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Oct 27

Australian ruled Australia

Surfers Paradise

Champagne-soaked Ryan Briscoe said that to date the Nikon Indy 300 is the biggest victory in his racing career

Tens of thousands of fellow Australians ringing the 2.795-mile street course inside and out cheered loud and long in acclimation.

Briscoe held off reigning IndyCar Series champion and Brisbane-born Scott Dixon by 0.5019 of a second to become the first Aussie and second Penske Racing driver (Emerson Fittipaldi in 1992) to win in the race’s 18 years. That it was a non-points race mattered little to Briscoe.

“It means almost a million points to me,” said Briscoe, who recorded his third victory in his first season driving the No. 6 Team Penske car. “I’m just so happy for all the fans. It was a great event and we’re going to turn up the wick tonight. It’s really special. It’s a great place to have an IndyCar race.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2003 Surfers Paradise winner under Champ Car sanctioning, finished third in the No. 17 Ethanol car for Rahal Letterman Racing. Alex Tagliani was fourth in his third start in the No. 36 Conquest Racing car, and Oriol Servia advanced 10 positions to finish fifth for KV Racing Technology.

Servia’s teammate, pole sitter Will Power, led the initial 16 laps. But a mistake in the quick backstretch Esses led to contact with the inside retaining barrier and ended his day.

That left the door open for Briscoe, who started third. He regained the lead on Lap 43 after the final round of pit stops in the physically demanding 60-lap race and was able to remain in front of the pressing Dixon.

“We had some good restarts and pit stops, didn’t make any mistakes and that was the key thing today,” said Briscoe, who led a field-high 39 laps. “I have to give credit to the guys at Team Penske. My new engineer Eric (Cowdin) did a great job all weekend.”

Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, had started on the front row and knocked more than a second off Briscoe’s advantage in the final two laps. If the race were 61 laps …

“We were quicker in different spots,” Dixon said. “He was quicker than me, but we were quicker on the backside. I don’t know, if he had made a mistake, we could have got him.”

E.J. Viso moved up four spots in the No. 33 HVM Racing car to sixth, and Helio Castroneves closed out the season with a seventh place in the No. 3 Team Penske car.

Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year Hideki Mutoh of Andretti Green Racing advanced eight positions to eighth, while Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal finished ninth and Buddy Rice checked in 10th for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

“The Formula Dream car was really good, but what got us a top-10 finish was the race strategy,” Mutoh said. “The yellow came out at one point and I was able to pass a few cars and stay upfront. I’m already looking forward to my second season with Andretti Green Racing.”

Among drivers who made their debuts with new teams, Dan Wheldon gained seven positions to finish 11th in the No. 4 Delphi National Guard car for Panther Racing.

Dario Franchitti, who started fourth and led one lap, finished 16th after making contact with the Turn 6 tire barrier on Lap 29. He was able to return and was running at the finish. Vitor Meira finished 14th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car for A.J. Foyt Racing.

Notables

-What would pre-race festivities on the Gold Coast be without “Waltzing Matilda?” Bree De Rome, a 14-year-old country singer, performed.
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-Rahal Letterman Racing cars have made 23 starts at Surfers Paradise dating to 1992.

-Hunter-Reay’s third place is a team high.

– Tagliani (seventh in the No. 36 entry) gave Conquest Racing its best starting position of the season, and his fourth place was a season high for the first-year IndyCar Series team.

-Franchitti set the fastest lap of the race at 1 minute, 35.1552 seconds; 105.743 mph) on Lap 54.

Click it: Nikon Indy 300 box score

source: indycar.com – Dave Lewandowski

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