Not a second to lose

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

It's not a good thing for a race car driver to be stuck in second.

Then again there are 21 worse places to end up in Sunday's Rexall Edmonton Indy.

Who knows who will end up winning the race this year or where everybody will finish? But put Ryan Briscoe down to finish second.

The Team Penske driver has finished second in five of his last six races.

Last year, it was Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves who was stuck in second, coming here, as Briscoe does now, with five second-place finishes and then ending up second here as well.

Castroneves ended up setting the single season series record for runner-up finishes with eight before he scored a pair of late-season wins prior to going on to win his third Indianapolis 500 in May.

It was a mind-boggling season for Castroneves. He was the only driver who was running at the finish of all 17 races. He had 15 Top 5 finishes. Yet he still finished -- you guessed it -- second in the series standings, 17 points back of Scott Dixon.

"I couldn't believe I had eight second-place finishes and the IndyCar record. I never thought anyone would come close to that, but it looks like Ryan may tie or even break my record," Castroneves said yesterday before leaving Brazil.

He met with Brazil's president, along with series officials, to attempt to bring a series event to his home nation.

"I'm sure it's getting somewhat frustrating for Ryan to keep finishing second, but with the competition so tight, consistency is extremely important and you have to remain focused on scoring as many championship points as possible.

"If you throw away points going for a win, it's not going to help in the long run."

Castroneves said there's been some seriousness and some banter going on back and forth between the two teammates on the topic.

"Yes, we've talked about it and joked around a bit but Ryan is a very smart driver. He doesn't need me to tell him that at this stage in the game every point counts and that second is not a bad place to finish in a race if it gets you closer to your ultimate goal --the championship."

While Penske races for first, not second, Tim Cedric, president of Penske Racing says you have to look at the big picture.

"Ryan has really progressed in terms of being a championship contender. When you look at where he was last year in the championship compared to where he is this year, it's really impressive.

"I'm confident he will continue to turn second-place finishes into wins as the opportunities arise.."

Briscoe moved up 13 points on the two leaders from their Target Chip Ganassi series rivals in the last two races. As the series comes to Edmonton, Dario Franchitti of Scotland leads with 347 points, followed by Dixon of New Zealand at 345 and Australian Briscoe at 334.

Castroneves is at 269 and Danica Patrick the top American, sitting fifth with 266.

"The important thing is the championship," Briscoe said from North Carolina yesterday.

"We had two goals at the start of the season. Win the Indianapolis 500 and win the series championship. Helio won Indy. I'm trying to win the championship.

"I'd love to come to Edmonton and win the races and take the series lead. But if it takes coming in second every single race, I'll be happy to do it. It's been a fantastic season. It's exciting to be in the hunt."

Briscoe would love to be the one to bring Roger Penske the series title, just as he was the one to deliver Penske his 300th win last year in what was also his first series win.

Briscoe, after a horrific accident almost ended his career, made a triumphant return in IndyCar last year thanks to Penske giving him a chance to reboot his career.

"It's been a huge experience for me. They took me on board, helped me along and gave me the opportunity to come back. It's been awesome.

"Winning the 300th race for Roger in Milwaukee last year on the 30th anniversary of Rick Mears winning his first for Roger there will always be the most memorable moment of my career."

But the big payoff would be to give Penske the championship to go with Helio's 500.

"Now it's definitely all about the championship."


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