Race Report: Edmonton Indy

EDMONTON, Canada July 22, 2012-Serving notice.  Starting deep in the 25-car field, Mike Conway drove one of his best races of the season as he took the ABC Supply Honda-powered Dallara to 11th spot in the caution-free Edmonton Indy Sunday afternoon.

Without benefit of a yellow flag to gain track position on the 2.22-mile airport circuit, Conway passed 12 cars on track even after the team had to adapt its race strategy near the time of its first pit stop. Conway had to aggressively save fuel in the final two stints.

The young Brit worked his way up to 16th before pitting for tires and fuel on lap 23. With most teams pitting on lap 25 or 26, Conway did a good job to conserve fuel as he next pitted on lap 50 while 13th. The competition pitted on laps 51 or 52. On the alternate red tires now, he moved up to 12th by lap 60 but that’s when the fuel laps became more conservative as he had to make certain fuel numbers to go the final 25 laps without stopping for a splash. He registered his quickest lap of the race (which at the time was the quickest overall race lap) on lap 64 when he passed Simon Pagenaud for 11th. He set his sights on Scott Dixon and closed to within striking distance but could not turn up the wick to pass Dixon and also make it to the end of the 75-lap race.

“It was a fun race,” Conway said afterwards. “We were going to try a different strategy and after the first stop, we had to change because it wasn’t going to work. So we had to save a lot of fuel and move forward which we managed to do. The engineers did a great job all weekend. The ABC Supply car was really good and now we just have to continue this form at Mid-Ohio.”The performance was bittersweet because the team had to think about what could have been had the fuel pressure problems been solved before qualifying instead afterwards.

From the start of the weekend, Conway had been in the top three in every session until midway through Saturday morning’s practice session when the fuel pressure woes began. Before qualifying, the team changed the fuel pump and went over the fuel system, knowing they couldn’t be certain the problem was truly fixed until the car was on track. The car only made one lap in qualifying when the fuel pressure problem arose--and was worse. After a quick fix which didn’t work, the car was taken to the paddock.

This time the ABC Supply tore the whole fuel system apart and discovered what they thought might be the culprit. However, the real test would come in the race morning warmup—where once again Conway was third quickest. Problem solved…finally, and in time for the race.

“It’s a shame we had to start so far back because we had a really good car,” Team Director Larry Foyt said. “We figured we had a shot at the pole but we had a fuel pressure problem catch us out. We fixed it and learned from it, and the car was fast again in the race. Mike drove a great race, passed a lot of cars and the crew’s stops were solid so overall, it was a strong weekend for the whole ABC Supply team.”

The most encouraging news is that Don Halliday and his engineering staff appear to have figured out the type of set-up that Conway likes on the temporary circuits as he has been very competitive in his last two outings. At Edmonton, the ABC Supply crew didn’t have to make any changes to the wing settings during the stops.

The team is heading to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this week where they are testing (along with most of the IZOD IndyCar teams) on Thursday. They will have the weekend off before heading to Mid-Ohio for the race the following week.

Helio Castroneves won the Edmonton Indy, his first victory since the season opener in St. Petersburg.  Finishing second through 10th were Takuma Sato, Will Power, Graham Rahal, Alex Tagliani, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ryan Briscoe, Justin Wilson and Dixon.