Hildebrand’s loss is Briscoe’s gain at Detroit GP

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DETROIT (AP) - Ryan Briscoe expected to be flying to Europe after the Indianapolis 500.

Instead, he landed in Detroit.

“It was a surprise for sure,” he said Friday. “It wasn’t planned.”

Briscoe said Panther Racing managing partner John Barnes called him Tuesday morning, asking if he was available if needed for the Detroit Grand Prix. Two days later, he had a temporary job as JR Hildebrand’s loss ended up being Briscoe’s gain.

Panther Racing parted ways with Hildebrand on Thursday after his third major mistake since joining the team in 2011. The team called it “mutual agreement” with the 2009 Indy Lights champion, who made 37 starts in the No. 4 National Guard/Panther Racing Chevrolet.

Briscoe is only scheduled to race Saturday and Sunday’s races in the Motor City because he’s committed to running full time for Level 5 Motorsports in the American Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of LeMans.

“Any IndyCar races I’ll be doing for the rest of the year will have to work around my commitment with those guys,” he said.

Briscoe spun out during Friday’s opening practice session, but avoided a wall on Belle Isle’s 2.36-mile street course. He finished 12th in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 for Chip Ganassi Racing in his only IndCar race this year.

“Even though you can’t compare Indianapolis to Detroit, I just spent the whole last month in an IndyCar,” Briscoe said. “So I feel like I’m comfortable in the cockpit. I’ve been doing plenty of racing this year so I feel like I’m sharp and ready to go. It’s been a whirlwind for sure, but the team has done an amazing job in getting the car turned around and getting me all fitted and ready to go.”

The 31-year-old Briscoe spent most of the previous five seasons with Team Penske after making his IndyCar Series debut with Ganassi in 2005. The Australian has seven career IndyCar Series wins, including one last year.

Hildebrand almost won the Indy 500 two years ago, but crashed in the final turn and finished second to Dan Wheldon.

In this year’s IndyCar series opener, he wrecked Will Power under caution at St. Petersburg, saying he was distracted while talking with his team and adjusting equipment in the car. In Sunday’s Indy 500, he lost control in Turn 1 and slid into the outside wall _ the first wreck of the race. The 25-year-old native of Sausalito, Calif., is winless in 39 IndyCar starts. He had one top-five finish in five races this year.

“I am very confident that I will land on my feet and be back on track competing with the big boys soon enough,” Hildebrand tweeted Thursday.

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Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/larrylage

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