Conway storms to maiden IndyCar victory
17 April 2011 – Britain’s Mike Conway secured his maiden IndyCar victory at Long Beach on Sunday afternoon. The Andretti Autosport driver snatched the lead after the final Safety Car period, and went on to take the chequered flag with a margin of 6.3 seconds back to Ryan Briscoe in second. Reigning Champion Dario Franchitti completed the podium after Will Power was tapped out from third, by team-mate Hélio Castroneves.
Power started from pole position on the streets of Long Beach and was able to maintain his lead ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway at the start. The first phase of the race was uneventful, although the first period of caution was initaited by Simona de Silvestro after a spin on Lap 25. This came at the right time for Alex Tagliani and Briscoe who had just visited the pit lane, and therefore the pair moved to the front when the rest of the field made their stops.
Sébastien Bourdais and Marco Andretti collided in the pit lane when exiting their respective pit boxes. The American was released by his team when Bourdais approached, and he failed to see the Frenchman, therefore pushing him into the wall. After the debris was cleared up, the race got back underway on Lap 32. Briscoe was able seize the lead, while team-mate Power Tagliani also made his way up the order.
Power went on to lose his position during the second phase of pit-stops, as local favourite Hunter-Reay progressed up the order to second place. E.J. Viso crashed soon after to bring out the yellow flags, but a spin by Justin Wilson after he was touched by JR Hildebrand led to a complete caution period at the 1.968-mi (3.167-km) circuit.
As the race restarted Power was able to find the speed required to launch an attack on Hunter-Reay, but it all went wrong for the Australian under braking for Turn 1. Penske team-mate Castroneves ran straight into the back of his car, causing both drivers to spin and lose valuable time. Scott Dixon could not avoid the now stranded Castroneves, and broke his front wing after making contact with the 19-times IndyCar winner.
There were two further incidents at the back of the field, as Takuma Sato speared into the wall, while seconds later Graham Rahal and Sebastián Saavedra collided. The incidents caused another period of caution, and it was Conway who went on to make the best restart, quickly climbing through the field from sixth to second place.
The 27-year old overtook James Hinchcliffe, Tagliani and Franchitti, before his charge was helped further when team-mate Hunter-Reay retired with a technical issue. The American suddenly gradually lost power and had to return to the pit lane. Just one lap later Conway made his way into the lead, disposing of Briscoe before building a comfortable lead.
Behind Conway and Briscoe, third place man Franchitti moves back into the championship lead with an advantage of seven points over Power. Canadian drivers Hinchliffe and Tagliani secured fourth and fifth respectively, while Oriol Servià followed closely for Newman/Haas Racing. Danica Patrick crossed the line in seventh, as Tony Kanaan, Vitor Meira and Power completed the top ten.
Round 4 of the championship with be staged at the São Paulo Street Circuit in a fortnight's time