Briscoe Second in Miami, Winds Up Third in Standings
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Ryan Briscoe produced a stellar performance when he needed it most on Saturday, but fell just short of winning his first IndyCar Series championship. Briscoe and the No. 6 Team Penske squad had the fastest car and led the most laps in the Firestone Indy 300 Saturday night, but the team finished second overall and third in the series championship standings at the conclusion of the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Team Penske entered the closing laps of the race with a chance to clinch the championship. Briscoe was running out front, but he had to pit for fuel with five laps remaining, giving the lead, the win and the championship to rival Dario Franchitti.
Starting third in the hot and humid conditions in South Florida, Briscoe watched as the other two title contenders, Franchitti and his teammate Scott Dixon led early. Briscoe needed to finish in front of both Franchitti and Dixon, and earn the bonus points for leading the most laps, in order to claim the series crown. After grabbing the lead for the first time on lap 63, Briscoe settled in at the front and led 103 of the 200 laps in the race to secure the points he needed. With strong pit stops from the No. 6 Team Penske crew all race long, Briscoe was on his way to securing the win and the title. But both he and Dixon had to make stops for fuel only with under 10 laps remaining while Franchitti was able to save fuel and make it to the end as he claimed the lead and held on for victory.
"It's pretty frustrating because it was one of the best races I've ever run," said Briscoe. "I just hate it that it came down to fuel strategy, but it's a whole championship. Dario has been great all year long, so congrats to him, but this hurts."
Briscoe finished the race in second place, 4.778 seconds behind Franchitti, who won his second series championship. The race was the first in IndyCar Series history to go the distance without a caution period.
"We were definitely fast, and for awhile I thought we had a good shot at it," said Briscoe. "But Dario played the smarter strategy and saved fuel and brought it home in three stops."
While Briscoe was running for the championship, Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves rallied from an 11th-place starting spot in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda to finish fifth in the race and fourth in the championship standings.
"The Penske boys and Ryan did everything we could to bring the championship home," said Castroneves. "It's a shame. But fifth in the race and fourth in the championship is definitely good for us. I have nothing to complain about this year. It was a fantastic year."
Team Penske scored five wins and 15 podium finishes in 17 races this year, including Castroneves' win in the Indianapolis 500 in May. Briscoe won three races and had 11 podiums, finishing just 12 points behind Franchitti and one point behind Dixon in the final rundown. All three drivers came into Saturday's season finale with a chance to win the championship.
"I thought it was going to be between me and Scott, definitely," Briscoe said. "I guess the 10 car had the advantage."
The 2010 IndyCar Series season is set to begin on March 14 in Brazil.