In a bit of breaking news, word is coming out from California Speedway that Indy Car driver Mike Conway has told his team A.J. Foyt Racing that he does not want to compete in the season finale this weekend on the 2 mile oval track because he is “not comfortable”. Now before you call Conway out as a wuss let us go over some facts that I think contributed to his decision today. First, Mike Conway is in no way shape or form in the battle for the championship at this point. So by backing out he personally does not lose much. Secondly, ovals have not been kind to him Back in 2010, Conway had a horriffic crash at the Indy 500 which put him out of commission for a good long while. He had to fight physically and mentally to make his come back. Then, only a year or so after his return he watches his fellow Brit driver Dan Wheldon die at the Las Vegas speedway oval track in a crash that was very similar to what Conway himself went through at Indy. Then, there is California Speedway…
It has been years since California Speedway has had a proper open wheel car race. This is for a few reasons. One is that the track is incredibly fast. I believe Gil De Ferran still holds the record for fastest lap in an American open wheel series at over 240 mph which was at California Speedway. Then, more importantly California Speedway is where legendary Canadian driver Greg Moore lost his life in a fatal crash. Moore’s incident on the oval is what prompted the gradual “slow down” of open wheel cars in American racing.
After reading all of that it does not seem so far fetched or “chicken” for Conway to want to step back from the finale does it? While Conway feels more comfortable not participating, you may be asking what A.J. Foyt Racing is left to do? Well the team “respects” Conway’s decision and they have brought in Wade Cunningham to fill the seat for this weekend’s race. At this point it is unsure if this could mean Conway will back out of Indy Car racing for good since it looks like ovals will be a significant part of Indy Car’s future for at least the next decade. Either way, I do not fault the man for taking his safety and life into consideration.
Just as Formula 1 was wrapping up across the pond the Indy Cars were getting warmed up in the land of hockey, maple syrup, and teen drama/rap artist crossovers AKA Canada. Toronto to be more exact. The Honda Indy Toronto race was the official 2/3rds mark of the season and the points race heated up significantly thanks to Will Power’s previous fumbles and Ryan Hunter-Reay’s back-to-back wins. This was the time for the likes of Will Power, Dario Franchitti, and Scott Dixon to not F-up and re-establish some dominance in the battle for the 2012 championship. Unfortunately, each one of them F’d up! Dixon suffered a crash that put him out of the race, Dario had contact which took him out of the race just long enough to lose all hope before he rejoined to try and earn some points, and Will Power had a fight with the wall which screwed his suspension up and put him down a lap over the rest of the field.
At this point you might be asking yourself “who took advantage of all of that misfortune?” The same guy who did the last two times, that’s who! Yes, Ryan Hunter-Reay took his third win in a row after the best laid plans of the top two teams fell apart once again. Charlie Kimball scored a career best second place and Mike Conway nabbed a third place finish. With his win in Toronto Ryan has officially taken over the points lead (34 points over Will Power to be exact) and with 5 races left is looking to be a serious threat for the 2012 championship; which would be the first championship for Andretti Racing since Dario won it for them right before leaving the team to try his hand at NASCAR.
For all the race highlights check out the video below.
I waited all year and the time finally came for open wheel racing to come back to town in the form of the IZOD Indy Car Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Last Sunday was race day and I was parked in my usual spot in grandstand 29 along the main straight of Shoreline Drive and waited for the cars to come blasting by me at 180mph into turn 1. With 2 races in the season already completed (St Petersberg and Alabama) victories were split between the Target Chip Ganassi team and Penske Team with one each so fans were playing the “Ganassi or Penske” game coming into this weekend. With Will Power scoring pole position it was looking like the round would go to Penske but then we were reminded that Long Beach is a street course and street courses almost always equal chaos.
The first bit of anarchy started when Helio Castroneves spun Justin Wilson by making contact with him in the hairpin coming on to Shoreline Drive. That mishap brought out a full course yellow which bunched up the field and destroyed any gap that Will Power had built up on the rest of the field. A double file restart was attempted once Justin was clear but the drivers caught stage fright and for the most part stayed in a single file line when the race went green again. Ryan Hunter-Reay managed to snag the lead from Will Power but just when Ryan was starting to get used to being out front another incident with EJ Viso and Danica Patrick brought out another full course yellow which again bunched the field back up and killed any gap that the front runners put on the pack.
This time race control made sure the Indy Cars really did make a double file restart when the track went green again. The result of which was everything going wrong! Helio Castroneves struck again but this time he got into his own teammate Will Power causing both to spin around which totally screwed up Team Penske’s day. Then inexplicably Takuma Sato got a flat and ran into the tires just past the convention center, and a few other rookies mysteriously spun out in the same area just after Sato came to a stop. It was all absolute madness. With all the carnage another full course yellow came out and once things were cleaned up they went for the double file restart once again. This time things went more cleanly, yet things still kicked off with a surprize as Alex Tagliani, Dario Franchitti, and Mike Conway all put pressure on front runners Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay on the start. First Tagliani seemed to get the jump on the two Ryans but out of no where Mike Conway makes a move on Dario Franchitti then weaves past Tagliani just as Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car decides to take a dump. Then Conway puts a brilliant move on Briscoe to take the lead in the last 6 laps or so and holds on to take his first ever win in the Indy Car Series! It looks like the rest of the season could turn into a three way battle between Ganassi Racing, Team Penske, and Andretti Autosport!
Scroll down for a few highlights from the race and stay tuned for more Grand Prix posts coming up!