The Briscoe choice is good for Ganassi, but decidedly “meh” for IndyCar


“More than 50” suitable names reached out to Chip Ganassi for a chance to fill the vacant seat left by Dario Franchitti’s enforced retirement.

When all the dominos fell, and the announcement revealed, the confirmation was that Ryan Briscoe would take over the fourth seat at one of IndyCar’s two most successful teams.


A disclaimer first: I like Briscoe. He’s quick, unselfish, good with fans, one of the nicer drivers in the paddock, and a Green Bay Packers fan. These are things I appreciate from a media perspective.

I even wrote an opinion piece in 2012 for a past employer arguing Roger Penske could have kept him over Helio Castroneves if Penske dropped down to two cars for 2013. I based that on Briscoe’s head-to-head stats versus Castroneves in the three years the team had three cars, although Will Power crushed them both by comparison.

But Castroneves won Indy three times, and Briscoe won seven total races in five years with Penske. There’s your answer. And Briscoe, like Castroneves, and like Power, has failed to deliver “The Captain” an IndyCar championship anytime in the last seven years.

Briscoe has had, you could argue, three distinct shots at the big time in IndyCar. His first was a challenging rookie season with Ganassi in 2005, when the team’s Panoz-Toyota equipment wasn’t up to par. Then Briscoe exited after a fiery accident at Chicagoland; we were all thankful he’d recover, but it was a big career setback.

The second was at Team Penske, replacing Sam Hornish Jr. after he departed for NASCAR at the end of 2007. Briscoe’s starring part-time roles in 2006 and 2007, plus sports car races for Penske, pushed him into the seat. But outside of a handful of truly great drives, and a critical error at Japan in 2009 that cost him that year’s title, Briscoe was largely overshadowed in five years with Roger Penske’s squad.

Penske dropped him but guess who came back calling RB for Indianapolis this year: Ganassi, for the team’s fourth car. And there, Briscoe put in a fair effort but it didn’t seem the team had the setup or the power to keep up with the rest of the field. A thoroughly forgettable performance, really, because you very rarely remember who finished second in the Indianapolis 500, let alone 12th.

The carousel of Level 5 in sports cars and Panther Racing in IndyCars from there seemed a very odd strategy. By trying to do both it almost seemed as though the focus was on neither, and a further setback followed with his wrist injury suffered at Toronto that cost him seat time in both.

Briscoe’s 2013 season left him in an odd position heading into the offseason. He’s certainly good enough to merit an IndyCar seat, perhaps one of the six or seven best drivers in the series. If he was thrust into a mid-pack seat, he could help lift the performance of said operation or a young driver alongside. Imagine Briscoe and Josef Newgarden at Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, or Briscoe and Graham Rahal at RLL Racing, for instance. A great mix of veteran experience and youthful potential could be a benefit to all.

But, frankly, we know what Briscoe can do in top flight machinery. Seven wins in nearly 100 starts with Ganassi and Penske isn’t bad, but it’s hardly the maximum of what could be achieved with those outfits. Seven wins with the lesser Dale Coyne, Newman/Haas Racing and RuSPORT teams, by contrast, is why Justin Wilson is held in such high regard by almost the entire paddock.

Perhaps Briscoe isn’t a bad choice to meet the objectives Ganassi seeks: supporting Dixon, good technical feedback and a familiarity with the branding and marketing goals associated with Target and now, NTT Data. Fair enough. And to be fair, drivers like Wilson aren’t available at the moment and would require a buyout. Wilson admitted as such on Friday:

Still, the storylines of a fresh face at Ganassi – one of these “more than 50” candidates – could have done wonders for the team and series. Whether it was a veteran like Wilson, Oriol Servia or Alex Tagliani in a top flight ride for really the first time, a young American like a Newgarden (with a buyout), JR Hildebrand, Conor Daly or Sage Karam, or even an F1 refugee like Paul di Resta, you had the potential there to generate a wider buzz.

In an offseason where Penske has stolen the PR blitz with Juan Pablo Montoya returning to open-wheel for the first time in eight years, Ganassi has gone with the safe, tried-and-true Briscoe. He’ll be dependable, but he likely won’t do anything to get people talking beyond the people that already do in and about IndyCar.

The Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer said of the series’ challenging weekend in Houston this year, “That’s so IndyCar.”

So is this.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance
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LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).