Conway’s bid for IndyCar sweep in Detroit comes up short

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Starting from pole in the second Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit race today at Belle Isle, Mike Conway once again appeared to have the car to beat after destroying the field in yesterday’s first doubleheader race. But a potential sweep in the Motor City – which would’ve also earned him a $50,000 bonus – was not to be for the Dale Coyne Racing driver, who had to settle for third place behind race winner Simon Pagenaud and fellow Englishman James Jakes in second.

Nonetheless, Conway, in a one-off role for DCR this weekend on Belle Isle, showed just how much of a dynamite road/street racer he is. He insists that he’ll never again race an open-wheel machine on an oval – something he gave up shortly before last year’s season finale at Fontana, California – but when it comes to racing on IndyCar’s twisty tracks, he’s now thoroughly established himself as a force to be reckoned with.

Conway momentarily lost the lead to Will Power while A.J. Allmendinger crashed on the opening lap, but got it right back on the next restart and maintained it through the ragged opening stages of Race 2. He and Scott Dixon pitted from first and second positions during the caution after a 10-car pileup on Lap 28, and Conway would eventually cycle back to the front on Lap 40 when Tristan Vautier abandoned the lead to come to pit road.

Six laps later, Conway was passed by Charlie Kimball just before he made his final stop of the day on Lap 47. When everything shook out following the stops, Conway was left in third position behind Jakes. As Pagenaud widened his insurmountable lead in the closing circuits, the two Brits battled for the runner-up spot before Jakes won out narrowly.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Conway. “It didn’t quite go our way today though. The right rear tire went down on reds, and I lost spots to Kimball and later Pagenaud. On the blacks, I pushed as hard as I could. I passed like six cars in one lap at one point. We didn’t quite have enough at the end; used our last push-to-pass too early.”

His IndyCar work is done for now, with his next likely appearance at Toronto’s doubleheader in July – Conway all but confirmed it during the post-race press conference. In the interim, Conway will shift focus back to his full-time sports car duties in the FIA World Endurance Championship. He and his No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca/Nissan teammates Roman Rusinov and John Martin make up one of 22 LMP2 entries slated for this year’s running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 22.

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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