Race Report Firestone 550

Race Report: Firestone 550

FT. WORTH June 9, 2012—After a strong qualifying run and an even stronger final practice in which he was second fastest, Mike Conway had every reason to believe that the ABC Supply Honda would take him to the front in the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday night.

Unfortunately, the opposite turned out to be the case.

Qualifying eighth but starting 18th due to a grid penalty for an unscheduled engine change, Conway started to drop back right at the start of the race which saw A.J. Foyt serve as Grand Marshal. Conway and the ABC Supply team struggled with an unpredictable car the entire evening.

When the car was rolled back into the garage after the race, they figured out why. A stay on the underwing had broken probably in the beginning of the race which caused the under pressure on the car to shift from the front to the rear depending on where the car was on the track.

“It would explain why the things we did during the pit stops didn’t affect the car’s handling the way it should have,” said team owner A.J. Foyt.

When Conway picked up six spots on his first pit stop at lap 36 under caution, going from 17th to 11th, it appeared the ABC Supply team was back in business. But when the green flag dropped, so did Conway. Within 15 laps he was back to 17th which became the scenario for the night. Gains made on pit stops were lost on the track. Conway also pitted six times to the leaders’ four times, plus half of those stops were under green. He ended up four laps down in 16th place. He remains 19th in the standings.

Mike Conway Qualifies 8th But Starts 18th in Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway

FT. WORTH June 8, 2012—Mike Conway posted his career best qualifying effort on an oval track with his 8th place run in the ABC Supply Honda for Saturday night’s Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway. His previous best oval qualifying run was ninth at Iowa Speedway in 2011.

Conway qualified at 214.458mph but because of an unscheduled engine change, he will incur a 10-spot grid penalty and will start 18th in the 228-lap race around the 1.5 mile speedway. Foyt’s team changed the engine in their Houston race shop before the engine reached its 1850-mile rotation schedule which was due to occur this weekend.  They elected to go ahead with the engine change and incur the penalty at a track where qualifying isn’t quite as significant to the end result.

“The run was better than what we had in practice early on so I’m happy that we got the car more dialed in,” Conway said. “We just need to work a bit more on it this evening in practice to get it dialed in for when we’re in a big pack.”

Things were not looking very good earlier in the day when a pit lane fire erupted during refueling of the No. 14 car in the first practice session. A malfunction with the fuel hose saw fuel spill out when the hose popped out of its connector; the fuel caught fire when it came in contact with the hot exhaust headers. Conway was able to continue in the session once the fire was extinguished; with a speed of 212.9mph he was 12th out of 25 cars.

In the brief car fire, fueler Rodney Klausmeyer suffered second degree burns to his right hand. Klausmeyer, also the team’s transporter driver, was treated at the track’s infield hospital and released. He will not be fueling for the team in the immediate future.  Craig Baranouski, the team manager, will fuel the No. 14 car in Saturday night's race.

Alex Tagliani won the pole for the second straight year with his qualifying run of 215.6mph. Second through fifth were Dario Franchitti, Graham Rahal, Scott Dixon and Will Power, who was the fastest driver with a Chevrolet engine. Honda engines powered six of the top-10 qualifiers.

In the final practice, Conway was second quickest (215.3 mph) behind Dixon (216.1 mph) and ahead of pole sitter Tagliani (215.1 mph)

Notes & Quotes: Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway

Mike Conway on racing at Texas: “Previously at Texas,if you had to lift [off the throttle] because you couldn’t keep it flat due to the car’s setup, you went backwards. You have to have a good car and you have to be able to go flat the whole race. If you can’t get that, then you are going to struggle to move forward. We have to work as much as we can on race setup and get it really dialed in. The track is wide and has many different lanes, so we have to have a good car in traffic and one that’s good in all the lanes.”

No. 14 will incur 10-spot grid penalty due to engine change: The ABC Supply crew will change their Honda engine this week prior to the race weekend. Although close to its scheduled 1800-mile rotation change, the engine is being replaced in the shop rather than after practice at the race track. The No. 14 will be assessed a 10-spot grid penalty after qualifying on Friday.

The Firestone 550 marks the 24th IndyCar race to be held at Texas Motor Speedway since the inaugural race in June,  1997. The 228-lap race returns to its single race format this year.   There have been 17 different winners in the past 23 races with Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. the only 3-time winners.

Past performance at Texas: Conway’s debut at Texas in 2009 was plagued with gearbox issues, so he started and finished 19th; he didn’t race there in 2010 because he was recovering from injuries sustained at Indy. In 2011, there were problems during pit stops so his best finish of 17th came in the second race last year. The Foyt team’s best finish at Texas came in 1998 when they won with Billy Boat. The year before Boat had taken the checkered flag first but USAC Scorers ruled that he finished second and gave the win to Arie Luyendyk the next day (but Foyt still has the trophy).

ABC Supply roofing customer, Clear Fork Roofing, located in Abilene, TX, won the ‘Your Name Here’ contest for the Firestone 550 at Texas. The company name will be atop the sidepods of the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda. Guests Gary Day and Laurie Bramlett will receive selected merchandise, race tickets, hospitality and garage passes, plus a Meet and Greet with A.J. Foyt and Mike Conway.