Mike Conway ready to double up on Long Beach IndyCar win this Sunday in Alabama

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Mike Conway’s come-from-behind IndyCar win at Long Beach nearly two weeks ago may have been a surprise to some.

But it wasn’t a surprise to team owner Ed Carpenter or Conway himself. They both had confidence in each other for a strong run and a high finish – and the win was just an added bonus.

“It was a stunning win for the Ed Carpenter Racing/Fuzzy’s Vodka team, as they did a tremendous job preparing the car, making good pit stops and the an excellent strategy for the race,” Conway said.

“There was a lot of banging and shoving at the start and we broke the right front wing. I think the team was more concerned about that wing than I was during the race. The wing was flapping a little but the car was good.”

Conway now wants to double-up on what was his second career win at Long Beach – and third overall win in the IndyCar series (also won at Detroit last year) – with a second straight win in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

The 90-lap race around the 2.38-mile, 17-turn natural terrain Barber course, located just east of Birmingham, Ala., suits Conway’s style just fine.

“It feels very good to come to the Barber track as the winner of the last Verizon IndyCar Series race,” Conway said in a team media release. “I like the Barber circuit a lot. It’s a cool track, very fast flowing. It is hard to pass there, but it’s still possible.”

Conway will split driving the No. 20 Chevrolet with Carpenter this season. Conway will handle all road and street races, while Carpenter will drive in the six oval track events, including next month’s Indianapolis 500 (Carpenter won the pole there last year).

“I think we have a great combination with Ed on the ovals and me driving the streets and roads,” Conway said. “It felt fantastic to repay them for their trust in me.”

It’s a good partnership. Carpenter doesn’t like road/street courses, while Conway doesn’t like ovals. The fact Carpenter won at Detroit, as well as four wins in the World Endurance Championship for sports cars last season, definitely caught Carpenter’s eye.

“I needed to look at the potential of Ed Carpenter Racing,” said Carpenter, the only owner/driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series. “While I improved in road racing, I felt it was better overall for ECR and our partners to put a contender in the car for the roads.

“And Mike immediately showed he can find the winner’s circle. People think I was very smart already with the move, but I felt Mike always could win with this team. We have a strong organization at ECR.”

The Long Beach win helped avenge Conway’s disappointing 16th-place finish in the season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla. He was headed toward a potential podium finish, but a miscommunication on the team radio cost him dearly.

Even so, the Long Beach win righted the wrong from St. Pete, elevating Conway to second in the series standings heading into this weekend.

“I qualified on the front row in the first IndyCar Series race at Barber,” said Conway, 30. “I’d really like to do that again. I feel we can transfer the Long Beach win into a good showing this weekend at Barber.”

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Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.