FT. WORTH June 8, 2012—Mike Conway posted his career best qualifying effort on an oval track with his 8th place run in the ABC Supply Honda for Saturday night’s Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway. His previous best oval qualifying run was ninth at Iowa Speedway in 2011.
Conway qualified at 214.458mph but because of an unscheduled engine change, he will incur a 10-spot grid penalty and will start 18th in the 228-lap race around the 1.5 mile speedway. Foyt’s team changed the engine in their Houston race shop before the engine reached its 1850-mile rotation schedule which was due to occur this weekend. They elected to go ahead with the engine change and incur the penalty at a track where qualifying isn’t quite as significant to the end result.
“The run was better than what we had in practice early on so I’m happy that we got the car more dialed in,” Conway said. “We just need to work a bit more on it this evening in practice to get it dialed in for when we’re in a big pack.”
Things were not looking very good earlier in the day when a pit lane fire erupted during refuelingof the No. 14 car in the first practice session. A malfunction with the fuel hose saw fuel spill out when the hose popped out of its connector; the fuel caught fire when it came in contact with the hot exhaust headers. Conway was able to continue in the session once the fire was extinguished; with a speed of 212.9mph he was 12th out of 25 cars.
In the brief car fire, fueler Rodney Klausmeyer suffered second degree burns to his right hand. Klausmeyer, also the team’s transporter driver, was treated at the track’s infield hospital and released. He will not be fueling for the team in the immediate future. No replacement has been named yet.