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

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“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.

Meh.

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.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.