AUTO PACKAGE: Briscoe eager to stay with Penske as IndyCar free agency talks heat up

Published October 10, 2012

| Associated Press

Ryan Briscoe doesn't think of himself as a free agent, and even if that changes, he knows h will have one of the most impressive resumes on the market.

Still, he'd rather get his 2013 job lined up sooner rather than later.

The IndyCar veteran wants to stay with the juggernaut that is Team Penske, and Roger Penske said he'd like to keep Briscoe as part of a three-car team alongside Will Power and Helio Castroneves.

However, in the current era of plummeting sponsorship money, that might not be possible.

Power has been the road-course champion in each of the last three seasons, and only a last-race crash cost him the overall title this year. Castroneves has been with Penske since 2000, and while he has never won the points championship, he attracts sponsors because of his outstanding record at the Indianapolis 500. Castroneves has won Indy three times — one short of the record — and finished in the top four three other times.

Briscoe's contract expires at the end of November, and Penske has already picked up the 2013 options on Power and Castroneves.

Briscoe, though, has also been successful at Penske. He nearly won the 2009 championship, wrecking his chances with a pit-road accident in the next-to-last race, and has seven wins. He struggled early in 2012, but won at Sonoma and finished second at Baltimore in late-season races.

"Obviously, I would love to stay with Penske Racing," he said Tuesday while a group of Chevrolet drivers toured the repaired track at Belle Isle. "We're still talking, and I'm hopeful that we will find a way to make it work."

If it doesn't, Briscoe isn't going to lose any sleep. He knows that he'll be a top candidate for any vacant seat, including the Ganassi Racing ride that Graham Rahal lost at the end of the year. Rahal didn't drive one of Ganassi's iconic Target cars — Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon drove them to a 1-2 finish at this year's Indy 500 — but the No. 38 would still be a ride at one of the sport's powerhouse teams.

"There appears to be a lot of interest out there, and I think things will work out for the best," he said. "I'll be happy when I know where I'll be driving, but right now, I'm feeling pretty comfortable about my situation."

Two other drivers who were on the Chevy tour at Belle Isle also have questions about their future, but neither plans to be changing teams.

Oriol Servia, the Spanish engineer who drives for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, is technically a free agent, but expects to remain with the team. After struggling early in the season with Lotus engines, Dreyer & Reinbold teamed with Panther Racing and switched to Chevy.

Servia's performances immediately picked up, with four top-five finishes in the next six races, including fourth at Indianapolis. He finished the season in 13th place, but is looking forward to a new deal and a full season with one engine supplier.

"I'd say that I'm most probably going to be in the same car I'm in now," he said. "It's not official, but we've been working things out, and I would expect that everything is going to stay the same."

Tony Kanaan is in a different position — he has a signed contract for 2013, but there are questions about the survival of his team. KV Racing laid off more than two dozen employees last month, including team manager Tom Wurts, and general manager Mark Johnson resigned.

Kanaan finished ninth in the standings, but Formula One veteran Rubens Barichello ended up well back in 12th and E.J. Viso was 20th. Both Barrichello and Viso have been exploring other options for 2013.

"It was really tough when we had to let so many people go, but that's what happens when you go from three cars to one," Kanaan said. "It's a tough economy and we had a tough season, and they decided that is what had to happen. I hate it, but I think we'll be stronger with one car right now."

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2012/10/10/auto-package-briscoe-eager-to-stay-with-penske-as-indycar-free-agency-talks/