Mike Conway Will Start Seventh in Grand Prix of Long Beach
LONG BEACH, CA April 14, 2012—Mike Conway will start seventh in the ABC Supply Dallara in the Grand Prix of Long Beach Sunday afternoon due to a strange combination of circumstances that saw all of the Chevrolet-powered teams incurring a 10-position grid penalty.
Conway qualified the Honda-powered No. 14 car in the 14th position with a qualifying speed of 101.375mph around the 1.96-mile street course.
“I'm pretty disappointed because I really wanted to have a strong run here,” said Conway, who is the defending champion of the Grand Prix of Long Beach. “The ABC car is not quite feeling the way I want yet. We just have to keep working at it.”
Strong storms washed out most of practice on Friday. The team is making substantive changes to the car this evening which Conway will be able to test in the 30-minute morning warm-up.
“We are disappointed with our speed in qualifications but I’m going to say we got caught out by the weather,” said Team Director Larry Foyt. “We are still learning this new car, and our plan was to try some new ideas we thought would be better but it wasn’t the case. We are always learning and will go back to some things we are certain of for the race.”
The situation with the Chevy-powered teams arose out of a test session last week at Infineon Raceway. Following the test, the engine manufacturer instructed all of its teams to change their engines before the Long Beach event. Since the engine changes occurred before the 1850-mile scheduled rotation, the teams were assessed a 10-spot grid penalty per IndyCar rules. The reason behind the rule is to discourage engine manufacturers from escalating costs by building special qualifier engines. By building engines to last for 1850 miles, fewer engines would be needed throughout the season, curtailing costs to the team owners.
While the grid penalty has been assessed this season, it is the first race that an engine manufacturer has voluntarily changed all of their engines before an event. The magnitude of that decision has created a situation never seen before in IndyCar racing.
Veteran Dario Franchitti, who qualified fourth, will now start first while rookie Josef Newgarden, who qualified seventh, will start alongside Franchitti for the rookie’s best start this season. Starting third through sixth are: Justin Wilson, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, and Takuma Sato while Graham Rahal will start alongside Conway.
Ryan Briscoe won the pole with a speed of 103.26 mph, but he will start 11th. Qualifying second through sixth (with grid positions in parentheses) were: Will Power (12th), Ryan Hunter-Reay (13th), Franchitti (1st), E.J. Viso (15th) and James Hinchcliffe (16th). Three Lotus-powered teams were also assessed a grid penalty but Alex Tagliani was not one of them. He will start 10th -- the best start for a Lotus-powered car this season.
The shake-up in the grid should provide a most interesting race which will be televised on NBC Sports Network starting at 3:30 p.m