Race Report: Honda Indy Toronto
TORONTO July 8, 2012—Driving the ABC Supply Dallara/Honda, Mike Conway sliced his way through the IZOD IndyCar Series field twice to finish third in the Honda Indy Toronto.
There were hints throughout this season about the young Brit’s magic with the No. 14 car, but it wasn’t until today that driver and team combined to stage their best performance on the track and in the pits.
“The guys at A.J. Foyt Racing have been working really hard all year,” Conway said. “We’ve been getting there, and this weekend I felt like we started off better than we have before, so we just kept dialing in and come warm-up this morning, I was pretty happy with the car.
“I knew that we could work our way forward, but I was surprised at how good we were on that first stint and we could just move our way forward to the front. But you know with that yellow, we got caught out there, I was in the back and had to do it all again, but it was a lot of fun, so big thank you to my ABC Supply crew.”
Conway, who qualified in the Firestone Fast Six in his two previous starts at Toronto’s Exhibition Place, didn’t make it past the first round of qualifying Saturday and he was annoyed with himself for the shortfall. Ironically, despite the great starts, he hadn’t finished a race in Toronto until today.
Conway’s 13th place qualifying effort was only one place shy of the Foyt team’s best start in four attempts (12th with Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2009), although they did finish in the top 11 in their past three races, including fifth place in 2011. However, the podium finish was the best ever showing here for team and driver.
“It’s good to finally get a podium for everyone involved,” Team Director Larry Foyt said. “Everybody’s been working so hard this year and we’ve been fast many times but we haven’t gotten a lot to show for it. We had a little setback with that untimely yellow but we fought back and Mike drove a great race. So for the team, for Mike, and for ABC Supply, it’s great to finally realize the potential that I knew was there. Hopefully this will give us some momentum to finish strong in these final five races.”Conway started 11th because of grid penalties incurred by Alex Tagliani and James Hinchcliffe. In two laps he began his march to the front, methodically picking off cars—even passing eventual winner Hunter-Reay by lap 20. He moved into fourth by the time the full course caution came out for Graham Rahal’s accident which spelled bad news for Conway and the top three drivers ahead of him: Will Power, Dario Franchitti and Sebastian Bourdais as none of them had pitted.
When they did, they found themselves behind those who had. Making Conway’s plight worse was he switched to Firestone’s harder primary tires and was running against many drivers who were on the softer alternate tires. Restarting 16th, Conway dropped to 18th before the tires ‘came in’ but when they did, he began moving to the front.
“It was a bit of a struggle in the beginning of the middle stint,” Conway said, “but I just hung in there and waited for other guys’ tires to go off and then started picking people off again. The guys did a great job all day on pit stops and we just kept picking people off.”
By lap 63, he was up to 12th when Foyt asked him to start conserving fuel so they could make it to the end. Fourteen laps later, Foyt told Conway, now 11th, to go for it and he passed two cars in one lap and Helio Castroneves for eighth two laps later. The fuel strategy played out in Conway’s favor as three drivers ahead of him had to duck into the pits for fuel during the full course yellow for Josef Newgarden’s accident. Conway was in fifth when the race restarted with four laps to go.
Regarding the final restart, Conway recounted, “It was a bit hairy because it was so dirty on the inside [of the track], I just slowed down enough and tried to avoid Charlie [Kimball], I tagged him a little bit but luckily we both made it through the corner. It was kind of hard to see that he was actually on the inside of Seb [Sebastian Bourdais], so I think Seb was taken down on that one which was unfortunate. But a great job for our guys, great podium. It’s been a while since we’ve had one so all credit to them.”
The race finished under yellow as Bourdais’ crash in turn 1 was followed by a five-car crash in turn 3 involving Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti, Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud.
Conway picked up four spots in the points standings and is now 18th.
Hunter-Reay scored his third straight victory padding his point lead over Will Power by 34 points. Kimball posted a career best second place finish and was the best of the Ganassi juggernaut today. Trailing Conway were Tony Kanaan and Oriol Servia.
The series heads to Edmonton, Canada in 10 days for their next race July 22.