21 May 2015
Indy 500: Briscoe confirmed as Hinchcliffe's replacement
Ryan Briscoe will take over the race seat of the #5 car for Sunday's Indianapolis 500, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsport team has confirmed.
As widely expected, Schmidt Peterson Motorsport has turned to the experienced and safe hands of veteran IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe to take the place of James Hinchcliffe in Sunday's Indianapolis 500.
Hinchcliffe is out of the Verizon IndyCar Series for the foreseeable future after sustaining left thigh and pelvic injuries in a practice accident on Monday. Hinchcliffe remains in hospital at IU Health Methodist Hospital but is reported to be making "substantial improvement" and is out of intensive care following emergency surgery from which he is expected to make a full recovery.
With good news on the medical front, SPM has made the decision to race all three of its cars this weekend, with James Jakes set to start from 20th place and Conor Daly in 25th. Hinchcliffe himself had qualified in 24th place in the #5 Arrow Electronics/SPM Honda, but the need for a driver change means that his replacement will now have to start from the back of the grid.
Briscoe is a strong choice to fill Hinchcliffe's vacant race seat. He has had nine Indy 500 starts since his first appearance in 2005, including five with Team Penske and three with Chip Ganassi Racing. He was the pole winner for the 2012 race and has twice finished the race in the top five.
The Australian is a veteran of 128 starts in US open wheel competition and has seven race wins dating from the first in 2008 at Milwaukee among 27 podium places, plus 13 pole positions. The 33-year-old is currently competing in the GTLM class of the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship but is available this weekend to take over from Hinchcliffe.
As SPM team co-owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson went through the list of options, Briscoe's results put him firmly at the top of the list of contenders: "We explored quite a few options and felt confident in Briscoe," said Schmidt. “We were glad he was available and willing to drive for us with such short notice.
"Obviously this was not a situation we were expecting to be in for the biggest race of the year but we're making the best of it," he continued. "We're excited to have an accomplished veteran in the seat of the #5 Arrow Electronics car."
"First and foremost, I feel absolutely terrible for Hinch. I wish him the best and a speedy recovery," said Briscoe in response. "Under the circumstances, I'm thrilled to have been given the opportunity to be here and fill in for him.
"I really hope to do a great job for Arrow Electronics, Lucas Oil and the SPM team, and I'm looking forward to being back here in the Indy 500 again," added the 33-year-old.
Looking further ahead, Briscoe is unlikely to be available to substitute for Hinchcliffe beyond this weekend because of his existing commitments to the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship, but the team is focussing on this weekend's race before looking further ahead and said that details will be announced in due course about Hinchcliffe's longer-term stand-in.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with James and his family right now while we work through the details of finding his replacement," insisted Schmidt. Candidates for the situation vacant are thought to include Conor Daly and Justin Wilson, both of whom are both already on the grid for this weekend's 99th running of the Indy 500 for SPM and Andretti Autosport respectively
Although Briscoe completed a full season of IndyCar competition as recently as 2014 which included last year's Indy 500, IndyCar has made arrangements for him to undergo what has been delicately called a "track familiarisation" session, rather than the standard refresher programme that other returning drivers who are not racing full-time in the 2015 season have been required to do.
Briscoe will doubtless appreciate the track time, since this and the one-hour Carb Day set-up session on Friday are the only chances that he will now have to familiarise himself with the car. Since hie most recent IndyCar race, the cars have been fitted with bespoke aero kits, a new addition to the championship technical regulations for 2015.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsport
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