Conway Shocks Long Beach Field
Team owner Michael Andretti had a long talk with Hunter-Reay – the 2012 IndyCar Series champion – after the race at the team’s hospitality area and believes his driver should have displayed more patience.
“I told Ryan he had no patience,” Andretti said. “He just didn’t have enough patience. I think he could have passed him in the next corner. We were really looking good. James was a victim and he should be upset – rightfully so.
“We can’t take away from Carlos’ race. He did a hell of a job. But when you give up a potential first and second like that it’s frustrating. We were looking really good. This is Honda’s backyard and we had them handled and then Chevy finishes one-two. You have to take the points when you can get them and we didn’t.”
Conway won this race in 2011 for Andretti Autosport and Michael Andretti admitted he was happy to see him get the victory after the crash.
“But we knew what Mike had and looked at him and I was worried about him but he would have probably finished fourth if we didn’t have our problems,” Andretti said.
While it may be easy to speculate that Andretti’s drivers would be in victory lane if not for the crash the race winner drove a very smart and calculated race to get the victory. He also overcome a broken front wing that did not seem to affect his race car in the closing stages as he was able to successfully keep Power’s Chevrolet from passing him for position.
Once Dixon had to pit for fuel, Conway was able to keep Power in his side-view mirror and win the race after starting from way back in 17th position.
“We really had to fight for every position,” Conway said. “The guys made a good call on strategy. We were able to bump past some people, and on race restarts we gained some positions as well.
“I know on that last restart I had to get by Will, because I knew he had one push to pass left, and I knew that Munoz behind me had four, and Munoz was very good all day, so it was hard ‑ it was going to be hard to keep him behind. So managed to get by Will and then was kind of all over the back of Justin and Scott and they were battling it out as well. And they touched going into turn 8, and it got close to me and Scott. I was thinking of driving up both of those guys but thought better of it.
“Then Scott was kind of all over them, but when the safety car came out again, I thought maybe I’ll have a chance to get by him here, but I knew at the same time he may not have enough fuel to get to the end. So I wasn’t sure, because I could see he wasn’t saving much fuel, and the guys are saying he’s saving fuel because he can’t make it. I was like, oh, I don’t know. Maybe he saved enough.
“I was like, you know, this is it now. We can make this two times winning at Long Beach. Yeah, awesome. I can’t believe it really. It’s been a really tough day to be here. After, yeah, just a fantastic job by the team, and thanks to Long Beach again for putting on such a good show.”
Conway has made the most of his second chance in IndyCar after he climbed out of A.J. Foyt’s race car before the season’s final race in 2012 at Fontana, California and announced he didn’t want to drive on oval tracks any more. By admitting to his fear of high-speed ovals it could have been the end of Conway’s IndyCar career.
But he was a part-time driver last year for Dale Coyne Racing and won one of the two double-header races at Belle Isle in Detroit last year. He was able to get a street and road course-only deal with Carpenter for 2014.
“At the end of 2012, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it back,” Conway said. “But I managed to pick up some rides last year and kind of showed that I’ve still got a lot of speed, and we won in Detroit as well. I still wasn’t sure at the end of last year what was going to happen. To be able to pick this up is a dream come true. It couldn’t have worked out any better between me and Ed. I’m very thankful for the position I’m in and trying to make the most of it.”
Conway was leading the race at St. Petersburg, Fla., two weeks ago but didn’t hear the call to “Pit” and failed to come down pit road. He pitted one lap later but fell far down the field because of the mistake and never found his way back to the front.
He made no such mistakes at Long Beach.
“I’ve got to say a big thanks to Ed for making it happen, and all the guys at Fuzzy’s Racing to put me in this position,” Conway said. “I think it’s a great combination. I think everyone’s quite excited about it. It’s great to repay them this soon with a win.
“I think Ed’s going to be awesome on the ovals, and he’s really looking forward to the Texas test next week and Indy in May. It’s great to be part of it.”
There are a lot of great drivers who have never won this race and now Conway has won it twice.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,” Conway said. “I got that same feeling, that feeling in my stomach and not being able to get any words out because it kind of just meant so much – probably the same as the first time. It’s always tough the first time as well.
“It’s just a really special place. It’s so hard to win around here, and to do it twice, I’ve not done that on many tracks, so to do it here is really cool.”