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Ryan Briscoe: Focus now on Indy 500

Editor's note: This is the fourth of IndyCar Series driver Ryan Briscoe's posts, which he's sharing with us this season. Questions and comments welcome.

My engineer, Eric Cowdin, finally got his luggage. It was right there waiting for him at Charlotte Douglas International Airport when we returned from Brazil on Monday. We’re not certain, but we suspect it may have been to Argentina.

That’s the way our weekend went in the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300. My crew had trouble getting to Sao Paulo because of the tornadoes across the South, and some of the guys – including Eric – arrived without luggage.

Yet they still managed to help me finish third. And, for the second race in a row, they received the Pit Performance Award for having the shortest total time during pit stops.

Maybe we should make them travel under duress more often. They do seem to thrive under pressure.

Because of the travel problems, most of the crew guys didn’t arrive until late Friday. We had to be ready to go for a practice session early Saturday morning, so it was a scramble, to say the least.

Eric had to borrow clothes, toothpaste – pretty much everything – just to get by for the weekend. The airline kept telling him his bag would arrive at the hotel, but it never did.

Let’s just say it was not an enjoyable experience for him, but he never complained, nor did anyone else. Mostly they just joked about it, and then did their jobs just like they always do.

Brazil is always an interesting experience. I’ve been there many times and always enjoy it. Sao Paulo is an amazing city – more than 30 million people live there – so I decided when I arrived to take a cab to the Jardins (the gardens), a beautiful district of the city, to visit a restaurant and do some shopping.

I know what you’re probably thinking. It must be dangerous, right? Kidnappings are fairly common in Brazil, especially if a person is recognizable.

Last November, Formula One driver Jenson Button was accosted by gunmen before his driver helped him escape. My teammate Helio Castroneves, who is quite famous in his home country, has to hire a security team when he’s in Brazil, as do the other Brazilian drivers in the series.

But I’ve never felt threatened in Brazil, and I always take precautions when I’m out. And the Jardins is too good to miss.

After a nice night out alone on Thursday, my teammate Will Power and I got the full security detail the following night as we traveled to an appearance for Verizon, our team sponsor. We rode in a Porsche Cayenne Turbo that was totally tricked out with all the security precautions – bulletproof glass, etc.

We had a first-rate police escort led by Sao Paulo’s chief of police. As the city’s top cop, he was in charge of getting us to that appearance and back. It was truly impressive, but we could have taken a cab.

As for Sunday’s race, well, you probably saw what happened. It rained so hard right after the start that the race had to be postponed until Monday morning. That’s extremely rare for a street race, but the conditions were just impossible.

We ended up having a really good race Monday in conditions that were never really dry.

We decided to go with a full dry setup, but the track never fully dried out. They weren’t the optimal conditions for the way we had the car, but it turned out quite well.

I had some great battles with Dario Franchitti, Takuma Sato and E.J. Viso, so racing in the rain turned out to be great fun with a solid result.

Now we’re on to Indianapolis for the 100th anniversary Indy 500, and we take with us some momentum and confidence. We’ve had back-to-back podium finishes, and we’re back to fifth in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings after four races.

We’ve always been fast at Indy, and chief mechanic Matt Jonsson and the rest of my Team Penske crew are as sharp as they’ve ever been, so we expect a lot from ourselves at Indy.

As for Eric and his luggage, we suspect it did a round-trip of South America. When he opened the bag, he was surprised to find his brand-new shoes still there. He thought they’d be gone.

Looking further, though, he discovered one thing missing – a bottle of cologne.

So somewhere out there is a thief who smells really good.

More about Ryan Briscoe and his Penske team at www.ryanbriscoe.com.

More racing news, blogs, photos and more at www.ThatsRacin.com.

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