LONG BEACH, CA-Sometimes good things happen to those who wait. For most of Sunday afternoon during the 2014 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Verizon IndyCar Series race, the outcome didn’t look too promising for driver Mike Conway. After capturing the pole on Saturday, Ryan Hunter-Reay and and his hot-rod DHL (Andretti Autosport) vehicle was impressively out in front of the pack, leading on 51 of 56 laps taken.
Hunter-Reay, looking for his first win on the Long Beach course, then had the unfortunate luck of crashing his car. Even worse, Hunter-Reay’s calamity turned into a nightmare for other racers as well, effectively ending the day for some drivers.
As it was, Conway (Ed Carpenter Racing) and Will Power (Team Penske) managed to dodge the wreckage left behind caused by Hunter-Reay’s ill-advised decision to go pass Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing) on a real tight curve on the race course. Conway and Power took advantage of the debacle and wound crossing the checkered flag 1-2 in the race.
But in order to do that both men still needed some extra luck to finish the race as the leaders. When Scott Dixon left the track to get some more fuel with just a couple of laps to go, that was the opening that Conway needed to clinch his second win on the Long Beach track.
Conway also claimed a win in the 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It was a great win for Conway, who narrowly beat out Power for the victory. Conway started the day in the 17th position.
“We really had to fight for every position,” Conway said. ” The guys made a good call on strategy. We were able to bump past some people, and on race restarts we gained some positions as well. So great job by all the team.
I know on that last restart I had to get by Will, because I knew he had one push to pass left, and I knew that Munoz behind me had four, and Munoz was very good all day, so it was hard; it was going to be hard to keep him behind. So managed to get by Will and then was kind of all over the back of Justin and Scott and they were battling it out as well. And they touched going into turn 8, and it got close to me and Scott. I was thinking of driving up both of those guys (Indiscernible), but thought better of it.
“Then Scott (Dixon) was kind of all over them, but when the safety car came out again, I thought maybe I’ll have a chance to get by him here, but I knew at the same time he may not have enough fuel to get to the end. So I wasn’t sure, because I could see he wasn’t saving much fuel, and the guys are saying he’s saving fuel because he can’t make it. I was like, oh, I don’t know. Maybe he saved enough.”
It was a not a good show for Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe. Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe (United Fiber & Data vehicle) were running first and second at the time of the accident.
The crash took both cars out of the race. They weren’t the only casualties. Defending champion Takuma Sato (A.J. Foyt Enterprises) was knocked out as well when he hit the corner and ran into the pile of metal on the track. Power said he saw the events during the 80-lap race play out right in front of his eyes.
“I saw it unfold,” Power said. “I mean, those two came out of the pits in front of me on cold, black tires, I was on reds and down a lap or two. You know, then all of a sudden I saw Newgarden come out and I’m thinking this is going to be really interesting because all these guys know that that is for the win.
It became even more interesting in turn four…Yeah, unbelievable. I saw Hunter?Reay go inside, and me going, ‘Oh, this will be interesting if he turns and there they go together.’ Then Hinch piles into him, and I got through, like yeah, you don’t get those gifts often in racing, so I’ll take it.”