SPARTA — When he needed it most, Ryan Briscoe reached down and found that little extra something.
The 10th running of the Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway concluded with the closest finish in the race's history as Briscoe edged journeyman driver Ed Carpenter at the finish line. Briscoe battled side by side with his rival for the final eight laps to earn his second win of the year and move to the front of the points standings.
The official margin of 0.0162 was the 11th closest finish in IndyCar Series history and, thanks, to a new initiative introduced by the league days ago, it nearly become one of the biggest upsets in recent years.
Saturday's Indy 300 was the first race to use the new "Push to Pass" technology, a button that can be used up to 20 times a race by drivers to give their car an extra dose of horsepower for 12 seconds.
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Once Briscoe surged to the outside to take the lead for good at Lap 192, the Team Penske driver kept hitting that button each lap as he and Carpenter — who was seeking his first win in his 94th career start — raced around the 1.5 mile tri-oval.
While Carpenter appeared able to edge in front of Briscoe off Turns 1 and 2, the Australia native used the high line to rocket off Turn 4 and into the final straight, getting the nose of his car to the line inches in front to rob Team Vision and its hard-knocking driver of the improbable upset.
"I've never been so excited crossing the finish line," said Briscoe, who leads defending series champion Scott Dixon by eight points in the standings. "I don't know if I was imagining it or not, but it seemed like Carpenter's line was getting wider each lap. I knew that it looked like every lap I would get the edge on him at the start-finish line but ... it was getting harder and harder because Ed was getting wider and wider.
"Unbelievable. I was using the overtake button as much as I could. It was pretty intense."
For Carpenter, who had never finished higher than fifth before Saturday, running alongside one of the powerhouse teams was in itself validation for years of angst.
After starting in 14th, Carpenter raced his way into the top five for most the evening and took his first lead at Lap 137.
"It's not that often in this day an age a non-Penske or Ganassi car gets close to winning," said Carpenter, who had only led four laps in his career before leading 34 laps Saturday. "It's a little tough to swallow being this close. But I've always known I could win one of these things and after getting that close, I absolutely positively know I can win."
Andretti Green's Tony Kanaan was third while Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal rounded out the top five.
"The people came here to see a photo finish and we did it," Kanaan said. "I got to thank the league ... for the push to pass. We'll have some exciting races again on superspeedways."
Briscoe spent most of the race in the top two as he battled with Dixon over the first 100 laps. But he nearly took himself out of the running when he appeared to skim the wall at Lap 130.
Once the final round of pit stops cycled through with 20 laps remaining, Briscoe had worked his way back into the top two, pulling alongside Carpenter to challenge for the lead with nine laps to go.
"I got myself in a bit of trouble early in that stint and had to come back through the field," said Briscoe, who won the season-opener at St. Petersburg but has five second-place finishes this year. "I had a good car I could pass with and ... I felt my best option was to go to the outside and see what I could do.
Dixon, who captured this race a year ago and came into the night with a three-point edge in the standings, led a race-high 95 laps, but faded over the final 70 laps to come home seventh.
"It's been one those years where no one holds onto the points lead, so we're not going to get too content yet," Briscoe said. "We've got to keep pushing forward."