Is Ryan Briscoe Still In The Mix?

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While the silly season continues to sort itself out, we are awaiting for confirmation that Ryan Briscoe is officially out of the No.8 NTT Data car at Chip Ganassi Racing. It has become a question of when and not if that happens. Most believe that Sage Karam will be named to that car at some point in the near future. If that does happen, it begs the question – what will become of Ryan Briscoe?

Personally, I like Ryan Briscoe and think he is a good driver; but I think I’m probably in the minority – especially with the second part of that statement. I mean, how could you not like Briscoe? He’s personable and one of the nicer guys in the paddock. It’s his ability as a driver that comes into question.

Actually, it’s his ability as a racer that comes into question. There’s a big difference in a driver and a racer. A driver tends to be a good qualifier and has good car-control. A racer may not be the best qualifier on the grid, but put other cars around a racer and the racer will usually find themselves out front.

Good examples of racers would include Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay. They don’t always start all that well, but they usually finish near the front. Surprisingly, I’ll also call Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball good racers. They’ve each won only one race, but for whatever reason – they are terrible qualifiers. I believe Charlie Kimball passed more cars than anyone else this past season, yet he only had one podium finish all season – a third in the second Detroit race.

Getting back to Briscoe – he was always a good qualifier. He has thirteen poles, including the 2012 Indianapolis 500. He also has eight wins – all between 2008 and 2012, when he happened to drive for Roger Penske. In 2009, he was bearing down on the championship when he had a massive brain fade leaving the pits in the penultimate race at Motegi, causing him to finish eighteenth.

Detractors will claim that anyone could have won in a Penske car during those years and that Briscoe threw away many more potential wins. I disagree with that notion. No matter how good the car, I believe you still have to have enormous talent to cross the finish line first – but that’s just me. I will concede that he may be a better driver than racer, however.

Sandwiched around those Penske years were two short stints at Chip Ganassi Racing. He also had spots of fill-in duty at Dreyer & Reinbold and Panther Racing. Neither of those stints at Ganassi occurred in banner seasons. In 2005, Ganassi was saddled with the lame duck Toyota engine after the Japanese automaker had already announced they were leaving at the end of that season. Ganassi was also one of the few teams till running the Panoz chassis, which was quickly falling out of favor on some tracks.

Briscoe just completed his second stint at Ganassi, in a season that was not their best. Some say that Briscoe was part of the reason for their decline, but I don’t buy that for a minute. I think there were several other factors contributing to their woes that didn’t include Briscoe. Whatever the case, the affable Australian seems to be out (again) at Ganassi after only one season.

If this is not the end of Briscoe’s IndyCar career, it’s certainly his last shot at a top ride. There are a few seats left with some second and third tier teams, but they generally require a driver to bring sponsorship dollars. Ryan Briscoe has never been in a position to have to hunt down sponsorship and is probably ill-equipped to do so. Unless you grew up in the money-seeking environment of auto racing, you’re probably not going to be very successful at it.

Some suggest that Briscoe’s brightest future is sports car racing, but he has made it clear that the Verizon IndyCar Series is really all he’s focused on, at the moment. I don’t blame him. At thirty-three, Briscoe is still considered in his prime and I think he has proven his worth to the series. I’ve read where many think he is a detriment to the series because they find him boring. Personally, I find him to be a nice guy who always has a smile on his face. I’m not sure when that became an undesirable trait.

For some reason that I can’t put my finger on, I don’t see Briscoe fitting in at Andretti Autosport. Michael Andretti has yet to announce his complete driver lineup for next season, but most believe he will replace James Hinchcliffe who is headed to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. There is still one seat at KVSH Racing, Sam Schmidt could possibly have an open seat if Mikhail Aleshin doesn’t return and no one knows how things will shake out at Dale Coyne Racing.

But aside from the fact that I think Briscoe is a better driver than most others do, I have another reason why I hope he gets one more shot. That reason is his wife, Nicole Briscoe – and here’s why.

Although I was pleased when ESPN announced that Lindsay Czarniak would be replacing Brent Musburger as host for their 2013 Indianapolis 500 telecast – I have been very disappointed in her performance for the past two years. Her lack of racing knowledge is readily apparent. Her waxing of the lore and tradition rang hollow when she freely admitted she had never been. I got the feeling that she had been given a list of the drivers about thirty minutes before the start of the telecast, and did her best to memorize them. To put it bluntly, she came off as a female version of Todd Harris.

When it was announced that Nicole Briscoe would be staying with ESPN as a SportsCenter host after their NASCAR run ends next month, I immediately thought of her as a logical choice as host for the Indianapolis 500 telecast. She obviously knows racing after years of hosting ESPN’s NASCAR telecasts and her earlier days hosting The Speed Report on SPEED.

Having been married to Ryan for several years, no one would question her passion or knowledge of the sport or the event. She may not be considered as “hip” as Czarniak, but face it – IndyCar is not as hip as they like to think they are, and I mean that in a good way. I think Nicole Briscoe would be a better fit, all the way around. Would it be considered a conflict of interest if her husband was in the starting field? I certainly don’t think so. I think it would be a great side-story.

So, think what you will about Ryan Briscoe. He may not be the best driver in the paddock, but I would put him in the top-third. I’m not sure how scientific these rankings are, but that’s my opinion. But he’s a good and likeable guy that sponsors seem to enjoy associating with. Word has it that NTT Data loved him at hospitality events. It’s too bad that Chip Ganassi apparently didn’t share that love.

But I would really like to see Nicole Briscoe involved with the few ABC/ESPN telecasts of the Verizon IndyCar Series for next season. She’s bright, funny and knows this sport inside and out. Having her husband in the series would just make her presence that much more intriguing.

George Phillips

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9 Responses to “Is Ryan Briscoe Still In The Mix?”

  1. I agree George, I Would like to see RB stay in the IC series. With the right team chemistry I think he still has much to contribute …

  2. I have been a long time fan of Ryan. As for using the top equipment excuse, well, you don’t win the Pole at Indianapolis just because you have a great car. Same with the time he won at Milwaukee. However, you can win Daytona like that.

  3. I’m sorry Ryan, but your time has come and gone.
    Would someone PLEASE give Conor Daly (he’s scary fast)
    or another youngster a ride?

    We need new blood – with attitude.

  4. Mark Wick Says:

    George, if I remember correctly, Nicole Briscoe has said for the record that, to avoid any perception of bias, she will not participate in coverage of Indycar as long as her husband is a participant.
    As to her knowledge of the 500 and Indycar,, she was a sports reporter for WISH-TV (as Nicole Manske), for several years and was heavily involved in their coverage of all aspects of the 500, as well as other races.
    She would be an excellent addition to the ABC broadcast team for all Indycar races they carry.

  5. I could see him at BHA. They are going to try to pay a driver, and could benefit from an experienced veteran. Also, Ryan might benefit from being the “top dog”. I don’t believe he’s ever been the lead driver in a team, other than the few races with Panther last year

  6. billytheskink Says:

    Briscoe deserves a seat as much as any veteran.
    While I hope he gets one, I have to admit that I would be more excited to see what Karam/Daly/Chaves/Bird/Abt/Veach could do in a full-time ride. Unfortunately for Briscoe, it seems Ganassi and others aren’t excited about him either.

    That he was an unintended addition to the Ganassi team, filling the #8 seat when Franchitti’s retirement pushed Kanaan into the #10, probably shortened his leash last year. Had he won or podiumed multiple times, he probably keeps the #8. Unfair, but certainly not unprecedented in racing.

  7. I think Nicole Briscoe would do a terrific job at the 500. I remember her very touching, heartfelt tribute to Dan Wheldon. I would like to see Ryan get a ride. Of course, I would also like to see Justin Wilson get a good ride and Simona and…………. If wishes were steps I would be at the top of the Pogada each May.

  8. george you and i agree on this one. you couldnt for a nicer guy and i like you feel a good driver. i think with penske he got the short end of the stick. he did well losing the championship late in the season. the same thing helio and will have done. yet hes let go due to sponser and they bring an old and at the his career montoya. then he goes back to gannassi and struggles just like the rest of the team did. but again it looks like hell pay the price. its a shame. karam will drive the wheels off from the research and devlopment done by briscoe this year. god luck to sage and hopefully ryan will find a ride and prove them all wrong! go ryan!

  9. As most of us here know the joke that is the .1rl has finished their season and we can all celebrate not having to see them around for 7 months. They are done in more than just having the season end. Fontana attendance was dismal (or brilliant if you’re a Crappie) with attendance of about 10,000-12,000. And then there are the ratings:

    The .1rl season finale which was to decide the champion (chumpion?) for the year drew 7% of the interest just another Cup race garnered.

    Houston is already gone and I suspect Fontana will be too.

    How many more years can they keep this joke going?

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