AJ Foyt Racing
LONG BEACH, CA April 15, 2012—Friday the 13th came two days later for Mike Conway and the ABC Supply team.
Despite starting a ‘lucky’ seventh in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Conway suffered one misfortune after another beginning with getting hit and shuffled back two positions on the start due in part to the scramble triggered by the front row starters’ altercation. The race was yellow-flagged after pole sitter Dario Franchitti and outside pole sitter Josef Newgarden made contact with Newgarden ending up against the wall.
The race restarted on lap 4, and Ryan Hunter-Reay found a way past Conway for eighth. Three laps later, Foyt radioed to Conway to save fuel since he couldn’t pass. Conway was running consistent laps between Hunter-Reay and Ryan Briscoe when a full course yellow came out for Sebastian Bourdais’s slide into a tire barrier on lap 20.
Conway pitted along with half of the field but the stop didn’t go as smoothly as it could have. By the time he circled around, he was in 16th position although seven cars didn’t pit.
The race barely got restarted when the caution flew again for the accident involving Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti (who nearly got upside down) in Turn 8. Then Conway radioed in he couldn’t go to sixth gear and the engineers told him a couple of fixes to try, none of which worked. His car stopped on the backstretch. The safety crew got him back to his pit box.
The ABC Supply crew noticed damage on the gearbox which appeared to the result of a hit which may have triggered the gearbox problems. They replaced the gear cluster and sent him on his way but he’d lost six laps in the interim.
The plan was to log laps and finish the race, but just past halfway, Conway radioed in that he thought he was out of fuel, which turned out not to be the cause of the loss of power. He pulled over in Turn 4 and then made a hasty exit as the back of the car was on fire. It was quickly extinguished and Conway didn’t sustain any injuries but he was done for the day.
He placed 22nd in the race and slipped to 15th in the standings.
“It was a tough race for us,” said Larry Foyt, team director. “Although we started seventh, [due to the Chevrolet-powered teams’ grid penalty for unscheduled engine changes] we didn’t have the speed in qualifying, so we made a bunch of changes for the race. The ABC car seemed pretty decent in the race--the lap times were good. After the first pit stop we were letting things play out. Our pace was pretty good and then we started having the gearbox issues. Mike came in and we changed the gear cluster but we noticed there was a lot of damage to the back of the car and the gearbox casing. We’re going to look to see if the gearbox problem resulted from that or something else. Shortly after that he lost power and we’re still not sure what caused it so we have to look into that too. Rough day for us, definitely took a hit in the points but we just have to rebound in Brazil.”