Honda Indy 200
by Esteban Morales
July 20, 2008
When the dust settled at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe emerged with his second career win, and second victory of the season while teammate Helio Castroneves finished second and gained on points leader Scott Dixon. Team owner Roger Penske, who typically has a knack for spotting talent, boldly proclaimed that Briscoe “validated himself” and had arrived as “one of the top drivers.” After collecting his first victory at The Milwaukee Mile, Briscoe’s second triumph demonstrated that he can win on and off ovals.
Before crossing the checkered flags Briscoe lined up alongside pole sitter Castroneves and lost second to road course standout Justin Wilson on the second lap. Six laps into the event Briscoe dropped as far back as 17th after starting on wet tires and pitting for dry tires. The green flag pit stops for dry tires that ensued played into the hands of Vitor Meira, who pitted before the leaders on the opening lap. Meira inherited the lead a few laps before Enrique Bernoldi and Ryan Hunter-Reay collided in the fourth turn. Meira held the lead after the restart with Darren Manning and Will Power behind in second and third, respectively. The frontrunners remained unchanged until they made yellow flag stops during a caution triggered by Mario Dominguez’s rear wing failure; Dominguez was able to rejoin the field after his crew replaced his rear wing.
When the stops cycled through Justin Wilson emerged with the lead with Briscoe in fourth and Meira a distant tenth. Despite a dominant restart, many eyes were on rookie Mario Moraes who demonstrated that his speed at Watkins Glen was no fluke. Moraes restarted sixth and climbed to fourth behind Briscoe. Moraes then benefited when Wilson and Wheldon pitted out of the top two spots during a yellow. With Wilson and Wheldon out of the way Briscoe and Moraes lined up first and second for the restart. After dropping to 16th, Wilson attempted to pass Mario Dominguez on the outside as the cars headed towards the green. Dominguez ran slightly wide and both Dallaras touched, triggering a multi-car accident that caught A.J. Foyt IV, Dan Wheldon, and Marco Andretti.
Briscoe led the grid back around the course for a second attempt and the event was eventually restarted on lap 46. Moraes continued to impress by holding his own for a few laps behind the leader. Though Briscoe eventually opened a large lead over Moraes, Dale Coyne Racing’s rookie held off Will Power and briefly led when Briscoe entered the pits for a routine stop. After impressing fans and surprising the grid, Moraes caused the final caution of the event by spinning out of the eighth position and trapping his car in the fourth turn’s gravel pit. Dale Coyne Racing still found itself at the sharp end of the grid, however, after gambling on strategy with Bruno Junqueira.
Junqueira restarted second behind Briscoe but was unable to mount a challenge strong enough to topple Team Penske. By lap 75 Briscoe amassed a 10.3 second lead over the Brazilian driver. Two laps later Junqueira was forced to pit and dropped to the back of the pack promoting Castroneves to second. With the race under control Briscoe slowed the pace during the last handful of laps and eased his way past the checkered flags. Points leader, Scott Dixon quietly joined the Penske drivers on the podium while KV Racing Technology’s Will Power and Oriol Servia rounded out the top five.