Conway: I had to be calm and seize my moment

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TORONTO – He only led seven laps – one less than he had combined this season – but Mike Conway nailed his timing Sunday en route to his win in the second race of the Honda Indy Toronto weekend for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Conway started 11th in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet but made the call on Lap 43 to switch from wet weather tires onto slicks. That ultimately proved the winning call as the quiet but talented Englishman delivered his second win of the year for Ed Carpenter Racing.

“The conditions today were really tricky, with the rain and dry in places,” Conway said post-race. “I knew I just didn’t want to push too hard or risk anything at that point and I knew people were going to try to get by me, and I was going to fight as much as I could but not have the chance of going off.

“So I had to play it smart and make the moves when I could and you could see the cars going off and making mistakes, so easy to do here in a tenth of a second too late on the brakes, something can easily go wrong. So I had to be calm and seize my moment.”

Few drivers might have been better prepared for a single day doubleheader quite like Conway, who along with his open-wheel duties this year is Toyota Racing’s official reserve driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship. He hasn’t raced much this year due to his planned FIA WEC race program, an LMP2 effort with Millennium Racing, was halted preseason due to funding woes.

But Conway could have looked at Sunday’s pair of races in Toronto as separate stints in an endurance race, as he’s dovetailed sports car racing along with his road and street course starts in IndyCar since 2013. Essentially it was one full stint, a four-hour or so break, and then back in the car for race two.

“I suppose with having a seat in an endurance car, maybe it’s pretty helpful, the changing conditions, but IndyCar is the same thing. And these races are so tricky,” he said. “The first half of the race you’ve got to be smart really and it’s so true, you’ve got to not make any mistakes and let the race come to you a little bit, and it seems to happen that way.”

If ECR has been opportunistic, they certainly haven’t missed their chances to win. Combined, the team’s third win between Conway and Ed Carpenter equals them with Andretti Autosport for the second most number of wins this year. Only Team Penske, with four wins between its three drivers, has more this season in IndyCar.

“We had won before as a team, so I personally felt like we had better cars on road and street courses than what I was able to show,” Carpenter explained. “The cars were better than I was.

“We’re trying to grow this for the team and get results for our partners, and it’s been nice to be able to do that more consistently so far this year,” he added. “Mike’s one hell of a racer. It’s about him leading races. When you get him in position, when we do a good enough job or today him making the right call, when he gets in those positions he elevates his game and rises to the occasion.”

They did that to cap off the Toronto weekend.

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s INDYCAR race was postponed until Monday

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Here’s what several drenched drivers had to say after Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was postponed until Monday morning (11:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2018 pole winner): “It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us. We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns 1 and 2, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form. Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s that this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before, but it intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands. What happened with Will (Power), I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. A tough situation. Thanks for the fans that came out and supported us. Hopefully we’ll get some people back tomorrow and we’ll get the show in and put on a great event.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
“Tough day so far. We had some problems with our radio and fuel alarm, but otherwise the car was alright. It was just too dangerous out there, we couldn’t see anything, so I think they made the right call. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s just a real shame for everyone on the Verizon Chevy team. The car was good and we were doing our best out there, but it was really hard to see anything in front of me. The conditions were just so bad. As soon as I got to the frontstraight, the car just came around, and I tried to keep it off the wall, but it was hydroplaning and there was nothing I could do. I feel bad for the team and for the fans in this weather. Just too bad. Hopefully our luck can turn around when we get to Indianapolis.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Very difficult day for us. In the race we were 13th at the time and we had some electrical issues, so that caused us to pit and we lost a lap. Not the ideal situation, but we don’t give up. There’s still a race tomorrow and we’re going to go for the most points. Anything can happen.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue today, no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in today, but that’s life. We will go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want, but safety is obviously a priority. I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “As you could see on TV, if you couldn’t see the car, it was probably three times worse in the cockpit on the main straight or any straight. You had to completely trust the guys that they were accelerating. Never the less, I made good progress on the short stint and I made up a few positions.  The car was working well, but also was aquaplaning a lot, too, so I have to respect INDYCAR’s decision for everyone’s safety. Now we really need to concentrate on having a good car for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the fans that sat in rain all day, but thank them for their support.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a short day. In the beginning the conditions were not that good, but afterwards the conditions started to improve. The race was stopped, then restarted, and I think the conditions were not too bad at that point. Unfortunately, it was red flagged again and then cancelled for the day. It would have been nice to get halfway, but we will come back and try again tomorrow.”