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Former Indy 500 Pole Winner Briscoe Eager for Relaxed Weekend behind Wheel at IMS

This will be a work weekend like Ryan Briscoe has never experienced at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The driver who spent 11 years and 10 Indianapolis 500s in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is back at IMS to help a sports car driver fulfill his dream.

Yes, Briscoe will be driving in Sunday’s Indianapolis 8 Hour race for Vital Speed Motorsports, but his focus will be on coaching 22-year-old Trevor Baek, whose father owns this team. Veteran Jeff Westphal will be on hand, too, as the team’s other regular driver.

The Indianapolis 8 Hour is the first pairing of two major sports car series -- the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Sunday’s race on IMS’ 14-turn, 2.349-mile road course begins at 10 a.m. (ET).

Briscoe said he has worked with Vital Speed Motorsports on the side for some time, and an opportunity to join it as a driver for this weekend’s race became available due to the pandemic-driven rescheduling of IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, where Briscoe drives full-time for Wayne Taylor Racing.

“This was supposed to be the weekend before Petit Le Mans, (IMSA’s) season finale,” Briscoe said. “Well, then the schedule got changed, and so this sort of fit in nicely.”

For Briscoe, this weekend’s event fits between IMSA’s most recent race – held last weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where Briscoe finished third in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi – and next week’s IMSA race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway roval. Briscoe and teammate Renger van der Zande lead the series with four races left in the season. Van der Zande will be the third driver this weekend for Team Honda Racing, which includes Dane Cameron.

Briscoe knows he will drive the No. 6 Ferrari 488 in GT3’s overall class – he expects to get a three-hour stint -- but he doesn’t know much about the series and the competition he’ll face. Fact is, he isn’t concerned about either because he views this event as an opportunity to enjoy the sport he loves.

“I’m (here) to help Trevor get the experience to mix it up with all the pro drivers,” said Briscoe, who won the Indianapolis 500 pole in 2012 and twice finished fifth in the 200-lap oval race. “As a driver, it will be low-key for me – be part of some good racing, (with) low pressure and (get) good experience.”

Briscoe has raced on the IMS road course just once in his career – for Chip Ganassi Racing in the inaugural NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, in 2014 – and he finished sixth. He took a half-dozen practice laps during the Ferrari Challenge event in July.

In his day job, Briscoe is bidding for his first season championship since 2003 when he raced in European junior formulas. The team began the season with a Rolex 24 at Daytona victory and has posted a pair of second-place finishes and last week’s third-place finish. Briscoe and van der Zande lead second place Pipo Derani by just three points.

Coincidently, Briscoe likely must fend off former Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves to win the championship. Castroneves and Acura Team Penske teammate Ricky Taylor have won the past three races and are joint third in the standings, just five points behind Briscoe and van der Zande.

“It would be awesome, it would be phenomenal,” Briscoe said of winning the IMSA season title. “Right now, it’s a really tight points race, so we’ll see what happens in the final four races.”

The IMSA season ends with the 12 Hours of Sebring, a race Briscoe expects to have a good chance of winning.

“Wayne’s cars tend to excel at long races,” he said. “I know we’re going to fight hard because we really want to win this championship.”

But all of that is for another weekend. This weekend, Briscoe, who turned 39 last week, will enjoy being back in Indianapolis, where he met his wife, Nicole, then a local television sportscaster (she now works at ESPN). The couple have daughters ages 6 and 4. They live near ESPN’s headquarters in Connecticut.

“It’s always great to be back in Indy,” he said.

A full slate of racing is on tap Thursday through Sunday, with the sports car portion of the event also showcasing drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series. Tickets and the daily schedules are available on IMS.com.

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES adds to the program with an 85-lap race at 3:30 p.m. Friday – television coverage on the USA Network – and a 75-lap race at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC. The Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network will carry both races.

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