Ryan Briscoe on the Indy 500

May 20, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -  Last year, during the torrential downpours that marred and interrupted the Indianapolis 500, Ryan Briscoe’s tub became exactly that. The rain fell so fast, Briscoe couldn’t have taken another lap without a sump pump or Mr. Bubble. He found himself sitting in a rising pool of water, and all he wanted to do was get out.
Had he not been buckled in, Briscoe says with a laugh, he surely would have slipped below the surface.
“It was interesting,” Briscoe says, chuckling at the recollection. “It happened twice, too, once during the first break and again at the end of the race. The weirdest part about last year was eating lunch in the middle of the race. I was thinking, ‘We‘re in the middle of the 500 here, and I‘m putting my feet up and having lunch.’”
As Briscoe prepares the No. 6 Team Penske Honda/Dallara to start third Sunday in the 92nd Indy 500, he laughs about the unusual experiences at Indy while pondering the possibilities. After all, he’s driving for a team that has won the race a record 14 times, he’s starting on the front row, and he’s in almost exactly the same situation as teammate Helio Castroneves when he won the first of his two 500s in 2001.
“Helio likes to compare our situation to the one he faced when he first came on board with Team Penske and Gil de Ferran was his teammate,” Briscoe says. “The ages are the same, the situations are similar. Now he’s playing the role of Gil, and I’m playing the role of Helio. Except I’m not Helio, and I never will be. He’s made that clear on more than one occasion.”
What they share is the same joy and playfulness that Castroneves and de Ferran shared, along with a serious approach to their craft. What Briscoe and Castroneves hope to find in the similarities is the enormous success Team Penske encountered at Indianapolis during the Gil/Helio tenure. Castroneves won the 500 in 2001 and 2002, while de Ferran won it in 2003.
“We’re going to see some great racing between the two of us, but there’s always a great amount of respect,” Briscoe says. “We are a team, and we work as a team on the track.”
Like de Ferran, Castroneves likes to keep the mood light, especially when the focus and the work moves away from the racetrack. He instills that notion in his new teammate, trying to maintain Briscoe’s smile and his mood.
“He really made me feel welcome on the team,” Briscoe says. “He’s always in a good mood, and he always wants people around him to be happy. His philosophy is that people can’t be productive if they’re too serious, and in many ways, he’s right. He’s never made it difficult for me in any way, and that’s really good. He’s openly complimentary, which helps my confidence. A lot of times in racing, your teammate is your biggest rival, but we’ve got a close and open relationship. That’s a big bonus for the entire team.”