BIRMINGHAM Mar. 31, 2012—First impressions! Mike Conway signaled in winter testing he would be a force to be reckoned with and today he made good on that promise by qualifying fourth in the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda at Barber Motorsports Park. He rounded the 2.3-mile road course in 1:10.87 for a speed of 116.819mph.
It was the first time that the No. 14 was in the Firestone Fast Six since 2007 when Darren Manning qualified fifth at St. Petersburg.
Helio Castroneves (Chevrolet) won the pole with a speed of 117.485mph. He was trailed by James Hinchcliffe (Chevy), Scott Dixon (Honda), Conway (Honda), J.R. Hildebrand (Chevrolet) and Tony Kanaan (Chevrolet).
“Obviously happy to be in the Fast Six,” Conway said. “The ABC Supply team did a good job making some changes overnight because I was happy with the car. Being up front makes life a little bit easier in the race because it’s quite hard to pass here so qualifying is key. We’ll make some changes overnight, not too much, just tickle it a little bit and hopefully improve it for the race.”
Team owner A.J. Foyt, looking much improved even from a week ago, was very pleased with the qualifying effort from his ABC Supply team. “We’re moving up there where we need to be and I think competition is tougher this year than it’s ever been,” Foyt said. “I’m awful proud of what Larry’s done with the team in hiring new people and awful proud of Mike the way he’s driving the car. It just seems like the team has really pulled together this year where before the team was good but there just wasn’t the fire that we have now. It just seems like we have a good mixture.”
Larry Foyt, the architect of this year’s team, credited the whole team with special mentions to Conway and the engineering staff headed by Don Halliday.
“It was a pleasant surprise because we didn’t have a great car in practice [Conway was 14th in yesterday’s session] so our engineers did a great job in looking at all the data,” said Foyt. “Mike knew pretty much what he wanted and knew that we wanted to get the car back to the way we tested because we were fast in testing here. They did a great job because we didn’t get to try it before qualifying because this morning’s session was fogged out. Mike drove well, the team prepped the ABC Supply car perfectly and the engineers put a good setup under it and it all came together.
“It’s gratifying because it’s been so much hard work,” Foyt continued, “Even though you say it’s just qualifying, it’s not the race result and not a pole position, but at the same time, it’s steps in the right direction and that’s what we keep trying to do with this race team. If we keep putting ourselves in these positions and show we’re improving, then the pole positions and the wins will come.”
Conway was quickest in group 1’s first round of qualifying to advance to the second knockout round where a red flag brought out by Ryan Hunter-Reay’s spin cut the session short by three minutes which was bad news for pole favorite Will Power who had yet to lay down his quickest lap. Hunter-Reay who was second at the time of his spin was penalized by eliminating his two quickest laps, relegating him to 11th because 12th place Ryan Briscoe never made a lap. Conway, who was fourth out of 12 at the time, said he was on his best lap when the session was stopped.
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be televised live Sunday afternoon on NBC Sports Network starting at 2 p.m. ET.