HOMESTEAD, Fla. (October 9, 2009) - Though he didn't earn the pole on Friday, Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe is still in position to win the IndyCar Series championship Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Briscoe will start third in the Firestone Indy 300 on the 1.5-mile Homestead oval after a typically fast performance in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda. Briscoe recorded a four-lap average of 212.137 mph, just a tick behind his two closest competitors in the championship race.
Scott Dixon, who leads the series standings heading into Saturday's season finale, will start second when the race begins at 5 p.m. ET. Dario Franchitti, who is currently second in the standings, won the pole position.
Briscoe, who trails Dixon by eight points, was just 0.01 seconds behind him after four laps on the track Friday. Briscoe will start from the second row when the green flag waves Saturday and his focus is still on winning the race and earning the bonus points for leading the most laps to secure the championship.
"I'm sure tomorrow (the pressure) will escalate and the nerves will come," Briscoe said. "It's definitely a big deal, a huge deal to me, but I feel ready. I know I've got some very tough competition, but hopefully I can beat them."
While Briscoe battled for the pole position, Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves recovered from a crash in practice Friday to land the 11th starting position in the 23-car field with a four-lap average of 210.658 mph in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda.
"The guys on the No. 3 car really did an incredible job in getting a backup car ready for me to qualify," said Castroneves, who is fourth in the championship standings. "Because we were in such a rush to get out there, we probably went a bit conservative on the setup. But if we didn't get to qualify, we would have had to start last, so 11th isn't so bad."
Briscoe has qualified fourth or better in nine of the 10 oval races this season. The only other time Briscoe started third in an oval race this season - at Kentucky - he won.
On Sunday, Briscoe said he will just concentrate on the task at hand and not worry about how the various championship scenarios will play out.
"You don't want to overanalyze it," said Briscoe. "You want to treat it like any other race. The difference is that in this race we'll be figuring out and being told by our strategists what the points look like and what we need to do. That's where it will change a little bit. There's no reason to head into this race any differently."
Race coverage for Saturday's championship race begins at 4 p.m. ET on Versus.