DETROIT – When Mike Conway climbed out of A.J. Foyt’s race car at Fontana last September and said he didn’t want to ever drive on an oval; that he admitted he was scared of the high-speed, aggressive style of racing, he was applauded by his fellow competitors for his courage to admit something that was unthinkable – a race driver having fear.
Some of those same drivers also probably thought they would never see Conway ever compete in an IZOD IndyCar Series race but Conway was back for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
On Saturday, Conway’s return came full circle but on a street course as he drove to team owner Dale Coyne’s Dallara/Honda to an impressive victory in the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans Race No. 1.
Conway, who didn’t have a ride until last Tuesday when Coyne called and offered him another shot this weekend, led three times for 47 laps and defeated 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay by a whopping 12.907 seconds in a 70-lap race that featured four lead changes and had 14 laps of cautions.
“It came to a point really, Fontana, where I wanted to call it a day on that stuff,” Conway said of oval racing. “I knew it would be hard to make something possible for this year but managed to pick up a couple of races with Bobby Rahal, the Long Beach event. That was going really good as well until we had the electrical fault. I was thinking maybe I’d pick up a few races here and there, but I wasn’t really sure. That’s why I committed to do the WC championship. I was focused on that.
“But I love IndyCar. I’d love to stay here definitely. I knew it would be difficult. But, yeah, no, great to have the opportunity to get back in. Made the most of it I think. Hopefully we can do some more.”
In the first true double-header in IZOD IndyCar Series history – two separate races that pay full points for each – Conway created a double-header of his own Saturday at the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans.
The driver from England won the pole on Saturday morning for Sunday’s second race and then 6-1/2 hours later went out and drove to a decisive victory in Saturday’s 70-lap Race No. 1.
Justin Wilson’s Honda finished third to give team owner Dale Coyne two drivers in the top three.
“We were impressed this morning,” Coyne said. “We’ve never had a driver qualify on the pole, let alone win, set the fastest lap, lead the most laps, everything he did. It’s pretty amazing on his part and for the entire team to put both cars in the top-three. Our engineering side is working hard and we’re pretty pleased. Our goal was to score as many points as possible and think we could get in the top-five. This is even better.
“I just think it’s common sense, years of knowledge on everybody’s part,” Coyne said of his sudden success. “Our two engineers and myself, we’ve been doing this a long time. You know not to out-trick yourself. You remember things from the past that worked, think outside the box. We had a pretty aggressive engineering plan over the winter. You put all those things together and I think it’s paid off well.”
Last year’s Detroit winner, Scott Dixon, was fourth in a Honda and Helio Castroneves’ Chevrolet rounded out the top five.