Miscommunication costs Conway a solid finish in debut with Ed Carpenter Racing

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A miscommunication regarding a safety car wave-by likely cost Mike Conway and Ed Carpenter Racing a strong result on their race debut together.

Conway started 12th and quickly worked his way into the top 10 early on in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. He led a lap in a pit sequence (Lap 77) and ran in the top three for most of the first half.

Then, as the field was under yellow, James Hinchcliffe was waved by and Conway reacted as though he was due to be waved by as well. But a penalty was assessed to Conway shortly thereafter for the infraction of passing the pace car.

“I wasn’t really hoping for a safety car there around lap 80,” Conway said. “I was hoping to hold the gap when we went to the black tires. I didn’t hear a radio communication to come into the pits then. I thought the safety car waved me by but they were waving (James) Hinchcliffe by instead. I don’t know if there was a communication problem there too. I didn’t know if they waving at me or both of us. Then they said it was only for Hinch. And that was it. It screwed up our whole day.”

The problem was exacerbated as the restart accident happened the next time by. Conway, who was restarting further back, explained how this appeared from his vantage point.

“With the single file restarts, you can’t see around the big rear wings because you can’t pull out to pass before the green flag,” Conway said. “And we can’t see the green flag with these rear wings and we bunched up single file. So we have to rethink that area I believe. We have to be able to see around the other cars. It definitely needs to be looked at in the future.”

It’s an interesting point considering one of the official updates this weekend was the re-implementation of single-file restarts as opposed to the double-files. Some double-file restarts caused headaches in the past.

Alas, for Conway it was an unrepresentative 16th place result.

From here, it’s onto Long Beach, where he should be a podium contender.

He won in 2011 driving for Andretti Autosport, and a year ago took a one-off third Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry to a Firestone Fast Six appearance. That qualifying effort kept his name on the map ahead of his eventual partial season with Dale Coyne Racing, and his success achieved later in 2013.

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.