No. 300 goes down smooth

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No. 300 goes down smooth

Postby Pepper » Mon 02 Jun, 2008 11:41 pm

WEST ALLIS, Wis. - While Ryan Briscoe was being air-lifted - tossed like a cheerleader by Team Penske crew members - Roger Penske stood off to the side in Victory Circle at The Milwaukee Mile smiling.

"The Captain," who hired Briscoe in 2007 to drive the Porsche RS Spyder in ALMS, was happy for the young Aussie. Not as in happy that Briscoe scored his first IndyCar Series victory and Team Penske's first since last June at Texas Motor Speedway. He was genuinely happy for a race car driver who had been taking it on the chin since the 2005 season - Briscoe's first in the series -- unraveled. Three DNFs in the first six races of this season - including a celebrated pit lane incident with Danica Patrick a week earlier in the latter stages of the 92nd Indianapolis 500 - didn't inspire confidence.

"I think first really got the monkey off his back and we knew how good a race driver he was when he ran for us in the Porsche program last year," said Penske after Briscoe led Scott Dixon across the line under caution because of a late-race incident involving four cars.

"I think from the standpoint of his confidence, there's no question that this is exactly what he needed to break the ice. I think we are going to see a real new race driver come above now as we go forward."

Briscoe broke into the series in '05 with Target Chip Ganassi Racing as a teammate to Dixon. Fortunately for Briscoe, there weren't more broken bones when his car became airborne and raked the fencing at Chicagoland Speedway late in the season.

"We saw him as a good driver; Chip had him earlier on and he got himself into trouble maybe without the experience and the bad accident," said Penske, whose team tested Briscoe on The Mile during the process to replace Sam Hornish Jr. "We had him come back, had a good physical with him and he passed everything we needed. There was no issue from his accident and he seemed to be confident. So we said let's try him at Indy last year and of course he finished fifth. That was a first test and then we put him into the ALMS series last year and they won two or three races in that car.

"To win that first race at any series is so important, because there's just inches between winning or losing."

Penske has been on both ends over a distinguished career. He sported cap with "300th win" on the front after the victory - 30 years after Rick Mears delivered his first open-wheel win for Penske also at The Mile - for the landmark victory in all forms of motorsport.

"It shows the amount of work that has been done by so many people on the team, so many good drivers, so many good pit crews," Penske said. "I remember when we were sitting there for a long time trying to get our 100th win. Gil de Ferran gave it to us on a short track. To see Ryan to be able to race clean with the 9 car with Dixon, it's a great day.

"This is a great thing not for me, but for everybody who has committed to us. There are so many people who have been with us for a long time -- 25, 30 years -- and that makes a difference."

Briscoe, who started 11th in the No. 6 Team Penske car, took the lead from Dixon on Lap 177 and regained it on Lap 207 after teammate Helio Castroneves peeled off for his final pit stop. Briscoe narrowly avoided the crash (he estimates by a foot) with two laps left by braking hard.

"If I would have gotten caught up in that, I would have been under the bus crying right now, that's for sure," Briscoe said. "It's been a tough start to the season, and we've been knocking on the door. We've been running on the front, just not getting the results. It definitely feels good to come here ‑‑ and definitely win. Even a top‑5 finish here would have been satisfying for me.

"To win is just amazing. Since Indy and the incident and a lot of media, the one thing I always said was I wanted to put it in the past and move forward. There's no better way to do that than win here on the following weekend."

http://www.indycar.com/news/?story_id=11617


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