Ryan Briscoe: Everything has to go right

- IndyCar Series competitor
Thursday, May. 26, 2011

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

It wasn’t the best of weekends, but I’m proud of the way everyone came together and rallied at Team Penske and got us into the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500.

As you probably saw, I crashed the primary IZOD car during the practice session right before Saturday’s qualifying session. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to drive again.

But within a few minutes I was back in the T (backup) car and trying to get into the field.

We didn’t make it Saturday, but we got in at 27th on Sunday. It took a massive effort to make it happen, and I’m confident that we’ll have a strong race car once the green flag flies on Sunday. It’s not a great starting position, but it has been won before from 27th. Fred Frame did it in 1932. Yes, I had to look that up.

On Saturday morning, we were going out for our last practice run before we got in line to qualify, and we had just trimmed out the car another little step. It just caught me out. The rear snapped loose into Turn 2 during a warm-up lap. The tires were still a little bit under temperature. Next thing I knew, I was backing into the wall. It was a hard hit. My knees knocked the steering wheel off the column.

After the crash, I sat in the car and didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know if I’d be able to drive. I didn’t know if I’d be able to get back out on the track in time to qualify. Honestly, I was dazed, but it passed pretty quickly. By the time I got to the medical center, I was feeling pretty good. My legs were sore, but I was able to get on my own two feet and walk around and walk out.

You never know with those deals, especially when it’s such a hard hit. How are you going to recover? What’s actually sore? It’s hard to know right at the time. I thought maybe we’d get back out after the qualifying line had been gone through and get some practice. But in the back of my mind I thought we were done for the day.

Just an hour later, thanks to tremendous work by my team, I was in the backup car. That was great for me on so many levels. There wasn’t even time to let the demons creep in and start having fear about going back out there with the car all trimmed out again. It was just like it didn’t happen, like we’d just gone back to the pits and made a change and I was back on track.

I was focused on the handling of the car and not what had just happened. It was like the crash hadn't happened at all. We had to get on with our business. We did one run with just a little bit more downforce in it than before. Right away, I felt fine. We trimmed it out again and that was it. We were ready to go qualify. We were using the least amount of downforce we’d used all week.

But for some reason, we just didn’t have the speed in the T car that we had in the primary car. It was very strange. The thing was trimmed out all the way and I was using all of the track, but that was all it had. It was a bit frustrating. We went through three qualifying attempts and couldn't get it to go. I felt good. I felt confident, and I felt like the whole team was doing a good job. We just couldn’t get the speed out of the car.

On Sunday, we got in and qualified for the Indy 500 at 27th. It’s not exactly where we want to be, but we feel like we have a fast race car. We’re starting just a few seconds behind the leaders, and it’s a long race. A lot can happen. Strategy always plays a part in this race, and track position is extremely important.

I’ve got my hopes up for the race. I’m just hoping that qualifying speed doesn’t reflect race performance. But we practiced in race conditions all week, and we were strong. We were as strong as anybody. I hope that carries over into the race, not only for me but for my team and for my sponsor, IZOD.

I just think that maybe the backup car and the rear wing just wouldn’t go with that much negative wing. We just couldn’t get that much more speed out of it, to be honest. Between the various ultimate levels of rear wing, we were hardly able to change our top speed. We just hit terminal velocity. No matter how much more we trimmed out, we couldn’t get much quicker.

The car was loose – really loose. I felt like I was doing a 229, but we weren’t even close to that. This car just wasn’t working well in the qualifying trim, but we ran it on Opening Day in race trim, and the speeds were good. All we can do is hope and expect that nothing has changed from that.

Any way you look at it, I’m optimistic. It is possible to win the race from 27th, but everything has to go exactly right. That’s how we’re approaching it and I have to say I’m so excited for Sunday and the chance to race again in the Indianapolis 500.

More about Ryan Briscoe and his Penske team at

More racing news, blogs, photos and more at