After the carnage subsided and the checkered flag flew, it was Mike Conway left standing victorious at Long Beach - and for the second time of his career.
Long Beach, Calif. – When a late-race accident shuffled the running order of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Mike Conway seized upon the opportunity and drove to victory in the 80-lap race around the twisting street course.
For Conway, he has now won twice at Long Beach, including the 2011 edition, and picked up another trophy at Belle Isle a year ago. Driving the Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Conway scored the second-ever win for the team.
“It wasn’t easy after starting far back in 17th,” he said. “The guys had a good strategy and I passed a lot of people. I knew on that last restart I had to get by Will Power, as he had one push-to-pass left, and I knew Carlos Munoz was behind me, and it was going to be hard to keep him back. I got by Will and when Scott Dixon and Justin Wilson touched in front of me and then it was between me and Scott.
“I started pushing hard, hoping for a chance to get by. My crew said Dixon was saving fuel, but it didn’t look like that to me. When he pulled in, I knew we could do it and now to win two times at Long Beach is awesome. I can’t believe it and to do it at such a special place is great.”
To move up with the leaders, Conway had to maneuver through the multi-car wreck that derailed six cars. He credited his spotter for guiding him through the melee. “I didn’t really see what happen and the call over the radio got me through. Luckily, we picked up four positions, which made it fortunate for us.”
Conway damaged his front wing at the start but he didn’t believe it affected his car that much.
Will Power came from 14th to finish second, ending up a mere .9005 seconds behind the victor.
Said the quiet-spoken driver, “We were going to be happy with a top-five, so second is okay. Dixon was real quick but I had one push-to-pass left and if he hadn’t stopped, I might have been able to catch him and we may have crashed with Carlos (Munoz) winning the race. It was a good day for us.”
On the 32nd lap, Power and Simon Pagenaud came together in turn 7 with the latter spinning around, losing his quest for victory. Pagenaud let it be known that Power was at fault and the Australian more or less agreed with him, although he thought his foe was running too slow at the time.
Munoz helped Andretti Autosport salvage its day with a strong third-place finish.
Said the Colombian, “The race went pretty well. It's not the way I'd like to earn my third place with so many accidents, but this is racing. Anything can happen, especially on this track, especially in IndyCar, anything can happen. But I'm really happy. It was a really nice race. In the first turn we were struggling a lot with the rear tires. I was fighting with the car trying to maintain the position. After that my guys, my crew guys did an awesome job on the pit stops and everything.
“You know, I just pushed pretty hard on the last two laps to try to overtake Will, but it was really difficult. But I'm happy, second podium in the IndyCar, and first podium this year. So I'm going to keep pushing.”
Juan Pablo Montoya and Pagenaud were fourth and fifth followed by Mikhail Aleshin, Oriol Servia, Marco Andretti, Sebastian Saavedra and Carlos Huertas.
Helio Castroneves and Dixon were 11th and 12th, respectively.
In the wreck on the 56th lap, race dominator Ryan Hunter-Reay struck the car of Josef Newgarden in the fourth turn, triggering mayhem. In addition to Hunter-Reay and Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato, Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Jack Hawksworth were also involved.
Hunter-Reay had led 51 of the laps to that point, and he was disgusted with the outcome.
“We had a strong car and (Josef) Newgarden came out of pit lane and I knew he was on cold tires,” he said. “He was really struggling to get up to speed through Turn 1, and then through Turn 3 he had some wheel spin so I went for it. I started to back out because he was closing the door. I could have waited a little later, maybe that's my fault but at the same time I had at least a half a car up alongside of him so I went for it. That's the type of driver I am, I go for it. I feel bad for everybody involved. Our car was so strong today... just very, very disappointed. I went for it because I want to win the race."
Newgarden was not complimentary of his rival’s actions.
When racing resumed Dixon led Justin Wilson, but the latter’s strong run ended shortly thereafter when the two touched with Wilson ending up in a wall.
Dixon knew he was running low on fuel and he had to come in three laps from the finish. He did lead 22 laps. Four caution periods slowed the race for 18 laps.
The IndyCar Series races next in two weeks on the road course at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.