Once the chaos sorted itself out at Long Beach with a wreck amongst the leaders to Scott Dixon pitting late for fuel, it was Mike Conway that was able to drive to victory lane and take home the victory.
“I can’t believe it really. It’s been a really tough day to be here,” Conway commented post-race. “After, yeah, just a fantastic job by the team, and thanks to Long Beach again for putting on such a good show.”
Conway noted that it wasn’t an easy win as he had to fight all day for positions, starting in the back half o hte field and not getting the start that he would’ve liked out of the standing start.
“The start wasn’t great,” he commented. “The revs really dropped, and I thought I was maybe going to stall and I had to quickly pull the clutch again and go again and obviously two cars got around me at that point. Managed to get by Ryan and pick that position back up. But all the way through the race it was hard to know where we were going to end up. There were lots of cars around you, and when you got within a second of a car, you’d lose half a second in pace, and it was really hard to make your way by.
“But we did manage to pick some people off as the race was going on and made some good passes. But, yeah, it was a real unknown until that last kind of restart where we were going to be. So had to fight all day. Yeah, kind of had the car to do it, so big thanks to the guys for that.”
For Conway, it marks his second Long Beach Grand Prix win as he won the event back in 2011. Being a two-time winner in one of the series’ most historic events, Conway says it hasn’t sunk in yet.
“I mean, as I went over the land, I got that same feeling, that feeling in my stomach and not being able to get any words out because it kind of just meant so much,” he commented. “Probably the same as the first time. You know, it’s always tough the first time as well. So, yeah, it’s just a really special place. It’s so hard to win around here, and to do it twice, I’ve not done that on many tracks, so to do it here is really cool.”
Ed Carpenter brought Conway on as a driver during the off-season to have Conway run the road and street courses while Carpenter continued to run the ovals for his race team. Carpenter felt it was a good decision based on how he lacked a driver on the road/street courses and felt it was holding the team back.
“I’ve got to say a big thanks to Ed for making it happen, and all the guys at Fuzzy’s Racing to put me in this position,” Conway commented. “Yeah, I think it’s a great combination. I think everyone’s quite excited about it. It’s great to repay them this soon with a winwin. I think Ed’s going to be awesome on the ovals, and he’s really looking forward to the Texas test next week and Indy in May. So, yeah, it’s great to be part of it.”
In September 2012, Conway had a full-time ride with AJ Foyt Racing, though made the decision to not run the oval races any longer as he didn’t feel he was comfortable in that element. When he made that decision, Conway wasn’t sure at the time if any team owner would hire him to run any races.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d make it back,” he admitted. “But managed to pick up some rides last year and kind of showed that I’ve still got a lot of speed, and we won in Detroit as well.”
Conway ran a partial schedule last year for Dale Coyne Racing, picking up at Belle Isle-1 in Detroit. However, the win didn’t mar in concrete whether Conway would run any races this year for any team.
“I still wasn’t sure at the end of last year what was going to happen,” Conway added. “To be able to pick this up is a dream come true. It couldn’t have worked out any better between me and Ed. So, yeah, I’m very thankful for the position I’m in and trying to make the most of it.”
For Ed Carpenter Racing, it marks the team’s second career win and first since Auto Club Speedway in 2012. Ed Carpenter came close a couple times last year to winning, including a second place finish in the season finale last year. It seems this is the perfect story of ‘David vs Goliath‘ with Ed Carpenter’s one-car team taking on the power house teams of Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske and Andrett Autosport. Conway says they’re able to take them on and beat them due to the people that Carpenter has put together on the team.
“Some great engineers on board and everyone’s working really hard and they’re always pushing between St. Pete and this weekend, they were nonstop in the shop trying to develop some parts and make things better,” Conway said. “You know, I think if you’ve got that drive and that hunger within the team you can definitely achieve anything. It does make it harder, a one‑car team, but I think with all the help and all the people we have on the team, we can definitely make some waves.”
Now with the win in his back pocket, Conway will lead Ed Carpenter Racing to Barber Motorsports Park next weekend in search of another victory.
“I like Barber a lot. It’s a cool track, very fast flowing,” Conway commented. “The test was okay for us there. We’ve made some progress since then. So hopefully we’ll come back stronger. Obviously, we have two weeks in between and we’re going to keep pushing and make sure the car is quick for me to ride there. But always a good race. Qualifying is really cool around there. It is harder to pass, however, it’s still possible. Yeah, hopefully, we’ll have a good showing.”