IndyCar Driver Review: Ryan Briscoe

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With the IndyCar season in the books and a limited amount of news to come since the season finale at Fontana, my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and are taking a look back at the 2013 season just past. Chris and I each ranked our top 10 drivers and some of the biggest stories; now we take a look back at the field driver-by-driver.

P26 and a man who racked up the frequent flier miles this year across various series and types of cars, Ryan Briscoe…

2013 SEASON PREVIEW (INDY 500 CONFIRMATION)

Ryan Briscoe

  • Teams: Chip Ganassi Racing, Panther Racing
  • 2012: 7th Place, 1 Win, 2 Poles
  • 2013: 26th Place (7 Starts), Best Finish 12th, Best Start 9th, 0 Laps Led, 17.7 Avg. Start, 16.3 Avg. Finish

DiZinno says: I wonder if Briscoe’s heart was still in open-wheel even though he had a plum sports car opportunity with Level 5 Motorsports this year, because it was as weird a season trajectory as I’ve seen in ages. Despite committing to Scott Tucker’s massive operation in the American Le Mans Series, Briscoe got a deal done with Chip Ganassi for a fourth car at Indy. In June, his season got weird. He raced for Panther Racing in Detroit, replacing Hildebrand, then flew to Le Mans for scrutineering with Level 5, flew back to Milwaukee for Panther, flew back to Le Mans for the race, then did a weird Lime Rock/Pocono weekend doubleheader in July for both teams. All the ride shuffling went for naught when Briscoe broke his wrist in Toronto and missed a month of action in both cars. Unsurprisingly, the lack of consistency on the IndyCar side meant that a guy who’d been one of the six or seven best drivers over the last half dozen years didn’t garner a single top-10 result in his seven starts.

Estrada says: With all the back-and-forth he had to do this year between his full-time American Le Mans Series ride and his part-time IndyCar duties at Ganassi and then Panther, let’s hope Briscoe got himself some serious airline rewards. Combined with his wrist injury at Toronto, it’s easy to see why he was unable to enjoy much open-wheel success in 2013. A Top-10 finish got away from him in Detroit Race 1 when he spun out with four laps left, and in his remaining races with Panther, he was unable to break a chain of mid-pack results. His best finish of the year came with Ganassi at the Indy 500, but that, too, was relatively ho-hum.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”