Briscoe Wins for Team Penske in Thrilling Finish at Kentucky
August 2, 2009
Briscoe's No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda raced side-by-side with Carpenter for the final 10 laps of the 200-lap race, with Briscoe using the outside line to his advantage as the cars reached the finish line on the 1.5-mile tri-oval. The margin of victory was the 11th-closest in IndyCar Series history.
Briscoe's teammates also fared well. Helio Castroneves finished fourth in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, while Will Power finished ninth in the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Honda. All three Penske drivers led laps in the race.
"This is a great finish for the entire team," said Briscoe. "Everyone worked toward the same goal, and we were able to attain it. I'm very satisfied with that."
The race was the first to feature new aerodynamic and power changes instituted by the IndyCar Series to enhance competition. Drivers used push-to-pass technology that provided short bursts of extra horsepower, as well as several aerodynamic changes that helped the cars race side-by-side.
"Up until now, you could get within about two or three cars lengths of someone and your car would get loose and you would have to get out of the throttle," said Briscoe. "Now you can run down under people and get aggressive. That's what made the racing so good. The aero changes, the tires, the push-to-pass - I don't think you can put your finger on one thing that made it better. It's always going to be a combination of things."
For the second consecutive week, the drivers ran a remarkably clean race, with only one caution period. Briscoe's winning average race speed of 200.893 mph was the second-fastest in the history of the IndyCar Series.
Briscoe now holds an eight-point advantage (416-408) over Scott Dixon in the IndyCar Series championship standings, behind his seventh podium result this season.
Castroneves closed strong in the final laps to finish fourth for his sixth top-five result of 2009. The finish kept him fourth in the championship standings - now 75 points behind his series-leading teammate, despite missing the first race of the season.
"Unbelievable. I have to say, great package. That push to pass, at the beginning we didn't really feel anything but then all of the sudden, man! It was incredible," Castroneves said. "I got a little greedy towards the end, tried to help my teammate so we could do a 1-2 finish and man, I went way high and then I started coming back again and it was awesome, awesome. I had a lot of fun."
Though he started 20th when the starting grid was set on points after qualifying was canceled on Friday, Power appeared to be in control of the race about two-thirds of the way through. Fresh off his first IndyCar Series win last week in Edmonton, Power and his team elected to stay out on track during the lone caution period with the threat of rain in the area looming. The move allowed Power to take the lead and he paced the next 29 laps of the race. He eventually fell back in the running order when the rains never came and he was forced to make a green flag pit stop with 45 laps remaining.
"It was a good night for the Penske Truck Rental team," said Power. "We certainly passed a lot of people on track tonight. We took a gamble with the rain when we stayed out under the yellow flag and it was worthwhile because we're not fighting for the championship. It was good to lead some laps and we feel pretty good about a ninth-place finish. It would've been better to be top-five, but we started pretty far back and worked hard to get to where we finished."
With five races remaining on the series calendar after Kentucky, Briscoe knew that a strong performance this weekend in the Bluegrass state was paramount to a championship run.
"The win is important," Briscoe said. "We're very well rewarded with a win in this points system. It's been a while coming. I haven't had an oval win since Milwaukee of last year. We'd been leading laps and running up, but we hadn't been getting the job done. This was very important for me and the entire team."
The IndyCar Series season continues next weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where Briscoe and Castroneves finished 1-2 last season. The Honda Indy 200 will be televised live on Versus on Sunday, August 9 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.