Indianapolis 500 - Qualifying

Briscoe completes first test for Ganassi since December signing

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Ryan Briscoe didn’t get to test for his new employers in 2013, so on Friday, he was finally able to step back into a Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar for the first time as one of their full-time drivers since 2005.

Briscoe raced CGR’s fourth car at last year’s Indianapolis 500, finishing 12th, before racing selected events with Panther Racing the rest of the year. He entered IndyCar as a rookie with CGR in 2005, in the team’s third car. Two years of excelling in part-time opportunities in 2006-’07 led to his full-time seat with Team Penske, which he held from 2008 through 2012.

Now, he will be back full-time in IndyCar after a fractured 2013 that saw him split his time between open-wheel and sports cars. Briscoe expressed a great sense of appreciation for the stability after completing his first laps at Sebring last Friday in the No. 8 NTT Data Chevrolet.

“It feels great.  It feels so good to be back doing a test knowing that it’s preparation for an entire season and with a team that we are hoping that is going to be extremely competitive,” Briscoe said, via a Chevrolet manufacturer release.

The quartet of CGR cars were on hand as part of a 10-car Chevrolet manufacturer test, so Briscoe had the opportunity to test alongside teammates Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball. Briscoe will work with Eric Cowdin, who was his engineer for a period at Penske, while Kanaan shifts to the Chris Simmons-engineered No. 10 Target Chevrolet.

“I’m excited. I had a really good first day here in Sebring, got through some set-up items and basic just tuning to understand my driving style to what they have developed already,” Briscoe explained. “Just trying to understand those kinds of things and it was a good day.  We come out of the day knowing a lot more than we did going in.  It’s a good start to the year.”

Briscoe will be among a host of IndyCar drivers in action at next week’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, Jan. 25-26. He’ll co-drive with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R in the GTLM class of the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Briscoe has past experience at the Rolex in Daytona Prototypes, but this will be his first race in the factory Corvette program.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Luca Filippi

Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, in 2015. Luca Filippi ended 21st in the No. 20 car, running the road and street course races for CFH Racing.

Luca Filippi, No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 28th Place, 4 starts
  • 2015: 21st Place (10 starts), Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 13.9 Avg. Finish

After part-time runs with Bryan Herta Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2013 and 2014, likable Italian Luca Filippi finally got his first full part-time season as the road and street course replacement at CFH Racing, replacing Mike Conway. Having won twice last year, Conway left some decently big shoes to fill and Filippi did a fair job throughout the year more often than not.

Filippi had a slightly better grid position average than did Conway, 12.4 to 13, and was slightly better overall in the races. In 10 races (including one with double points), Filippi scored 182 points and four top-10 finishes (including one top-five). A year ago, Conway scored 252 points from 12 starts, but only two top-10 finishes (both were wins). Broken down, Conway averaged 21 points per race (about a 10th place result) and Filippi 18.2 (about 12th).

Thing was last year, Conway didn’t have a measuring stick as ECR was a single-car team. In the combined two-car CFH Racing organization, Filippi had Josef Newgarden as a teammate, and that provided a more accurate measuring stick. In their 10 races together, Newgarden finished ahead 7-3, and also qualified ahead 7-3.

Filippi felt more comfortable as the year progressed – keep in mind this was the first time he’d seen most of the tracks – and at places like Toronto and Mid-Ohio where had had past track experience, he shone brightest. It was no coincidence his lone Firestone Fast Six appearance and first career podium came at Toronto, and at Mid-Ohio he was also very quick but caught out by strategy in the race.

During the year, Filippi also had two other key moments of note, one personal and one professional. He became a dad prior to Mid-Ohio, and was embracing his newborn shortly after the race not long after. Professionally speaking, he made his oval test debut at Iowa, which was important to note in case CFH wants to continue on with him next year, as seems possible. It was a good year that planted the seed for further success in the future, provided he continues in North America.

Marcos Ambrose will retire from racing full time

Marcos Ambrose

Former NASCAR winner Marcos Ambrose’s full-time racing career appears to have reached the finish line.

DJR Team Penske announced Monday an expansion to two cars in the V8 Supercars Championship next season with Fabian Coulthard and Scott Pye running Ford Falcons on the Australian-based circuit, leaving Ambrose on the sidelines.

Ambrose, a two-time V8 Supercars champion, left NASCAR to return to his home country this season and help lead Team Penske’s international foray. But the Tasmanian stepped out of the car after the season opener and said he would focus solely on endurance racing the rest of the year.

“I fully support the team with the exciting announcements here today,” Ambrose said in a team release announcing Coulthard and Pye. “My number one priority since stepping out of the car full time was helping the team with that transition and in Fabian and Scotty, the team has a great future ahead for 2016 and beyond.”

In an interview with the Melbourne Herald Sun, Ambrose said he was mulling co-driving in endurance races next year.

“I do not intend to drive full time anymore,” Ambrose, 39, said. “I elected not to be a part of it. It’s absolutely my choice. There is no sadness. I’ve had a great run, a great career. I have my own personal reasons. I’ve got other priorities now.”

After 28 wins in V8 Supercars from 2002-05 and consecutive titles in 2003-04, Ambrose moved to the United States in 2006 and began a nine-season run in NASCAR. He started in the Camping World Truck and Xfinity series before moving full time into Sprint Cup in 2009.

All seven of his wins (five in Xfinity, two in Cup) were on road or street  courses – six at Watkins Glen International, one at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal).

In an interview earlier this season, Ambrose said he struggled to re-acclimate to the cars while dealing with the news media scrutiny of his comeback.

“I want to enjoy my racing and I certainly don’t want to be in the tabloids week in and week out,” he told “That’s not what I come back for. It’s just a very difficult thing to come back to because just the opportunity to learn without being on the front page of every national newspaper is just impossible. So I didn’t want to be that guy everyone is looking at because he is running 25th and they don’t understand that you have no practice time in the car, you don’t have any tires to practice on even when you get there.

“I didn’t want to let the team down that way. So when I came down and saw the landscape and what I was facing, for me it became untenable to keep going the way I was.”