IndyCar: Briscoe provides update on IMS road course evolution

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Only Graham Rahal will be able to match Ryan Briscoe’s perception of how the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course has evolved, from an exploratory test held last fall through today’s open test for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Grand Prix of Indianapolis, to be held May 10.

The driver of the No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet ended Wednesday’s test session second fastest at 1:09.6558 (126.054mph), trailing only CGR teammate Scott Dixon.

Rahal and Briscoe tested back in the fall before the GP of Indy was formally announced; for Briscoe, today marked his first time on the IMS road course driving in his usual entry as opposed to the National Guard Panther Racing car he drove last year (a sponsor which now, coincidentally, sponsors Rahal).

“When I was here back in October and did some laps in the IndyCar, we were trying the configurations.  We actually ran turn one going backwards.  That was weird,” Briscoe admitted.

“And the banking felt huge.  When we go this way for the 500, you don’t even notice the banking. It doesn’t feel like there’s any banking at all. You go backwards through it, it’s like you lean over, the steering gets heavy. It really stood out.”

Briscoe noted the two major passing zones.

“One and seven are the big pass zones,” Briscoe added, describing the track. “I think (there’s) just huge improvements over what was the F1 track with extending the straight down the middle, slowing down turn seven, then opening up the next set of S’s in eight, nine and ten where it used to be very slow and now it’s really fast and challenging.”

Briscoe didn’t have the chance to compete in an F1 race, but he was a Toyota-affiliated reserve and test driver during the 2004 season before coming over to North America to race in IndyCar.

He said the weirdness of seeing the Pagoda on driver’s right, as opposed to driver’s left, was stranger outside the cockpit than in it.

“I think still it looks the strangest from outside the car,” he said. “When we’re out there driving, it’s just another racetrack really. But you stop and you have a look and you see the cars coming up the straight the wrong way, it takes some getting used to, for sure.”

Upon his return to CGR for the first time since the 2005 season, Briscoe has shown flashes of speed but hasn’t had a huge weekend as yet. The GP of Indy provides him his best chance yet at his first Firestone Fast Six qualifying and race podium appearance of the season.

MRTI: Sunday Barber Notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Mother Nature intervened heavily on Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park, and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires both completed their second races of the weekend on a wet track.

Indy Lights saw Andretti Autosport’s Pato O’Ward complete the weekend sweep – he won Race 1 on Saturday – while Pro Mazda had a wet and wild race of survival that saw a pair of leaders go off, giving way to another first-time winner in Pro Mazda at the end of the day.

Reports on both races are below.

Indy Lights: Race 2 Victory Completes Dominant Weekend for O’Ward

Pato O’Ward celebrates his Race 2 victory at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Andretti Autosport’s Pato O’Ward completed a perfect weekend at Barber Motorsports Park by claiming victory in Indy Lights Race 2 on Sunday.

Officials were forced to move the race up to 10:45 a.m. local time (11:45 ET) due to weather, and Race 2 began under a rain shower.

However, it did not deter O’Ward one bit, who rocketed off into the lead from the pole, and was never headed on his way to winning by over five seconds.

In addition to winning both races, O’Ward led every lap in both races, completing a weekend of utter dominance for the 18-year-old native of Mexico.

Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni came home in second, his best finish since moving up to Indy Lights this year, with Andretti Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta rounding out the podium.

The Belardi Auto Racing duo of Aaron Telitz and Santi Urrutia finished fourth and fifth, with Telitz finally finishing a race after only completing a combined four corners in the first three races of the season.

Urrutia, meanwhile struggled somewhat and faded to fifth after starting third.

Andretti’s Dalton Kellett and Ryan Norman and Juncos’ Alfonso Celis Jr. rounded out the field in sixth, seventh, and eighth.

Results are below.

Pro Mazda: Harrison Scott Survives the Rain to Take First Pro Mazda Win

Harrison Scott and RP Motorsports celebrate victory in Pro Mazda Race 2 at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

RP Motorsport’s Harrison Scott managed to survive a track that started out damp, began drying out, and then became very wet during a downpour in the final laps to win in Pro Mazda Race 2 from Barber.

Scott, who started second, was able to pass Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson, the polesitter and Race 1 winner, on the inside entering Turn 5 on Lap 2, with Thompson running slightly off track on corner exit and falling back to third, with Team Pelfrey’s Andres Gutierrez going through into second.

Scott, Gutierrez, and Thompson stayed close the rest of the way, and Gutierrez even managed to make a nifty outside pass on Scott in Turn 5 on Lap 9 to take the lead.

However, rain, which hit the track briefly and stopped about 30 minutes before the race started, returned in the second half of the race, and progressively got heavier.

It all came to a head on Lap 21, when the slick conditions sent Gutierrez off course in Turns 7 and 8. He rejoined the track, but fell back to seventh, allowing Scott back into the lead.

Race Control quickly threw a caution as a result of the conditions, and the race finished under yellow, with Scott taking the checkered flag for his first Pro Mazda win.

Behind Scott, Thompson came home in second, with Juncos Racing’s Carlos Cunhas in third. Cunha’s teammate Rinus VeeKay was fourth, with BN Racing’s David Malukas rounding out the Top 5.

Of note: Cape Motorsports’ Oliver Askew was one of a couple drivers who pitted for rain tires under the late yellow, gambling that the race may go back to green – he was running tenth at the time. However, because the race never went back to green, Askew was relegated to 12th at the end.

Results are below.

Note: Check back later for driver quotes.

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