Ryan Briscoe was the first on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the No. 8 NTT DATA car and the last on the 2.5-mile oval as the second day of practice for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race drew to a close. It just felt … “normal.”
“When I went out, it was like I never left driving IndyCars,” said Briscoe, the 2012 pole sitter for the 500 Mile Race. “It feels good to be back in the groove of things.”
Chip Ganassi Racing Teams announced in early April that Briscoe would return to the team to drive the Honda-powered No. 8 with primary sponsorship from NTT DATA, a leading global IT services provider, as well as sponsorship from VIZIO and Hulu.
Briscoe, who competed in 14 races during his first IZOD IndyCar Series season as a teammate to Scott Dixon and Darren Manning in 2005, has seven Indy 500 starts (two top-five finishes, 31 laps led). He's logged more than a race worth of laps already this week on the 2.5-mile oval in preparation for the May 26 race.
Click it: Ryan Briscoe's Indy 500 results
He drove for Team Penske the past five seasons, recording seven victories. When the team contracted to two full-season cars for Helio Castroneves and Will Power the 19-race season, Briscoe moved on to the American Le Mans Series for the season with Level 5 Motorsports.
“I just can't begin to tell you how excited I was when Chip (Ganassi) gave me the call,” said Briscoe, who was runner-up May 11 to teammate Marino Franchitti in the P2 division of the ALMS race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“It’s great for me having this opportunity. Hopefully for next year we can try to be back here full time. You never know what's around the next corner. You just have to keep with it and stay positive.
“I feel like I have a place in IndyCar, and I just have to go out and do a good job.”
All four Chip Ganassi Racing Team’s drivers (Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball and Briscoe) finished the 2012 Indy 500 in the top 10, with Franchitti winning for the third time. Briscoe checked in fifth.
“I absolutely believe I can win it this year,” Briscoe said.
It’s just the statement that Jeff Womack, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of NTT DATA, wants to hear. NTT DATA, with 60,000 global employees, expanded into the North American market about a year ago and was seeking a cohesive marketing platform for its brand.
“There are a couple of key factors that led into why we looked at Indy,” Womack said. “We’re in a very mature market that is very fragmented, and to come in with a new brand competing against those companies that have brands that have been around for decades is not an easy task. So one of our motivations was to get involved with something that has significant brand exposure, and this is the ‘Super Bowl’ motorsports.
“The other is the connection that as an IT company we’re working with our clients to meet their business objectives, they have to be able to leverage technology and be able to most fast and that’s a winning combination. Metaphorically, there’s a really nice parallel with IndyCar racing.
“The pieces have fallen into place like we could never have imagined.”