The genesis of Ryan Briscoe's IndyCar Series championship drive can be traced to June 2008 at The Milwaukee Mile, where he celebrated an IndyCar Series victory for the first time.
More importantly, the win provided the source of renewed self-confidence, which is crucial to any race driver's continued success.
"Milwaukee was the most special win of my entire career, let alone of that season," said Briscoe, who turned 28 on 24 September, "It was a breakthrough moment where I was having some bad luck at the beginning of the year and, finally, I got that race win. It was on an oval as well and I think it really catapulted me on to having a successful remainder of 2008."
The positive momentum of 2008 segued into a successful 2009 in which the Australian has scored three victories, twelve top-five finishes - including seven runners-up results - four pole starts and 636 laps led in 16 races. Briscoe, who in 2007 was looking to get back into the IndyCar Series full time, is now staring at an opportunity to claim his first drivers' championship since winning the inaugural F3 Euroseries, despite entering the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend trailing Ganassi team-mates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti by eight and three points respectively.
"It's really exciting," said Briscoe, who wound up fifth in the '08 title race in his first full season with Team Penske, "At this point, it's a highlight in my career. It's going to be close, but the team's been doing an unbelievable job this year and I feel as though I've stepped it up this year. Experience is the big thing; experience with the right people. I've been learning from the right people and really working hard on improving my game at becoming a better driver.
"With experience comes confidence, and you need that going into these weekends where they are so short and there isn't a whole lot of time to prepare. You need to come out of the box strong, and I think that's been a big difference this year."
Briscoe was short on confidence after a horrifying experience at Chicagoland Speedway in September 2005, when the Target Chip Ganassi Racing car he was driving clipped the wheel of another car and vaulted into the catch fence between turns three and four.
"When I was airborne and could see the sky, I knew it wasn't going to be pretty," said Briscoe, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries, "When I was in the ambulance and I could move all the important limbs, I knew I would be okay."
A team-mate of Dixon's in 2005, Briscoe was not retained by the team for his sophomore season and, despite his injuries having healed but self-confidence still bruised, he was a journeyman in 2006, competing in four IndyCar Series races with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, and running with Team Australia in A1GP, RuSPORT in Champ Car and in the Rolex Grand Am Series.