Ryan Briscoe nervous but excited for Panther Racing opportunity

Michael Hickey

Ryan Briscoe's return to the IZOD IndyCar Series has been extended due to the firing of JR Hildebrand at Panther Racing. Panther hired Briscoe to drive the No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet this weekend in Detroit.

The past calendar year has seen Ryan Briscoe race for three different teams in the IZOD IndyCar Series including Team Penske the past few seasons, Chip Ganassi Racing in the Indianapolis 500 and now Panther Racing on the Streets of Belle Isle following the team parting ways with JR Hildebrand.

Team owner John Barnes called Briscoe on Tuesday morning and suggested that he might have an opening, which was made official Thursday morning when Panther released Hildebrand. While Briscoe wasn't prepared for the opportunity to race this weekend, he's looking to make the most of it with two races this weekend just outside of Detroit.

"Even though you can't compare Indianapolis to Detroit, I did just spend the entire last month in an Indy car," Briscoe said. "So I feel like I am comfortable in the cockpit and I have been doing plenty of racing this year so I feel like I am sharp and ready to go."

Briscoe has competed full-time in the American LeMans Series for Level 5 Racing, so his road course skills shouldn't be as rusty as one might think. Helping matters, Briscoe doesn't feel that far removed from his last street course IndyCar race, on the streets of Baltimore in September.

"Baltimore feels like yesterday which is the last time I was in one of these cars on a road course," Briscoe said. "So I am feeling good, feeling fit and obviously it's a great opportunity being a double header this weekend -- more mileage, two races and two chances to get up front and do a good job, so I feel it's the perfect weekend for me to come back and give it a shot."

Briscoe added that he's still committed full-time to ALMS and Level 5 and that any future IndyCar opportunities this season will have to work around his sports car schedule. Briscoe has yet to officially sign up for additional races with Panther but hopes he will be competing in more IndyCar races this season in advance of a possible full-time return by 2014.

The Australian driver said that if he hadn't driven in the Indianapolis 500 for Ganassi, it's quite likely that he would have competed at the Speedway in a second Panther car. This past week wasn't the first time Briscoe and Barnes have considered joining forces, but it was the first time it happened to work out.

Briscoe just sees this as another opportunity to impress in the IndyCar Series and he's excited to do it with Panther.

"I think this is a great opportunity for me and it's a great team and I have a lot of faith in John Barnes and his team and this is just a great thing for me."

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