There's no pole position in the IZOD IndyCar Series – and perhaps the world – more prestigious than the pole for the Indianapolis 500.
Ryan Briscoe knows this and celebrates this. The winner of this year's Indy 500 pole takes a great degree of pride in being the fastest car over four laps on Saturday's Pole Day, which earned him the top spot in qualifying.
But Briscoe also knows it doesn't mean all that much when it comes to Sunday's 500.
"Winning the pole at Indy, I feel, means more than just the starting in the first position for the race," Briscoe said Monday during a media visit to Charlotte. "It's an achievement we're all very proud of, but it doesn't mean anything other than having won the pole."
Therein lies the dual nature of the Indy 500 pole: It's both awesome and meaningless at the same time.
Teams put days of work toward qualifying alone, and the prestige, pride and media attention that comes with being the pole winner is a tremendous boost.
And as team owner Roger Penske and four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears have told Briscoe: "There are two races at the Indy 500 – the first race is Pole Day and the second race is Race Day."
"Obviously Race Day means a whole lot more, but Pole Day is treated as its own event," Briscoe said.
On the other hand, all of that ends on Sunday when the green flag drops. Briscoe said with the new IndyCar chassis, it's actually easier to pass because "it feels like you can draft up a lot."
"You don't have to start on the front row to win the Indy 500," he said. "It's a long race – especially with this new car, there's going to be a lot of passing. ... And almost starting on the pole could be a disadvantage, because you're going to be a sitting duck right away."
So it's Mission: Accomplished for one of the two events. Now all Briscoe has to do is win the big one.