Heading to the final four races of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Chip Ganassi Racing as a whole is starting to hit its stride.
The team hasn’t won yet but in the form of Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon, has two drivers who are past winners at each of the next three stops on the schedule (Mid-Ohio, Milwaukee, Sonoma). Meanwhile Tony Kanaan (Milwaukee, Sonoma) and Charlie Kimball (Mid-Ohio) also have wins at the upcoming rounds in their careers and look to get on the scoreboard for 2014.
Briscoe, driver of the team’s No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, has in particular found his form over the last two months.
Heading into Mid-Ohio, where Briscoe won in 2008 and finished second in 2009, he feels the race will be less of a lottery.
“I hope so. They’re all tracks I’ve won at before,” Briscoe told MotorSportsTalk last week, ahead of the IMSA weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It’s good timing with gaining speed and competitiveness. I’m super motivated. We can make it happen. Less of a lottery than the street courses, some of the results have been strategy gambles. These next ones should have more to do with pure performance.”
On that performance, Briscoe has been consistent – he’s finished between fourth and 12th in each of the last eight races. Even better results had been possible if not for strategic gambles gone awry.
“We’ve been getting stronger,” Briscoe said. “We’ve had some shining moments, glimpses and so forth. Now we’re showing a consistency of speed. That’s what we need to be doing.
“We’re understanding now were we needed to be at the beginning of the season,” he added. “On the 8 car crew, we’re really gelling, getting to know each other better. There’s a really good confidence level and feeling at the team – we’re knocking on the door of the first win.”
Briscoe finished a season-best fourth at Pocono and could well have podiumed at Iowa had he and Kanaan not been caught out on old tires in the final sprint to the finish there.
At Toronto last race weekend, Briscoe rebounded from sliding into the Turn 5 wall on the wet track on Saturday to a 12th place finish in race one Sunday.
Briscoe confirmed the conditions were too unsafe to race, and said INDYCAR made the right call to postpone the race a day.
“Yeah that corner has an out for me doesn’t it,” he joked, since that’s the same corner where he injured his wrist in 2013. “It was definitely a tough weekend.
“I felt so bad for the fans on Saturday. It’s hard because on a track like that, with the standing water, I don’t know if people really had a good idea how dangerous that would have been had we started. The visibility was zero. You’re popping down there at 160 mph – it was so dangerous. Unfortunately, it was the right thing to not start the race. Getting the two races was good, but I wish the second one could have been full distance.”
While he didn’t mind the race delay, he was caught off guard by the decision to move him, Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power to the rear of the field once Sunday’s race restarted.
“I only found out Sunday morning,” Briscoe noted. “I didn’t agree with or fully understand and still don’t given it was a full restart. We should have started from our starting positions. That’s the way it should have been. Had it been a continuation of the race, the 12 car (Power) shouldn’t have started. Whatever, that’s the way it was. I didn’t get into it further.”
Briscoe has been a fan of the constant run of action this season, with the condensed 2014 schedule running from the last weekend in March through the end of August. Thirteen of the series’ 18 races take place from June through August.
“It’s been an exciting year – I love racing every weekend,” Briscoe said. “I’d race 12 months if it was up to me. But it’s been hard on the crews though.
“It’s gonna be a long offseason… I know IndyCar is looking at adding a few more races to extend the year. It’s hard for us at the moment to compete for TV time with football starting up, so that’s part of the strategy. Finishing early, I get it. It’s been a busy but exciting season.
“It has been really good consistency for the fans, to see the frequency of IndyCar racing. In the past we’ve had too many breaks. It used to be you were not sure when we’re racing, but as an IndyCar season it’s been tightened up.”
Lastly Briscoe talked about his first year as a father, with daughter Finley having been a welcome addition to the family for Ryan and wife Nicole.
“We’ve been lucky with a good baby to have,” Briscoe said. “Nicole’s an amazing mom. Especially on race weekends, it takes a lot of pressure off knowing she’s (Finley) in good hands.
“With me at the race track, and preparing for the race track, I don’t feel like it’s changed anything at all. Life away from the track is different – there’s more responsibilities. But now life revolves around Finley – and she’s a great kid.”
In a better place than he was 12 months ago, with a multiyear Ganassi contract, better form on track and a new baby that’s been a blessing to him, Ryan Briscoe seems primed to get back to the race-winning form he captured during the 2008 through 2012 seasons.