Archive for May 23, 2012

By: Wm. LaDow

Published in the Post-Tribune, a Chicago Sun-Times Media Publication — May 23, 2012

Indianapolis 500 Pole-winner Ryan Briscoe is the epitome of a  survivor.

Since the soft-spoken, 30 year-old Australian began racing in his teens in his native country and in Europe, Briscoe has overcome a myriad of challenges that would have ended most race driver’s careers.

Beginning his open wheel career in Formula Renault in 2000, Briscoe was always running with the leaders.  His promise as a young driver led him to being signed as a test driver for Toyota’s entry into F1, while eventually racing the likes of Australian V8 Supercars, Grand-Am sports car prototypes, Le Mans sports car prototypes and A1GP.

In 2005, those successes brought Briscoe to the United States to drive for one of the best in the IndyCar business; Chip Ganassi.  A bright future was clearly evident as he finished 10th in his first Indy 500 and was on a path to become the IndyCar series Rookie of the Year.

Then in September, while racing at the Chicagoland Motor Speedway, Briscoe was involved in one of the most horrendous IndyCar crashes in recent memory.  His Target-Ganassi car was split in two, erupting into flames. Briscoe’s  accelerometer in his helmet registered in excess of 150g’s on impact, resulting in a severe concussion and substantial disk damage to his back.

When he returned to racing in 2006, his seat at Ganassi had already been filled by Dan Wheldon, sending Briscoe on an odyssey of IndyCar test opportunities. He first found a ride in the 24 Hours of Daytona. That led to driving a handful of races for IndyCar’s Dreyer & Reinbold and RuSport in Champ Car, all without earning a full time ride in racing.

In 2007, Briscoe inked a deal to drive for Roger Penske‘s Racing’s Porsche LMP2 car in the American Le Mans Series giving him valuable “seat time.”  He was then entered into the Indianapolis 500 by Jay Penske’s Luczo Dragon Racing Team, finishing with a remarkable career best finish of fifth.

By 2008, Briscoe had earned his way onto Roger Penske’s IndyCar team, beginning a stellar chapter in his racing career. He’s finished in the top-five of the IndyCar season’s championship three consecutive years from 2008-2010 and gained six race victories.  In six Indianapolis 500 starts, Briscoe has amassed earnings of over $1,901,980.

When the field of the 33 takes the green flag for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500, it will be Ryan Briscoe’s number atop the legendary scoring pylon signaling his return to the top of his profession.

Ryan Briscoe at Chicagoland Motor Speedway 2005

Ryan Briscoe — Pole Winner for the 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

(Photos courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway)