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.