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.

"It was a really long night,” Conway said immediately after the race.  “I thought we'd have a good car after yesterday but it was a real handful from the start. A lot of understeer and we put more front wing into it and then the circuit changed, we had a problem with the weight jacker (it didn't work), and the car got really loose. I had some big moments and so I had to come in (under green) and they took out front wing. It got better but the car kept picking up front grip even though we were taking wing out. Just trying to hang on and count down the laps. Really wanted a good result here but it just wasn't to be."

Justin Wilson won the event, giving Dale Coyne his second IndyCar victory. It was the first time for both Wilson and Coyne to win on an oval track. Second through fifth were Graham Rahal, Ryan Briscoe, James Hinchcliffe and J.R. Hildebrand.

The ABC Supply team is testing in Iowa on Tuesday along with 18 other IZOD IndyCar teams. Following the test, everyone heads to Milwaukee for the Milwaukee IndyFest on Saturday afternoon the day before Father’s Day. The race will be broadcast live by ABC-TV, starting at 1 p.m. ET.