Promising Detroit Dual 2 run for Mike Conway ends in 11th-place

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As Mike Conway stretched out his lead in today’s second race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit, one could not escape flashbacks of the pasting he delivered to the IndyCar field in Race 1 of last year’s Motor City doubleheader.

That race effectively cemented his reputation as one of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ finest road racers, and this one today looked like it would serve as another reminder of his talents.

But tire problems and the positioning of yellows in the second half of the race cost Conway a likely podium finish and relegated him to 11th at the checkered flag – a better result than the DNF he had yesterday but still very much lacking.

Starting from fourth position, Conway was the only driver that began today’s 70-lap race on the primary Firestone “black” tires. He made his presence felt after a couple of early caution periods and after stalking James Hinchcliffe for several laps, he took the lead from him on Lap 21.

Conway then built up a gap behind him that grew and grew and then grew some more. It went all the way up to 11 seconds before he finally stopped for the first time at Lap 25.

He came out second behind eventual winner Helio Castroneves when a cycle of green flag stops concluded. But his new alternate “red” tires lost their grip quickly and Conway slid back before he had to pit again at Lap 39 for another set of blacks.

Just 10 laps later, Conway returned to the pits in what looked like a curious decision. However, team owner Ed Carpenter revealed to ESPN that one of Conway’s tires had a flat spot on it, which brought about the additional stop.

Afterwards, Conway believed that the time he spent behind Hinchcliffe early on had a negative effect late in the race.

“I was able to get past several guys early, but to be honest, Hinch had power off the corners even with the red tires,” he said. “And it took me some time to finally get under him in Turn 3.

“I didn’t want to use up all of my ‘overtakes’ too early in the race. That amount of time trying to get by him cost us at the end of the race.”

Carpenter also mentioned Conway’s early battle with Hinchcliffe in his own thoughts on the day.

“Mike was fast today and we thought the black tires early would be an advantage,” he said. “He made the right moves too. I think Hinch held him up a bit and that hurt. But the yellows and the timing just didn’t fall our way.”

With Texas Motor Speedway coming up next Saturday, Carpenter will return to the cockpit of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. As for Conway, he will be back in the car for the Houston street course doubleheader at the end of the month.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.