Mike Conway gains Toyota Le Mans reserve role

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After an extensive single-seater career took a detour to a part-time role in 2013, Mike Conway tried out sports cars for the first time. Turned out the largely silent but stealthy Englishman was as blindingly quick in a prototype, too.

Conway was part of the winning car in four of the last five FIA World Endurance Championship races in the LMP2 category, taking wins at Interlagos, Austin, Shanghai and Bahrain with co-drivers John Martin and Roman Rusinov in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 03 Nissan. He also deputized for the injured Ryan Briscoe in Level 5’s HPD ARX-03b at the American Le Mans Series round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Mosport in July.

With all that now on his CV and his IndyCar 2014 plans sorted – he’ll race all road and street courses for Ed Carpenter Racing – Conway is free to join Toyota Racing’s LMP1 program as a reserve driver. Starting in January he’ll test the team’s new-for-2014 prototype, which will replace the outgoing Toyota TS030 Hybrid that won its second race of 2013 this past weekend in Bahrain.

Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Stephane Sarrazin have all been confirmed as race drivers for 2014. The IndyCar schedule features a gap after its June 7 race at Texas, which Conway wouldn’t be competing in anyway, before the 24 Hours of Le Mans next June 14-15. That would free Conway up to become available should one of the six race drivers be unable to go for the marquee event of the WEC season.

“I am delighted to be joining Toyota Racing as test and reserve driver for 2014, a role which will fit well with my IndyCar program,” Conway said. “It is every driver’s ambition to be involved with a manufacturer-backed team at the top level of international motorsport and that’s what Toyota Racing is. I would like to thank my manager Mark Blundell and everyone at Toyota Racing for putting this deal together and giving me this great opportunity. I look forward to contributing to the team’s success in 2014 and hope this is the start of a long and successful relationship.”

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
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Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2