Conway nabs emotional Long Beach win
Mike Conway made a late pass on Ryan Briscoe to win the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, earning his first career IndyCar victory in just his third race since a horrific crash last year in the Indianapolis 500.
Conway sustained multiple leg fractures and a compression fracture in his back in the Indy 500 crash, knocking him out for the remainder of the season. He went through a grueling rehab and signed with Andretti Autosport before this season, finishing 23rd and 22nd his first two races.
Conway started third and hung around the leaders on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile circuit through the streets of downtown Long Beach. After a series of late crashes, he finally took the lead with 14 laps left by whipping past Briscoe.
Conway was never challenged after that, stretching his lead to 6 seconds by the final lap and, after a roundabout drive to Victory Circle, celebrated with hugs from his crew.
Briscoe finished second and defending series champion Dario Franchitti was third.
Pole-sitter Will Power looked as if he was going to complete a second wire-to-wire win at the start.
Power has flexed his road power in the early part of the season, finishing second at St. Petersburg, going green-to-checkers at Alabama, then making it 3-for-3 on poles by edging defending Long Beach champion Ryan Hunter-Reay late in qualifying.
Power won at Long Beach in the final Champ Car race at the circuit in 2008, but hadn't won since the unification with IndyCar despite earning the pole the past three years.
The Aussie driver led the first 27 laps before the first full-course caution on a spinout by Simona de Silvestro. Briscoe and Alex Tagliani had ducked into the pits a few a laps earlier and were out front when the leaders went into the pits.
Briscoe took the lead on Turn 1 off the restart and was back out in front after a cycle of pit stops around with Hunter-Reay and Power right behind him.
Power's day ended not long after that.
Third coming out of the second restart, he was taken out heading into a corner by Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, whose wheels appeared to lock up. He finished 10th.
IndyCar's double-file restart experiment on road and street courses has created plenty of excitement, as series officials had hoped, and plenty of chaos, which the owners don't necessarily like because of damage to equipment.
The seaside circuit at Long Beach has some particularly narrow spots, so chief IndyCar steward Brian Barnhart spent part of the driver's meeting telling drivers to watch their spacing on restarts and to stay calm instead of using the chrome horn (front end) to nudge drivers out of the way.
For the most part, they did; the race stayed clean until the cars started piling up late.
Castroneves and Power had the one of the worst collisions off the restart and Justin Wilson caused another full-course caution by spinning out for a second time.
Conway took advantage of the bunching up on the last caution, using his push-to-pass button to leave Briscoe like a parked car, then finished off his emotional victory in the shadow of the Queen Mary.