going to Homestead and we're going there to win the race and the championship."
Meanwhile, Helio Castroneves finished 10th in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda after starting 21st on the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval.
"We were shooting for a top-10 finish for Team Penske here in Japan, and we got it today," Castroneves said. "It was very difficult to pass out there, but we did the best job we could. The team made some great calls and we had good pit stops. It's a shame that Ryan lost the points lead, but we know we will be strong at Homestead. Our goal is to bring home a championship for Team Penske."
After hard contact with the wall in Friday qualifying, Castroneves started from the rear of the field but quickly worked his way forward and was running inside the top-15 after his first pit stop. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner kept working to improve his position and was able to crack the top-10 before taking the checkered flag.
Under overcast skies Saturday, Briscoe came into the pits two laps after the other two title contenders and had just taken the lead when the No. 6 car slid sideways under throttle and struck the wall. The incident forced Briscoe to return to the pits several times for extensive repairs.
Briscoe said he is determined to make up for the Motegi mishap at Homestead, where the tight season-long championship battle will finally be decided between the Team Penske racer, Dixon and Franchitti.
"I'm feeling good going to Homestead," said Briscoe. "I'm going to put it behind me in just a minute, and my focus will be 100 percent on Homestead. It's exciting for us and all the fans. It's going to build up a lot of hype going into Homestead. It's going to be a tough one. It's a flip of a coin as to who's the favorite. All of us are fully capable of winning at that track. I'm going to be as motivated as I've ever been, after this race."
One of the closest championship battles in the history of the IndyCar history will be decided in Miami. With just eight points separating the top three contenders going into the final race of the season, it ranks as the second-closest margin among the top three in league history.
Qualifying for the Firestone Indy 300 will be televised on Versus beginning at 6 p.m. ET on October 9. Race coverage on Versus will begin at 4 p.m. ET on October 10.
Posted: Sun Oct 11, 2009 12:41 am
Team Penske Fights for Win, Title To Close Season in Miami
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (October 8, 2009) - A memorable 2009 IndyCar Series season will come to an exciting conclusion for Team Penske this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway and there's no shortage of drama.
Ryan Briscoe, driver of the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, can win the series championship with a strong performance this weekend for the team. With three wins this season, including two on 1.5-mile ovals (the same as Homestead-Miami Speedway), the native of Sydney, Australia trails series leader Scott Dixon by eight points and second-place runner Dario Franchitti by just three points. No matter how Dixon and Franchitti finish, Briscoe can win the championship by winning the race and claiming one of the three bonus points available for winning the pole position (one point) or leading the most laps in the race (two points).
Last season at Miami, in his debut race for Team Penske, Briscoe saw his race end early due to contact and he wound up finishing 19th. This season, following two successful tests at Homestead (he posted the fastest time in Spring Training testing at the venue), Briscoe knows he can do something special in Saturday night's Firestone Indy 300.
"There are only eight points separating (Scott) Dixon, Dario (Franchitti) and myself, so the championship will basically come down to a 'winner take all' scenario this weekend," said Briscoe. "I feel good about ending the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. We've had two good tests there this year - one this past winter and another a couple of weeks ago. I don't see why we wouldn't be the car to beat out there. Personally, I can't wait for race weekend; I'm extremely motivated to do well in Florida and win this championship for the team."
While Helio Castroneves would certainly like to see his teammate win his first IndyCar Series title, he also desperately wants to produce a victory at Homestead. Castroneves, who won his third Indianapolis 500 in May, has never reached Victory circle in his adopted hometown. Though he owns four podium results and six top-five finishes in his previous starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the resident of nearby Coral Gables hasn't crossed the finih line first - something he hopes to remedy on Saturday.
Though he has been eliminated from the title chase and sits fourth in the series standings, Castroneves also wants to be able to close out the season strong and if he captures the checkered flag, he knows he'll take points away from Franchitti and Dixon and that will help his teammate.
"I'm looking forward to ending the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway," said Castroneves. "Living in Coral Gables makes this my hometown race, so I always have a lot of friends and family out at the track to support me, which is awesome. I'd love to finally notch a win here at the track - no Miami resident has ever done that, so I'd like to be the first! Unfortunately, I'm out of the championship hunt, but you can be sure I'm going to be supporting my teammate Ryan as he goes for the title. A perfect scenario would be me winning the race and Ryan finishing second to earn the championship."
Posted: Sun Oct 11, 2009 12:41 am
Briscoe Qualifies Third, Castroneves 11th for Miami Finale
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (October 9, 2009) - Though he didn't earn the pole on Friday, Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe is still in position to win the IndyCar Series championship Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Briscoe will start third in the Firestone Indy 300 on the 1.5-mile Homestead oval after a typically fast performance in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda. Briscoe recorded a four-lap average of 212.137 mph, just a tick behind his two closest competitors in the championship race.
Scott Dixon, who leads the series standings heading into Saturday's season finale, will start second when the race begins at 5 p.m. ET. Dario Franchitti, who is currently second in the standings, won the pole position.
Briscoe, who trails Dixon by eight points, was just 0.01 seconds behind him after four laps on the track Friday. Briscoe will start from the second row when the green flag waves Saturday and his focus is still on winning the race and earning the bonus points for leading the most laps to secure the championship.
"I'm sure tomorrow (the pressure) will escalate and the nerves will come," Briscoe said. "It's definitely a big deal, a huge deal to me, but I feel ready. I know I've got some very tough competition, but hopefully I can beat them."
While Briscoe battled for the pole position, Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves recovered from a crash in practice Friday to land the 11th starting position in the 23-car field with a four-lap average of 210.658 mph in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda.
"The guys on the No. 3 car really did an incredible job in getting a backup car ready for me to qualify," said Castroneves, who is fourth in the championship standings. "Because we were in such a rush to get out there, we probably went a bit conservative on the setup. But if we didn't get to qualify, we would have had to start last, so 11th isn't so bad."
Briscoe has qualified fourth or better in nine of the 10 oval races this season. The only other time Briscoe started third in an oval race this season - at Kentucky - he won.
On Sunday, Briscoe said he will just concentrate on the task at hand and not worry about how the various championship scenarios will play out.
"You don't want to overanalyze it," said Briscoe. "You want to treat it like any other race. The difference is that in this race we'll be figuring out and being told by our strategists what the points look like and what we need to do. That's where it will change a little bit. There's no reason to head into this race any differently."