Ryan Briscoe hopes he can take control of the ultra-close IndyCar Series title battle after his second place at Sonoma took him back into the championship lead.
Dario Franchitti beat Briscoe to the finish line by just 0.2488 seconds yesterday, while the Scot's Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon was affected by a multi-car first lap tangle and could only finish 13th.
Even though he finished second for the seventh time this season, Briscoe now leads the IndyCar standings by four points over Franchitti, with Dixon – who led the drivers' standings coming into the race – now third, 20 points off the lead. It marked the 13th time in 14 races that a different driver has taken the lead in the standings.
"It's incredible," Briscoe said. "What is it now, 13 lead changes in 14 races? I've never heard of anything like it before. Hopefully I can change that now."
Franchitti also gave his title hopes a major boost at Sonoma, and reckoned taking pole position on Saturday had been key, allowing him to stay ahead of the mess behind him that sent Dixon and several other drivers reeling, and to keep Briscoe at bay all afternoon.
"The pole position really set us up today," Franchitti said. "It allowed us to go and control the race. It was important to get a good start.
"We seemed to be good on starts and restarts today, so we kind of controlled the race from that point. It was a question of whether to push hard and build a gap or try to save fuel and just control. We decided to save fuel and control the pace."
Briscoe, who tried to get past Franchitti on a restart with four laps remaining in the 75-lap race, has won just twice this season compared to the Ganassi drivers' four victories each, and admitted that he cannot rely on consistency in the final championship run-in.
"If we're going to win the championship, I'm going to have to win one of these last three," Briscoe said. "We just have to keep getting these points. Coming in second gets a little old after awhile, but we'll win one of these someday."
Dixon had dominated the previous round at Lexington and regained the points lead in the process. But at Sonoma he struggled in qualifying and started 10th, then was left idling in the middle of the track, waiting for course workers to push him back so he could get going again, following the eight-car tangle on lap one. He was then spun out on the final turn of the final lap by Marco Andretti, but IndyCar officials ruled it avoidable contact and gave Dixon 13th place back. Andretti was moved back to 14th place.
The Sonoma race was the last of the year on a road course. The series resumes next Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway, then moves to Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on September 19 before the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 10.