Saturday, January 20, 2018

Mike Conway gets two big breaks to take IndyCar race

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Tempers flared after Mike Conway won IndyCar's Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday.

Ryan Hunter-Reay dominated the race but triggered a seven-car accident 24 laps from the finish. It left team owner Michael Andretti disgusted because the crash wiped out Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosports' other driver, James Hinchcliffe. Team owner Sarah Fisher fumed over her driver, Josef Newgarden, being taken out.

Scott Dixon took the lead after the wreck. But he knew he was short on fuel and pitted with two laps left in the 80-lap race. That gave Conway, who finished 16th in the season opener in St. Petersburg on March 30, his third career win, including this race in 2011.

"I can't believe it," said Conway, who started 17th and overcame an early broken wing. "I wasn't sure Scott was going to pull in there. Second would have been good, but this is awesome."

Dixon said he pitted to avoid creating more problems: "The last thing I wanted to do was run out of gas in front of the whole field and cause a big accident."

Problems began when Newgarden raced off pit road before Hunter-Reay to take the lead. But on cold tires, he wasn't going to hold off Hunter-Reay for long. Only Hunter-Reay didn't wait and tried to pass on the ensuing lap as they entered a tight Turn 4. The cars collided, Newgarden's hitting the wall and Hunter-Reay's hitting Helio Castroneves' car. Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth also were taken out.

Tweeted Fisher: "It was our race to win, and we got robbed by immaturity. Period."

Said Andretti: "You need to be a little more patient."

Hinchcliffe, who sprained his left thumb, didn't mince words for his teammate: "Patience is a virtue, and someone wasn't very virtuous today. It was a rookie move."

Hunter-Reay did not exactly accept responsibility.

"I could have waited a little bit later. Maybe that's my fault," he said. "It's down to me to make the pass, I guess. I'm not sure. I made the decision at that split second. That's the type of driver I am. I go for it."

Will Power, who won in St. Petersburg, was second followed by rookie Carlos Munoz.

Conway, 30, is only a part-time driver for the team owned by fellow racer Ed Carpenter. He formerly competed full time. But near the end of 2012, Conway announced he was "not comfortable" racing on high-speed ovals.

His decision likely was affected by a crash at the 2010 Indianapolis 500. His car went airborne and into the catch fence. Conway suffered a broken vertebra and multiple fractures to his left leg. He didn't race again that season.

In 2013, he ran seven races, all street courses. This year, Carpenter's team hired him to drive only on street and road courses while Carpenter raced on the ovals. "It's great to repay them with a win this soon," Conway said. "I'm very thankful for the position I'm in."

F1: NASCAR's Kurt Busch said his car owner, Gene Haas, is serious about getting into the series. "You just don't drop $40 million on a wind tunnel and not think that you're serious about racing," he said. Haas has a license from the series to start a team as early as 2015. The last attempt for a U.S.-based team came in 2010, but it lacked funding. The last U.S.-based team to run was Parnelli Jones Racing in 1974-76.

NHRA: Robert Hight won Funny Car in the Four-Wide Nationals, beating John Force, Alexis DeJoria and Tim Wilkerson in the final at 4.074 seconds and 311.34 mph in Concord, N.C. Jimmy Alund (Pro Stock) became the first European winner in the Drag Racing Series. Antron Brown won Top Fuel. Andrew Hines won Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Sprint Cup points

After eight of 26 races. Sixteen drivers will make the season-ending Chase for the Championship.

Driver PointsBack

Jeff Gordon 297—

Matt Kenseth 296 1

Carl Edwards 278 19

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 271 26

Jimmie Johnson 270 27

Kyle Busch 269 28

Brad Keselowski 246 51

Joey Logano 245 52

Ryan Newman 236 61

Austin Dillon 235 62

Greg Biffle 227 70

Tony Stewart 224 73

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Toyota Owners 400, 7 p.m. April 26, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway TV: Ch. 13

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