SPEEDWAY – He may represent how quickly things can change for a driver in IndyCar-and the level of competition there is now for seats in the open wheel series.
A year ago he was donning the Penske Black and driving the number six Izod machine to the pole position of the 96th Indianapolis 500. Now Ryan Briscoe is wearing all white, running for the team that is viewed by many as the direct rival.
“The team that I raced with when I first came over here,” said Briscoe of Chip Ganassi Racing-who gave the driver his first IndyCar Series ride in 2005.
Eight years later things are a little bit different as Briscoe once again joins the quartet of Ganassi drivers for the 97th running of the Indy 500. His ride won’t be one for the whole season, just the month of May, as Briscoe is without a full time ride in the series since the 2004 season.
After five years at Penske, Briscoe and the team parted ways leaving him to watch the Izod IndyCar Series from the outside.
“It’s been hard watching the first four races,” admitted Briscoe. “I went to Long Beach and I was hanging out there and it was great to catch up with everybody but I was certainly itching to be out there myself.”
For at least two weeks and one major race he’ll have the chance to do that, but it’s not like he hasn’t been active. This season Briscoe has been running a full slate of races in the American Le Mans Series and already has a win at the 12 Hours of Sebring-which he took home a victory in the P2 Class in March.
Later this year he’ll head to the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, the world’s oldest endurance sports car race.
“It’s been a great program for me,” said Briscoe of ALMS-but for the moment there is work to do in Indianapolis.
After all Briscoe will enter Saturday as the defending pole winner and still has his sights set on winning the Indianapolis 500 for the first time. Twice Briscoe has finished fifth in the race, including last season with Team Penske and 2007 with Luzco-Dragon Racing and a team change doesn’t change his desire to move up.
“I’m hoping for another pole for sure but I’d also really like to win it more than anything else so we’ll see what happens,” said Briscoe-and if his team’s history has anything to say he’ll have a chance.
By adding Briscoe to the quartet of drivers Ganassi comes to the Indy 500 with four drivers who finished in the Top Ten in the race in 2012. Dario Franchitti won the race for a third time while Scott Dixon finished second and Charlie Kimball eighth with Briscoe coming in fifth with Penske.
In the meantime, however, Briscoe must get to learn the tendancies and styles of his temporary team for the month of May.
“It’s a team that certainly knows how to get the job done in Indianapolis,” said Briscoe of Ganassi. “It’s really interesting going through the whole procedure of how they do it which is different than what I’m used to but with the same goals.”
While that is to win on Sunday, it may also be a chance for Briscoe to show future employers that he’s still a viable candidate for a full season ride.
“I’m 100 percent committed on the other side to the American Le Mans Series but certainly for the future I would still like to be in IndyCar fulltime,” said Briscoe. “We’ll just take it one step at a time.”
That will defending what is still his on Saturday.