INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Briscoe remembers it as if it was yesterday. A year ago, he sat on pit road with his fingers crossed, hoping his four-lap average was good enough to capture the Indianapolis 500 pole.
It was. And now Briscoe is back, hoping not for a pole, but something better: A win.
"I’m working on that," he said. "The first step is being there at the end. You need to be there, you need to look after your equipment and be in the fight at the end of the race. At this race, so many times, a lot of stuff happens in the last 10 laps. It’s a long race."
Indy has been like a roller-coaster ride for Briscoe. The last five years with Team Penske has seen three crashes at Indianapolis that knocked him out of the race. But there was also the pole last year and a fifth-place finish on race day.
Sure, Briscoe would take the pole again if given the opportunity, but the focus is more on becoming the champion on May 26.
"Pole is a big part of the month, it’s its own race, but it’s nothing like race day," he said. "It’s a totally different beast. It’s nice to fight for the pole, I’ve done it a few times, been on the front row a few times, and it’s exhilarating, it’s really cool. But it’s not on the top of my mind when I come here for the month. You’re thinking about the following weekend."
Briscoe couldn’t find a full-time IndyCar ride this season, but he was reunited with Chip Ganassi for IndyCar’s signature race.
"I just can’t begin to tell you how excited I was when Chip gave me the call and I knew this was going to happen," Briscoe said. "I feel very lucky to be here and I’m certainly going to go out and do my best to make the best of it."
If nothing more, Briscoe brings knowledge and experience to the Ganassi team.
"There’s an addition of data and different mindsets and different ways of going about it," said 2008 Indy 500 winner and teammate Scott Dixon. "For us it’s good to have that information. Obviously Ryan’s been with a different team, so they do things differently as well but he may have other ideas which tends to help as well."
Ganassi said Briscoe certainly has added to the team this May. His experience has been invaluable.
"I think he’s more confident, and with confidence comes a certain calming of what’s expected," Ganassi said. "What’s nice about him is he’s a consummate professional. That’s why it makes it a smooth entry to our team."
And maybe a good showing in Indy will lead to something bigger.
"I mean, long term, it’d be nice," he said. "But it’s not a conversation we’ve had. We haven’t talked about beyond this race. I’m going to France next month for the Le Mans 24, I’ve got a few races in Australia in October as well, but certainly it would be beautiful to be able to come here and race full time."
Ganassi likes that possibility, too.
"If I didn’t think it was a possibility, he wouldn’t be here," Ganassi said. "Anybody we bring in, from the janitor up to the drivers, we’re hoping that it grows into something. I’m not looking at this as a one-shot deal."