Mike Conway
Mike Conway. Photo by Lynne Huntting
MIKE CONWAY/No.27 Andretti Autosports started third Sunday and ended up winning his first ever open wheel race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He dropped back to nineteenth during his problematic first pit stop when he locked his brakes and slid past his pit stall. But, he said, with help from his crew he got back out and running to the top.

Conway’s team had to tell him over the radio how to get to Victory Circle.

This year is Conway’s comeback, after his horrendous crash at last year’s Indianapolis 500. He has a full season’s ride with Andretti, and Long Beach was his 26th IndyCar start.

Team Owner, MICHAEL ANDRETTI, won at Long Beach last year with RYAN HUNTER-REAY/ No.28. Sunday RHR led once for four laps, but retired with transmission problems.

Conway finished 6.3203 seconds ahead of runner-up RYAN BRISCOE/No.6 Team Penske, who gridded twelfth after being fastest in all the practice sessions. Conway turned the fastest leader lap of 100.163 mph/70.7328 seconds on Lap 83 of the 85-lap race.

Third place went to points leader DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who turned the fastest race lap of 100.266 mph/70.6597 seconds on Lap 84. He has been on the podium for all three IndyCar races so far this season. Franchitti said he was impressed by the vibrancy of the LB crowd all weekend. It looked like there were a lot of people everywhere, he could hear them cheering, and it’s been a while since it’s been this good.

JIM MICHAELIAN, President of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, said while the actual crowd figures aren’t out yet, attendance was up all three days. He estimated 70,000+ for Sunday and 175,000+ for all three days. Hospitality was sold out, and Sunday morning, there were less than 200 seat tickets remaining.

Sunday’s weather was mostly grey and cool – temperatures in the mid sixties. The sun made a feeble attempt to shine, but…….

Fourth and fifth finishers were Rookie JAMES HINCHCLIFFE/No.06 Newman/Haas Racing and ALEX TAGLIANI/No.77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

Hinchliffe was the top Rookie, and he turned the second fastest race lap, on Lap 82. This was is second IndyCar race. Last year he won the Long Beach Firestone Indy Lights race from the pole position. He raced Lights in 2009 and 2010. Prior to that, he ran for three years in the Atlantic Series.

J.R. HILDEBRAND/No.4 Panther Racing finished seventeenth after starting last, but is leading the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.

Michael Andretti being interviewed by Bruce Martin
Michael Andretti being interviewed by Bruce Martin. Photo by Lynne Huntting
DANICA PATRICK/No.7 Andretti Autosports was the top female driver, starting twentieth and finishing seventh behind ORIOL SERVIA/No.2 KV Racing Technology. Patrick gained the most race laps from the start – 13.

There were seven lead changes among six drivers. Briscoe led twice for the most laps – 35. Polesitter WILL POWER/No.11 Verizon Team Penske led twice for 29 and winner Conway led for fourteen laps. Other leaders were Tagliani for four laps; Conway’s teammate, RHR-two laps; and SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing – one.

Unofficial points: Franchitti – 122 (1 win); Power – 115 (1); TONY KANAAN/No.82 GEICO-KV Racing Technology-Lotus – 87; ORIOL SERVIA/No.2 Newman/Haas Racing – 80; and Conway – 74 (1)

Sixth through tenth in points: Tagliani – 73; Dixon & Briscoe & SIMONA De SILVESTRO/No.83 Nuclear Clean Air Energy HVM Motorsports – all with 66; and VITOR MEIRA/No.14 ABC Supply/AL Foyt Racing – 64.

The next race is 1 May 2011 in Brazil.