IndyCar: Briscoe leads Ganassi’s second best day of 2014 in Pocono

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With seven finishes between sixth and 12th in the first 10 races of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series, Ryan Briscoe had been thoroughly consistent, but hadn’t yet had that dynamic weekend he’s been looking for on his full-time return to the series after a partial 2013.

He had by far his best run of the year Sunday in the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco, qualifying 10th and finishing a season-best fourth in the No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

With his first top-five of the season, Briscoe is now the 20th different driver to score at least one top-five this season. The only full-season drivers who now haven’t yet cracked the top-five are Takuma Sato, Josef Newgarden and Sebastian Saavedra.

“Things are really looking up for NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing and I’m just glad we finally were able to get a finish that mirrored our efforts,” said Briscoe, who advanced from 13th to ninth in the points standings. “We just keep looking better and better as the season progresses, and I think we have a lot to look forward to in the second half of this season. This track is awesome and it’s been really fun to race on all weekend.”

Briscoe didn’t win on-track, but he definitely won the cuteness award of the day as he held new daughter Finley during a post-race interview with NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis, with Finley modeling her first IndyCar hard card… unofficially the first baby hard card that we know of.

As for the rest of the Ganassi contingent, Scott Dixon bagged his fifth top-five of the year in P5 but didn’t have the same speed in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet that teammate Tony Kanaan had in the sister No. 10, nor Briscoe in the No. 8.

“It wasn’t a great day for us maybe overall speed-wise, but we had made our way to the top five there at the end of the race and to get a top-five finish after where we started isn’t that bad,” said Dixon, who sits eighth in points. “The Target team worked hard today and you know anything can happen in these long 500-mile races. We kept the car in one piece and I was happy to bring it home for the guys. Hopefully this builds us some momentum for the next few races.”

With the pair of top-five results, this marked Chip Ganassi Racing’s second best day of 2014. The slightly better one came in Detroit Race 2, when Charlie Kimball (third) and Dixon (fourth) also posted two top-five finishes.

Kanaan’s fuel gamble came up snake eyes as he fell to 11th by the finish, while Kimball in the No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet battled a mechanical issue and continued his roller coaster run of results with 17th.

Dixon, eighth on 297 points, is still 149 points behind Team Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves leaving the second double points weekend of the year. Briscoe’s now just 12 points in arrears of Dixon, while Kanaan (267, 11th) and Kimball (239, 15th) sit outside the top-10 in points.

Unless Dixon is able to pull an encore of his Toronto doubleheader weekend sweep a year ago and the Penske pair strike problems, it appears unlikely the talented New Zealander will be able to defend his series championship.

Still, as he, Briscoe and the rest of the Chip Ganassi Racing team head to the final seven races, they can play spoiler as they continue to seek their first race win of the year.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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