Last year after Mike Conway suffered a severe back and leg injury after a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he was determined to get back in a car. He hooked up with Andretti Autosport and completed the comeback today as he won the race.
Conway took the lead from Ryan Briscoe in turn six of the 1.968-mile, 11 turn Long Beach street circuit, on lap 72 of 85.
“I made the same move on Dario (Franchitti),” Conway said. “It was like they were struggling to get temperature in the tires. My car was good to go. I just took my time and picked my point, and was able to pull away.
“As soon as I got in the lead, I was thinking of winning already. But I knew I had to forget about it and get with the job at hand. The car was great. I could push all the time and control the gap. I made a mistake on a pit stop when I locked up. I thought our day might be done, but we had to hang in there and push all the way. On the restarts the car was awesome and it just came to life.”
This marked the first victory for Andretti Autosport’s first victory since June at Iowa Speedway.
“His comeback is now complete,” team owner Michael Andretti said. “The first time we put him in a race car, I could tell he had potential. I’m just so happy he was able to (win) this early and win one of the greatest races here in Long Beach. I’m just so proud of him and the whole Window World Cares team.”
Briscoe, who led practice, finished second while reigning series champion Dario Franchitti finished third.
In only his second start, James Hinchcliffe finished fourth while Alex Tagliani finished fifth.
“The guys did such a good job getting the back-up car going this afternoon,” said Hinchcliffe, the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights championship runner-up. “We were able to save fuel when we needed to, push when we needed to.”
Orio Servia manged to finished sixth after avoiding contact on the final restart.
“We had a strong performance the whole weekend and the team keeps moving forward,” Servia said. “But I do have a bit of a bad taste in my mouth because this was probably the best race car I have ever had in a race and a podium was within reach.
“I had to do a little bit of a circus maneuver to get back on track and that obviously cost us the podium there but we finished sixth and it could have been a lot worse.”
Danica Patrick finished seventh, followed by Tony Kanaan, Victor Meira and Will Power.
Power got caught back in the field after being bumped from behind by teammate Helio Castroneves in turn one on lap 66.
“I’m not really sure what happened on the restart,” Power said. “I got hit from behind by Helio but sometimes that’s what happens in racing – especially close racing like this with the double-file restarts. It wasn’t a great day for points, but Verizon Team Penske will keep working hard and move forward.”
Castroneves, meanwhile, finished 12th.
“I’m really not sure what to say,” Castroneves said. “I feel terrible for Will. I wasn’t even trying to pass, but we just made contact. Will is my teammate, and of course you just can’t take each other out. It’s just very unfortunate and I have to say I’m sorry to the team.”
Last year’s winner Ryan Hunter-Reay finished 23rd after falling off the pace on lap 70 and pitting.
“Basically, we couldn’t shift,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s frustrating because the DHL/Sun Drop car was running strong and challenging for the lead. I really think we could have gotten Briscoe once his tires started falling off. I was hoping for a second win here.”