Photo courtesy of IMSA

Ryan and Nicole Briscoe welcome second baby girl

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Ryan Briscoe wasn’t planning to be in two places at once this weekend, but the arrival of he and wife Nicole’s second baby girl on Friday changed plans a bit.

Briscoe, who shares the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT with Richard Westbrook in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is due to race the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International.

So Briscoe, who was part of the No. 69 Ford GT that finished third in the GTE-Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Westbrook and Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, posted a pic of him driving from his Connecticut home up to the Glen. It’s a roughly a five-hour drive.

Briscoe then found out wife Nicole was expecting on Friday, so that forced a quick turnaround. It wasn’t initially planned that way, with the newborn arriving three weeks early.

“She’d been into the doctor on Wednesday and the doctor saw some signs and was a bit worried about Nicole,” Ryan Briscoe told NBC Sports. “They wanted her to come back Friday morning.

“It was 50/50 at that point. So I was leaving Thursday to get to the Glen and do all the normal stuff, like the track walk. By Thursday night, Nicole was like, ‘It’ll be a 5 percent chance that this happens tomorrow, so don’t worry about it.’

“So naturally, she went in Friday morning at 8:15, calls at about 8:35, all in tears, and says, ‘We’re having a baby today!’ I’d already talked to the team about it. They were cool with me leaving the track, and being there.

“Needless to say, I put a few miles on the Ford Expedition!”

He made it home in time to witness the birth of daughter Blake, who joins fellow daughter Finley in the Briscoe family household.

And as Ryan Briscoe explained, the fact it was a second girl was also a surprise.

“We didn’t know,” he said. “I think Nicole would have bet the house it would have been a boy! I was 50/50 on it, because Nicole felt so strongly. She carried differently. So it was a really big surprise … when it was, ‘It’s a girl!’

Ryan is back en route to the Glen, today, to resume his day job in the Ford ahead of Sunday’s race.

Westbrook will handle practice and qualifying duties in Briscoe’s temporary absence, but is doing rather well as it is.

Westbrook led the morning’s third practice session Saturday at the Glen. Briscoe will handle Sunday morning warmup before Westbrook starts the race, as he seeks his third straight win at the track after winning overall in 2014 and 2015 co-driving with Michael Valiante.

Between their win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May, the new Ford GT’s first, then Le Mans podium, the new birth, and Ford’s recently announced extension of its GT program through 2019, it’s been quite a run for Briscoe.

“It’s hard to put into words. It’s definitely been an exciting time in my life for sure,” he said. “I’m just glad Nicole didn’t go into labor while I was in France! It’s good this is more or less a home race, to be close by, and glad Ganassi was so accommodating.

“It’s really exciting times. Le Mans was amazing obviously. Having our second daughter is incredible. Racing at the Glen now for the first time in five or six years, I can’t wait.”

Both mom and daughter are doing well, which makes Ryan’s return to the Glen even more peachy.

April 9 in Motorsports History: Al Unser Jr. gets sixth Long Beach win

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The list of winners in the Grand Prix of Long Beach is a ‘who’s who’ of open-wheel racing.

Mario Andretti won at the famed street course four times. His son Michael won there twice.

Paul Tracy is also a four-time winner at the beach. Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, and Alexander Rossi also have won at the famed course multiple times.

But there is only one “King of the Beach”: Al Unser Jr.

The winningest driver in the race’s history, Unser won at Long Beach four consecutive times from 1988-91. He won again in 1994 and entered the 1995 edition as the race’s defending champion and the defending CART champion as well.

Starting fourth, Unser made slight contact with Gil de Ferran when he passed the Brazilian on Lap 3. He then continued to move up to the front, taking the race lead from Teo Fabi on Lap 30.

Once he had the lead, Unser ran away from the field, winning by more than 23 seconds over Scott Pruett.

Unser’s victory was such a familiar scene that after the race, CART news manager John Procida began the winner’s news conference with the following statement: “Well, we have a very familiar face on the top rung of the podium. As we listed on the prerace press release, this seems to be the Al Unser Invitational.”

Indeed it was. Unser’s victory was his sixth at Long Beach, and the 28th of his career. overall. While it would be his last win there, Unser continued to race at Long Beach through 1998 before missing 1999 with a broken leg and moving to the Indy Racing Leauge in 2000.

In 2009, Unser was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, which honors significant contributors to the race and California motorsports community.

“It truly is just an honor to be mentioned with the names and the legends that have already been put into the sidewalk,” Unser said during the induction ceremony. “To have Brian (Redman, the inaugural winner of the race) and Parnelli (Jones) is really an honor and just to be in their company is very, very special.”

Also on this date:

1971: Jacques Villeneuve was born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada. The second-generation driver was one of the best in open-wheel racing during the 1990s, winning the Indianapolis 500 and CART championship in ’95 and becoming a Formula One champion two years later.

1989: Rick Mears dominated CART’s Checker Autoworks 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading every lap from the pole and lapping the field.

2011: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, their sixth consecutive victory in Grand Am competition. Their lengthy win streak, which started on Aug. 7, 2010 at Watkins Glen, prompted Grand Am to offer a $25,000 bounty for any Daytona Prototype team that could beat the dominant duo. The Action Express trio of Joao Barbosa, J.C. France, and Terry Borcheller finally unseated Pruett and Rojas in the series’ next round at Virginia International Raceway.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994