IndyCar Driver Review: Ryan Briscoe

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MotorSportsTalk resumes with our driver-by-driver review of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series. Finishing P11 after coming back full-time this year is Australian Ryan Briscoe.

2014 SEASON PREVIEW

Ryan Briscoe

  • Team: NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing
  • 2013: 26th Place (7 Starts), Best Finish 12th, Best Start 9th, 0 Laps Led, 17.7 Avg. Start, 16.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2014: 11th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 4th, 1 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 12.8 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish

Ryan Briscoe didn’t post huge results sheet for 2014, in his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series after a part-time campaign in 2013. But that’s not a bad thing. It was typical Briscoe: clean, very few mistakes and often experimenting on setups, so there wasn’t too much to be critical of.

Overall, Briscoe finished between fourth and 12th in all but four races this year, all while finishing all but 21 of the 2,395 laps. Pocono and Iowa stood out as his best two races, the former where he bagged a fourth and the latter where he was in the top-three most of the night before fading back after other drivers took tires.

Objectively speaking though, Briscoe didn’t show enough from an outright pace standpoint. He outqualified each of Target teammates Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan only three times all year; he only led 5 laps compared to Kanaan’s 407 and Dixon’s 97, and like Justin Wilson, he was a rare non-podium finisher in a year where 20 drivers made it to the top-three. Still, I got the sense this was a building year for this group, as driver and fourth Chip Ganassi Racing team came back after a year’s hiatus in 2013, and will have higher expectations and goals for 2015.

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.