AJ Foyt 225
One Man's 300th is Another Man's 1st
by Esteban Morales
June 1, 2008
One of the biggest headlines of the IndyCar Series in 2007 was Sam Hornish Jr.’s departure from Roger Penske’s open wheel outfit to his NASCAR program. Penske continued to rattle the IndyCar community by promoting Ryan Briscoe from his American Le Mans Series ride to Hornish’s former seat. The move was controversial at best. Briscoe had developed a reputation as a quick but erratic driver after a forgettable stint with Chip Ganassi in 2005. After opening the season with two shunts in the first two races, 2008 was looking a lot like 2005. Coming off of a well-publicized tangle with Danica Patrick at Indianapolis, Briscoe validated Penske’s decision by capturing The Captain’s 300th victory as a team owner at the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Indy 225 held at The Milwaukee Mile.
At the drop of the green, however, all eyes were elsewhere as young guns Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal headed the field while Briscoe started an inconspicuous 11th. On lap 2 Oriol Servia and Enrique Bernoldi made contact bringing out the first caution of the event and setting the foundation for a brilliant run by Servia. Servia lost a lap as his crew replaced his damaged nosecone during the yellow but outran the leader once the race went back to green. Servia kept his car ahead of Andretti and picked up several positions once he and the leader caught the back markers. While Andretti faded and lost the lead to Scott Dixon, Servia continued to run as fast as the lead pack. His persistence paid dividends on lap 63 when the yellow unfurled for debris and allowed him to regain his lap. Servia made the most of the opportunity and eventually ended the day among the head of the field with a well-earned sixth.
Following the lap 72 restart, Dixon dominated most of the event while Briscoe quietly worked his way up through the field. Briscoe settled for sixth for over 40 laps while teammate Helio Castroneves sat in second without putting much pressure on Dixon. By lap 116, however, Briscoe’s race began to come alive as he took fifth from Tony Kanaan. Three laps later he grabbed fourth from Dan Wheldon and began to challenge Rahal for third, which he took when the rookie slid into the wall bringing out the penultimate yellow of the event. Briscoe held his position through pit stops and kept behind his teammate after the drop of the green. 20 laps into the restart it was clear that Castroneves did not have the car to challenge Dixon. Briscoe passed Castroneves for second on lap 161 and took the fight to Dixon. 15 laps later Briscoe shortened Dixon’s lead to .02 of a second and took the lead in Turn 1 on lap 177.
Though Briscoe began to pull away from Dixon, his troubles were not over yet. Briscoe dove into pit lane on lap 194 for his final pit stop and was hampered by a slow 10.4 second stop. Briscoe lost a lap in the process and hounded Dixon to get back on the lead lap. On lap 202 Briscoe got back on the lead lap while Dixon pitted two laps later. Despite an impressive stop by Chip Ganassi’s crew, Briscoe surprisingly made up the time he lost in the pits and regained the lead following the pit sequence. With the laps winding down Dixon applied enough pressure to force Briscoe’s Dallara into a few nervous twitches. Briscoe kept his composure, however, and narrowly missed a spectacular accident that saw Vitor Meira catapult himself over Marco Andretti’s car with three laps left. Briscoe cruised to the checkered flags under yellow and vowed to savor his first IndyCar win for a precious few days in between the following race at Texas Motor Speedway.