Race Report: The Grand Prix of Baltimore
BALTIMORE Sept. 2, 2010—Mike Conway and his ABC Supply team fought valiantly in the Grand Prix of Baltimore, coming back from several setbacks over the weekend and in the race but the results will simply show 16th, two laps down.
That stat doesn’t begin to tell the story of their dogfight in the streets of Baltimore.
Qualifying 2nd quickest in the Firestone Fast Six for a season best effort, Conway had to start 12th due to a grid penalty because of an unscheduled engine change earlier in the week. During that qualifying run, a miscue in the Pratt Street chicane as he was pressing for the pole, resulted in hard contact with the concrete barrier at the chicane exit. The ABC Supply crew worked until 9 p.m. Saturday repairing the entire left side of the car.
In the Sunday morning warm-up, Conway reported that the car felt as good as it had before the crash. Conway’s troubles appeared to be over as he made a good start in the 75-lap race; he was 10th after the first lap. Eventual winner Ryan Hunter-Reay slipped past him the next lap. Conway ran 11th until Helio Castroneves punted him on a lap 13 restart following the first of nine full course yellows.
Conway recovered from that spin and was in 22nd. After three pit stops within 10 laps, Conway went from red-rimmed, softer compound tires, to rain tires to the black, harder compound tires. On the black tires, he began his charge through the field, more remarkable since most of the field was on the red-rimmed, softer compound tires.By lap 32, he was 11th and Larry Foyt radioed to him, “Good job, your lap times are as quick as anybody on the reds.”
By lap 45 the young Brit was running eighth. Partly due to different fuel strategies, Conway was running fourth when he pitted on lap 52 for fuel and the quicker ‘red’ tires. He dropped to 14th as the pit stops cycled out, but three laps later he set his quickest lap of the race. By lap 58 he was back in the top 10.
With 15 laps to go and four cars ahead of him needing to pit for fuel (or hoping for a long yellow), Conway was looking at a seventh or sixth place finish if the race had stayed green. However, a full course yellow for a stalled Charlie Kimball brought out another full course yellow on lap 66.
After the lap 70 restart, several cars bottled up in the Light Street hairpin. Conway sliced through on the inside, and picked off two cars to move into seventh. Challenging Rubens Barrichello for sixth, Conway didn’t make it through the next left-hand corner-- onto Conway Street!
He slid into the tire barrier, effectively ending his chances for what would have been a top-five finish -- and possibly a podium finish as three of the top five drivers needed the three laps of yellow caused by his accident to stretch their fuel to the end.
Conway was lucky to escape injury because moments after his initial contact with the tire barrier, Justin Wilson slid into and underneath Conway’s parked car. Safety crews finally untangled Conway and Wilson who, along with the other three cars caught in the traffic jam, rejoined the race for the final two laps under green.
“I thought we were going to come away with some good points,” Conway said afterwards. “On that last restart, I got a couple cars when they bottled up in the hairpin but then I tried to go in too quick on the next corner and I was into the tires. It's a shame because my ABC crew did a great job putting the car back together after yesterday. Tough way to end.”
With his victory, Hunter-Reay cut Will Power’s lead in the championship from 29 points to just 17. Following Hunter-Reay across the line were Ryan Briscoe, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon and Barrichello. Power finished sixth.
The team will head to Los Angeles for a Sept. 12 IndyCar test at California Speedway in Fontana. The IZOD IndyCar Series is scheduled to return to the track that weekend for the season finale Saturday evening to determine the IndyCar Series champion and the winner of the A.J. Foyt Trophy which goes to the Oval Track Series Champion.
The MAVTV 500 will be broadcast live by the NBC Sports Channel on Saturday, Sept. 15th starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.