Briscoe beats Penske teammate Castroneves at Mid-Ohio for 2nd IndyCar win

Updated: July 21, 2008, 1:52 AM ET
Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Ryan Briscoe never doubted The Captain's call.

That's team Penske boss Roger Penske, who came up with a surprising strategy Sunday that Briscoe turned into his second IndyCar Series victory.

"Roger, with his experience, he always finds a way to pit at the right time and get you back up to the front," said Briscoe, who drove sports cars for Penske last year before moving to the IndyCar team this season. "Today was a perfect case of that. Once we got back up there, we had the pace to run fast and pull away. It was just perfect."

Penske, the winningest team owner in open-wheel history, made the call to put Briscoe out of sequence with the other contenders. In the end, the team wound up with a 1-2 sweep in the Honda Indy 200 as Helio Castroneves followed Briscoe across the finish line.

"Team Penske was just awesome," Briscoe said. "We ran into a bit of trouble early on and there was a chance we stayed on a bit too long there. That was all Roger; that was his strategy."

The race began about one hour after a downpour soaked the 2.25-mile, 13-turn road circuit at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, leaving puddles in places. IndyCar officials ruled it a wet start, and all the cars had to begin the race on grooved rain tires.

[+] EnlargeRyan Briscoe
Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesRyan Briscoe celebrates his second victory of the season. He also won at The Milwaukee Mile in June.

But, with the sun shining and the track drying fast as the 26-car field took the green flag, cars quickly began heading for pit road to change to racing slicks. The Penske team waited to bring Briscoe onto pit lane until Lap 6, dropping him all the way to 16th.

"There was one point where we fell back in the pack, staying out a bit too long on the wets," the 26-year-old Australian driver said. "I was thinking to myself ... 'I know it can be done. I know with Roger calling my strategy, we'll get up to the front. But if we get to win this, it's going to be awesome.' I actually thought that to myself, and here we are."

With little to lose, Penske brought Briscoe back into the pits again on Lap 23, ahead of most of the other contenders, putting him completely out of sequence and, eventually working to his advantage.

"I think that was the only chance we had," Penske said. "What a great drive for Briscoe. I think he's validated himself now as one of the top drivers in the Indy Racing League. And, to finish 1-2, I couldn't believe when I saw what happened here a few minutes ago."

It's the eighth 1-2 finish and first since 2005 at Phoenix for Penske, whose team now has 136 open-wheel wins, including seven at Mid-Ohio. The first six of those wins here were in the old CART series that later became Champ Car and was absorbed into the IndyCar Series in February.

The rain never returned, but the early pit stops and several spins and crashes in the early going turned the 85-lap event into a messy race, with a lot of differing strategies.

But Briscoe, who led a race-high 43 laps, was in the right position throughout, taking the lead when the other leaders pitted on Lap 39, making his final stop on Lap 55 and then regaining the lead for good on Lap 60 as the other leaders finishing making their final stops.

Fast Facts

• Ryan Briscoe led a race-high 43 laps.

• This marks the eighth 1-2 finish for Penske and first since doing so at Phoenix in 2005.

• Penske has now won seven times at Mid-Ohio. Six of those came on the old CART series that eventually became Champ Car and was absorbed into the IndyCar Series in February.

-- The Associated Press

"We took a gamble of pitting a bit early for that second stop to try to gain track position in case a yellow came out, because you don't lose a lap on a road course pitting on the green," Briscoe said. "That was the key stop for us, because sooner or later a yellow did come and we'd already done our stop and everybody else had to stop on the yellow. We cycled to the front. That was really the turning point for us in the race. From there, it was all about speed."

His teammate agreed.

"Ryan got lucky on his strategy and drove a great race, opening up an 11-second lead," said Castroneves, still winless this season. "That's it. There was nothing we could do. Second's a good place. Another one. I'm not going to worry about winning, I'm just going to be happy with second for now."

Defending race winner and series points leader Scott Dixon finished third, followed by Will Power and Oriol Servia, teammates at KV Racing Technology and two of the nine drivers transitioning from the defunct Champ Car World Series to the newly unified IndyCar.

Dixon will head to the temporary street circuit at Edmonton next week holding a 58-point lead over Castroneves, with Tony Kanaan, who finished seventh Sunday, 90 points behind in third. Dan Wheldon, Dixon's Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, was caught up in a crash midway through the race and wound up 17th and fell to fourth, one point behind Kanaan.

"I wouldn't say it's huge fun, trying to keep tabs on where people are, the people you're chasing for a championship," Dixon said of Sunday's race. "That's the deal, though. It's not all about going out and winning races, it's about having consistency, finishing races and making the next one [a better] situation."

There were five full-course caution flags and a lot more local yellows in the race, most of them brought out by harmless spins into the wet grass or sand traps.

The biggest incident of the day came on Lap 43 just as the green flag was being waved for a restart.

Coming off the final turn, Mario Dominguez, who had spun off the track twice -- once after his rear wing broke -- touched wheels with Justin Wilson. Wilson spun and Wheldon, A.J. Foyt IV and Marco Andretti got caught up in the accident which ended Andretti's race.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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