23 June 2009
Bonus points offer some consolation for Briscoe.
Ryan Briscoe has led the most laps in the past three IndyCar Series races - by a wide margin - and what does he have to show for it? Runner-up finishes in each of those events.
There is some succour for the Team Penske driver, however, as he continues to lead the championship chase by three points over two-time race winner Dario Franchitti heading into this weekend's SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway. Moreover, Briscoe is the only driver to have so far managed to keep the overall lead for more than one race, such is the competition at the head of the championship, and it is his front-running performance in each of the last three races that he has to thank for that statistic.
The Australian has been the beneficiary of six bonus points by pacing the field in laps led over those race - 154 of 225 at Milwaukee, 160 of 228 at Texas and 85 of 250 at Iowa - and, with the season not yet at halfway, he stands poised to obliterate the record for most laps led in a single season. Briscoe currently has 509 laps out front to his credit, with the record, set by reigning series champion Scott Dixon last year, standing at 899.
"I don't think we're doing anything wrong," said Briscoe, who finished second to Franchitti in the Iowa Corn Indy 250, having similarly trailed team-mate Helio Castroneves in Texas and Dixon in Milwaukee, "We're doing an extraordinary job as a whole team. It's going to be like this for the rest of the season. It's going to be very close. Every race we go to, it's going to be tough."
Castroneves may be the ideal person for Briscoe to be teamed with, a man able to shed some light on the value of finishing second when victory isn't meant to be. The Brazilian recorded three consecutive second-place finishes in the second half of the 2008 campaign - among eight overall for the season - to put him in position to keep the pressure on championship pacesetter Dixon.
The Kiwi was 48 points clear of Castroneves heading to Richmond last year, but the Brazilian finished second to Tony Kanaan, while Dixon was third in the race under the lights. Castroneves then reeled off a string of seven podium finishes in eight races, including two victories, ensuring that the championship was decided in the season finale.
As Briscoe forecasts, he's poised for a similar scenario. Dixon is currently twelve points off the lead, and the top five - with Castroneves in fourth and Danica Patrick fifth - are separated by just 52 points.
"We're just going to have to keep on our game and keep doing what we're doing," the Australian, who has finished 15th and 21st on his two previous visits to Richmond, admitted, "Hopefully, we'll start with those last few laps instead of the first few laps."
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