Editor's note: This is the sixth of IndyCar Series driver Ryan Briscoe's posts, which he's sharing with us this season. Questions and comments welcome.
This Indianapolis 500 didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but there are a few notable things we can take from it as we move forward.
First, the effort was there. The entire crew on the No. 6 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Honda worked really hard during the race to make a lot of changes to the car and get the balance right. The conditions were challenging with the wind and our track position.
We were always in dirty air, which made for a challenging race. We were doing a good job as a team and picking our way forward with Roger Penske’s race strategy. It didn’t happen as quickly as I wanted, but I was able to hold my own around other cars and steadily gain positions.
Second, we really could have had a good result. Everything was working out for us until the accident with Townsend Bell. I hate the way the race ended and us not being there. It became anybody’s race at the end, and we were in the top 10 at the time of the crash, so I feel as if we could have finished well.
It’s a bit frustrating, but I do believe a top-five finish was possible. You never know how the race would have played out for us, but with all the lead changes at the end, anything could have happened. I feel like if I had still been in it, The IZOD car could have gotten a good result.
We’ll have no trouble moving on as a team, but certainly we’ll be looking at every detail of where we slipped a bit this year. All three of us drivers at Team Penske – Helio Castroneves, Will Power and myself – had solid speed throughout practice, but then it wasn’t there in qualifying or the race. We were left scratching our heads. We had a bad month at Indy, to be honest.
The lack of results at Indy only makes us stronger heading into the next race June 11 at Texas Motor Speedway. We’ll be working on getting the speed back, and the team is as determined as ever. We’ve always performed well at Texas – our car won there last year, so the goal is to get back to the front and be in contention for the victory again. We just have to keep working hard.
It’s always hard to gauge yourself in practice at Indy, and I think maybe that was part of the problem. You never really know exactly how fast you are. Sometimes gear ratios and the draft can deceive you. Lap times in practice aren’t always what they seem to be. But I’m confident that we’ll be fast again at Texas, and all of us will continue to contend for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
I’m proud of the team and the effort they put into the 500. It’s such a demanding month for everyone involved, and the crew guys work incredibly hard for a long time without much of a break. Everyone was into it and giving all they had. When things weren’t going our way, they only tried harder. I can’t thank them enough for the energy and emotion they put into it.
This race is so important to everyone involved. It is our showcase event, the one we all strive to win. It’s as important to the owners, engineers and mechanics as it is to the drivers. Sometimes we get way too much credit for what happens. It’s a team sport, and occasionally that gets lost in the excitement.
That’s why I was so thrilled when we won the IZOD Pit Stop Challenge during Friday’s Carb Day at Indy. Matt Jonsson, my crew chief, led the guys in practice every day leading up to the competition. They were flawless in every round, and they deserve to be recognized for their skills. I feel like I have the best pit crew in the business, and there are a lot of good pit crews out there.
There was plenty about the 100th anniversary Indy 500 that was positive, even if our result wasn’t. The numbers were big. The crowd and TV ratings were up. The buzz on Carb Day and even at Saturday’s parade was bigger than ever. This year’s 500 was really important for the future of IndyCar. Everything that happened was encouraging.
There were great story lines too. You had Sam Schmidt's cars contending. You had one-off drivers and start-up teams running very well. Everything about the month was positive. It was exciting the whole time. It was a huge building block for the future. Everything that happened, aside from our own experience, was upbeat.
The race itself was unbelievable. There was a ton of passing and action. The double-file restarts worked very well, and a lot of the credit for that goes to the fact that they brought in sweepers and kept the turns clean during the caution periods. Graham Rahal passed 67 cars. Something like that was unheard of last year.
Then you had Dan Wheldon’s victory, which was just amazing, and JR Hildebrand’s composure after he crashed on the final turn while heading for the checkered flag. This is probably the best thing that could have happened to IndyCar racing.
Our results aside, it was a really strong 100th anniversary Indy 500. I was proud to be a part of it.
More about Ryan Briscoe and his Penske team at www.ryanbriscoe.com.
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