Sonoma, California, August 28, 2005-- It was a picturesque day and setting at the hillside track as Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Ryan Briscoe took his place in the pole position at Infineon Raceway for the inaugural Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix.
Sonoma, California, August 28, 2005-- It was a picturesque day and setting at the hillside track as Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Ryan Briscoe took his place in the pole position at Infineon Raceway for the inaugural Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix. Teammates Scott Dixon and newcomer Giorgio Pantano did not fair quite as well in qualifying after both had small piloting errors, setting them back on the grid in ninth and 13th spots respectively.
As soon as the green flag waved, Briscoe took command, leading his way through the 12 turn, 2.26 mile narrow road course, and by the sixth lap had begun to open up a gap on the field. The young Aussie had led 16 laps when, under a yellow caution due to a spin by car no.20, Briscoe, followed by much of the cars atop the leader board, headed to the pits for the first round of stops for fresh tires and fuel. Target teammates Dixon and Pantano, meanwhile, remained on track to try their hand at a different race strategy and found themselves in second and third place.
Two laps later, on the restart, Briscoe's over exuberance had a high cost. Following contact with Danica Patrick that collected Helio Castroneves, damage done to the no.33 Target Toyota meant that after posted the fastest times on both Friday and Saturday, there would be no perfect ending to Briscoe's race weekend.
"It's very disappointing because the Target team gave me an amazing and very fast car," said Briscoe who was credited with a 19th place finish. "To start from the pole was so important and that's where we wanted to stay. We were doing everything we had planned heading into that first pit stop and then the grid got a bit mixed up with the different strategies. It was a pretty big mess going up into there. Going up the hill, I went to the inside going into turn 7 and tried to defend my position but I missed my breaking point and ended up going into the dirt and collided with Danica and Helio. It was unfortunate and unintentional."
Target's fuel strategy did not quite pay the dividends they had hoped laps were quickly counting down and passing opportunities were extremely difficult to come by even in close proximity which often resulted in contact between impatient competitors. Scott Dixon battled his way to a top ten finish but was disappointed with the results.
"It was a tough race but we were much better than a seventh place finish," said Dixon after posting his fourth top ten of the season. "The no.9 Target Toyota was really easy to drive and while we had some understeer on the first stint we made the adjustments and it was getting much better. It was just so hard to pass here and the team prepared a much better car than what showed out there. It was frustrating to get a run and not make it past cars that weren't as strong as ours were."
Pantano was directly behind Dixon and on his way to an eighth place finish with two laps to go in the 80 lap race, when Vitor Meira tried to sneak in on the inside, making contact and putting the young Italian driver and his no.33 Target Toyota out of the race.
"As you could tell in the race, starting position was very important as you had very little opportunities to pass and it was my mistake in qualifying that set us back," said a disappointed Pantano of his first IndyCar race experience in which he was credited with a 14th place finish. "The Target team gave me a perfect car and had I qualified up front, I am sure we would have had a very good chance to have a podium finish. The no.10 Target Toyota was getting better and better and I was really getting comfortable to be able to push it in the last few laps. At the end, it was contact that put me out and that is very disappointing to end the day that way. The Target team worked very hard and I thank them because they gave me every opportunity. I hope to make it up and be up front at Watkins Glen next month."
Tony Kanaan scored his second win of the year after he inherited the lead when his teammate Dan Wheldon developed a fuel line problem on Lap 52. He led the rest of the way for a 1.1826-second victory over Buddy Rice. Teammates Alex Barron and Patrick Carpentier were third and fourth, respectively. Tomas Enge finished fifth.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing returns to action in two weeks time at for the Chicagoland Indy 300 in Joliet, Illinois.