Indianapolis — Ryan Briscoe was home in Connecticut, getting ready to leave for France next week for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, when he received a call he had been anticipating.
Ever since the devastating wreck that sent James Hinchcliffe to the hospital during Monday's practice for the Indianapolis 500, the natural assumption had been Briscoe would step into the No. 5 car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the 99th running of the race.
It became official when team co-owner Sam Schmidt dialed his number Tuesday morning.
"Obviously coming into the Indy 500, the day before Carb Day, is not ideal," Briscoe said Thursday, shortly before taking his first few laps in a special familiarization session.
"It's not how you prepare for this race," the 33-year-old Australian said. "Often a year out, you're visualizing how you're going to practice and all the prep you're going to do.
When something like this comes up, you have to throw that all out the window."
Briscoe is no rookie. He has started the race nine times, three from the front row.
"After we got through Monday, all that situation, and started looking forward to this weekend, it was an obvious decision," Schmidt said. "It was great that he was still available."
Hinchcliffe had qualified outside Row 8 when he took to the track Monday for practice. His wreck occurred in Turn 3 when a piece of the car's suspension, later identified as the rocker arm, failed and sent the car slamming into the wall at more than 220 mph. Part of the suspension wound up piercing the tub and going through Hinchcliffe's upper leg and pelvis. Despite massive blood loss, Hinchcliffe underwent surgery and is expected to recover.
In the meantime, Schmidt had to come up with a driver for Sunday.
Briscoe arrived in Indianapolis on Wednesday, just in time to get fitted for the car. He wasn't able to take laps until Thursday, and even then it was with nobody else on the track. He'll get his first taste of traffic today.
"The team has been amazingly resilient. It's remarkable," Schmidt said. "We've been working nonstop, basically taking the 250 or 300 hours it takes to prepare a car for this place and done that nonstop since Monday night, and now we're here."
Kenseth wins pole
Matt Kenseth won the pole Thursday night for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600.
Kenseth turned a lap at 194.252 mph at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the third round of NASCAR's knockout qualifying format for his second pole of the Sprint Cup season.
Joey Logano will start alongside Kenseth on the front row Sunday night in the longest Sprint Cup race of the year. It is Logano's best qualifying effort ever at Charlotte.
Gordon to Fox in 2016
Jeff Gordon will join Fox as a full-time analyst in 2016, teaming with Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip in the three-man booth.
Gordon is retiring at the end of this season.
The four-time NASCAR champion agreed to a multi-year contract with Fox that will begin later this season when Gordon will do in-race reporting from inside his No. 24 Chevrolet.
Schedule: Friday, practice (NBC Sports Network, 11 a.m.-noon, 1-3:30 p.m.); Sunday, race, noon (ABC, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.).
Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (oval, 2.5 miles).
Defending champion: Ryan Hunter-Reay
Schedule: Saturday, practice (Fox Sports 1, 10-11 a.m., 1-2 p.m.); Sunday, race, 6 p.m. (Fox, 5:30-10:30 p.m.).
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway (oval, 1.5 miles).
Defending champion: Jimmie Johnson