Team newcomer has to battle weather during shotgun wedding with National Guard team.
DETROIT, Mich. – Panther Racing and driver Ryan Briscoe wasted little time getting acquainted Saturday, as the day featured just one caution-filled practice session before rain soaked the early goings of qualifications for the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit’s first race.
Briscoe finished 11th in his group during the first round of qualifications and turned a total of six laps. The former Indy 500 polesitter posted a top lap speed of 92.336 mph, 1:31.6222 seconds, just behind reining Indy champ Tony Kanaan.
Ryan Briscoe, No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet: "This was a surprise, for sure. Certainly, it wasn't planned. But John Barnes gave me a call on Tuesday morning and asked what my availability looked like, and he said there was potential for something to happen this weekend.
And we just got to talking from there and here we are. It's been a whirlwind for sure. But the team has done an amazing job in getting the car turned around and getting me all fitted and ready to go for today. I was pretty nervous, but I'm feeling good now that I'm here."
What have your preparations been for the Chevrolet Duel in Detroit? "Well I wasn't preparing for it at all. But I think even though you can't compare Indianapolis to Detroit I did just spend the whole last month in an IndyCar and I feel like I am comfortable in the cockpit. I have been doing plenty of racing this year, so I feel like I'm sharp and ready to go.
Baltimore feels like yesterday, really, the last time I was driving one of these on a road course or street course. I'm feeling good, I'm feeling ready, I feel fit. Obviously, it is a great opportunity being a double header this weekend. It's more mileage. It's two races, so two chances to get up front and do a good job. So I think it is the perfect weekend for me to come back and give it a shot."
What is your commitment with Level 5 (in ALMS)? "My commitment is full time with Level 5, including Le Mans. So any IndyCar races that I will be doing for the rest of the year will work around my commitment to those guys."
What's the challenge of having such little time in the car before the race tomorrow? "You have to be on it. Get out there and see how the car feels. Just do the best you can. I feel like I have been here enough times, done plenty of miles in these cars and I'm hoping that it is not a problem getting up to speed. We'll see. It's a new tire that I haven't driven on.
It's a new car. It's different setups to what I've driven before. So there's a lot to get used to. I am using Townsend Bell’s steering wheel, with his grips. But they felt good, where I am comfortable with using them. It's all new; it's all come together very quickly. But you know, I am just going to go out there and give them hell. Just try to go fast."
What are your thoughts about driving for the National Guard? "It's an amazing partnership that National Guard has with Panther and with IndyCar racing. And what Panther does for them, with the employment program, it has been a huge help to the National Guard. It really is a honor to be a part of that program and I hope to represent them well."
About qualifying... “Obviously the mixed conditions today made it difficult to really get the most out of the National Guard car on the first outing. I’m still really just getting familiar with the race car, the wheel, and everything that goes along with it.
I was really hoping that qualifying would be dry, because I felt like we all had a good feeling coming out of morning practice. But that’s the beauty of this weekend being a doubleheader is that we’ve got two shots at it – we’ll see what tomorrow morning brings us, but I really feel like a Top Ten is a good goal for qualifying tomorrow and we’ll try to build on that.”