The Indianapolis 8 Hours offers a fun challenge for Briscoe

It’s a return to a familiar playing field for Ryan Briscoe with the Indianapolis 8 Hours presented by AWS this weekend.

Briscoe, who captured eight wins during his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career (2005-15), will make his second appearance in the endurance classic at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, teaming with Jarett Andretti and Jeff Westphal to drive the No. 218 in the Pro class as part of a unique partnership between Vital Speed ​​and Andretti Autosport.

“It’s a unique and fun race,” said Briscoe. “It feels special to do it with Vital Speed. They are a very small team, a family group. They have experience of doing Ferrari Challenge. I’ve worked with them doing some training in the past, really cool little group of guys. The Indy 8 Hour that we did three years ago (in 2020) was the first big race they did: the first race with pit stops, something like that. This will be the second race they do with pit stops.

The team tested a few weeks ago at Sonoma Raceway, and Briscoe’s co-driver Andretti is coming off winning the LMP3 class last weekend in the Petit Le Mans race at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

“I think it’s amazing that they’ve partnered with Jarett Andretti and his group at Andretti Autosport,” said Briscoe. “I think he’s giving everyone a great opportunity to go out there and do well this weekend. They were excited. For me, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great opportunity for everyone involved to get out there and mingle with many of the regulars who run this championship all the time. Hopefully we can race competitively and get a good result.”

The Australian-American has long been a fixture in sports car racing, including during his time competing in the INDYCAR SERIES. Briscoe’s resume is littered with numerous wins in his class and an overall victory in the 2020 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the crown jewel of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In June, he helped lead Glickenhaus Racing to third place overall at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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“Overall, I think with the experience I’ve had on both, it helps you to be a well-rounded driver and understand all the possibilities that are out there and the different teams to work with and teammates,” Briscoe said. “I would say that one of the most important things with sports car racing that is very different from Indy car racing is that you are sharing your race car with teammates. It’s not like having a teammate on an INDYCAR team. You are literally sharing your seat, your comfort, your car setup, everything. So, you have to work very closely and friendly with your teammates. There will be some compromise here and there, and you have to work to make the best overall package with your teammates. I think that’s something you learn with experience.”

Another big difference between sports car racing and INDYCAR SERIES racing is the wait, Briscoe said.

“Also, the hard thing about sports car racing is that you spend a lot of time in the timing booth watching your teammates drive,” Briscoe said. You’re not in the car all the time either. So there’s a lot of confidence in what they’re doing and the feedback they’re giving at different times. It’s fun. That is, I think, one of the challenges and fun parts of sports car racing. It’s just different, and it’s just part of that.”

Over the years, Briscoe, the 2012 Indianapolis 500 pole winner, has maintained a presence in the INDYCAR paddock, most recently as driver coach for AJ Foyt Racing driver Dalton Kellett.

In many ways, it remains a curiosity factor for a reunion with Briscoe behind the wheel of an INDYCAR SERIES car. Now, at 41, look to the likes of 47-year-old Helio Castroneves, who returned to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES as a full-time driver this year after four part-seasons that comprised primarily with the Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge.

“Well, I certainly feel young and fit,” said Briscoe, who is no stranger to running marathons. “I stay in shape. I think the most important thing with Helio is… it’s inspiring for you because it’s amazing what he’s done at this point in his career. He’s a great friend of mine and I love seeing him be so successful in this last stage of his career. It’s also fun to see that happen. And (Scott) Dixon and (Will) Power in the championship and these guys, because I guess, potentially, it keeps me out of relevance because of my age, because all these guys obviously they are doing well at my age or older than me.

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“So writing someone off because they’re 40 or 41 is not a valid reason because you can see that as long as you take care of yourself, we’re all as good as anyone, even some of these younger guys. in their 20s and 30s.”

Briscoe’s last full-time North American sports car season was in 2020 at IMSA, teaming with Renger van der Zende in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi Prototype. They finished just one point behind Castroneves and Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Team Penske Acura in the DPi standings.

Working with Kellett in the INDYCAR SERIES paddock in 2022 has kind of rekindled the open-wheel flame for Briscoe. While he said he is open to any opportunity that comes his way, especially a one-off ride in the Indy 500, he is not aggressively seeking a seat in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

“I love INDYCAR racing,” said Briscoe. “I love the circuit; I love the championship and everything that comes with it. And I also really enjoyed my sports car racing. You just get to a point where you’re going to enter a new year where you have to make a decision about which path you’re going to take. Will they be sports cars or Indy cars? And that really just depends on what opportunities you have in front of you.”

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