In Ryan Briscoe's first Texas race for Team Penske, in 2008, he started and finished third. In his second, last year, he started and finished second.
Briscoe continued his positive Texas trend in last night's Firestone 550k, leading 102 laps and opening up a big gap on a hard-charging Danica Patrick in the later stages for his first win of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season. His victory helped make up for Penske's disappointing Indianapolis 500 last weekend, when Briscoe crashed and finished 24th, and teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves barely cracked the top ten.
But that's not to say that the night was a complete success for Penske; Castroneves was taken out of the race just past halfway when Mario Moraes squeezed him into the wall. Power, who had been running third in the late stages of the race, had to give up his position to pit for fuel with four laps to go, falling to 14th, one lap down.
Instead, the top team overall in the Texas tilt was Andretti Autosport. Besides Patrick's second-place finish, Marco Andretti placed third for the second week in a row, and Tony Kanaan wound up sixth. Ryan Hunter-Reay, in his first race since having thumb surgery and potentially his last race for Andretti due to sponsorship reasons, placed seventh.
In between the Andretti cars were the two Chip Ganassi Racing teams of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, respectively. Franchitti managed to lead 86 laps of the 228-lap race, but after losing his clean air was never quite the same.
Alex Tagliani and the FAZZT Race Team continued to show promise, but were once again bitten by bad luck. Tagliani led 33 laps, third most in the field, but a lap 167 pit stop in which fueler Phil McRobert did not remove the fuel hose before Tagliani put the car in gear altered the entire course of his race. Adding insult to injury, the team fell seven laps short on fuel and had to pit before the end of the race, falling three laps down and finishing 18th.
Texas was not generally kind to the series' six rookies. While Alex Lloyd and Dale Coyne Racing carried on their momentum from a fourth-place finish at Indy, crossing the line eighth, Lloyd was the only rookie driver to finish on the lead lap. Meanwhile, Mario Romancini was the only other rookie driver to finish, two laps down in 17th.
Three rookies - Bertrand Baguette, Simona de Silvestro, and Takuma Sato - were involved in crashes that prematurely ended their nights. De Silvestro had a particularly fiery crash in which safety crews struggled to remove her from her burning car. The last rookie, Jay Howard, experienced mechanical failure after 37 laps to finish last.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race will be the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway in two weeks. Franchitti won last year.