File this one as “no surprise,” but official – Mike Conway will not be back for a second season at CFH Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Given the number of date clashes between IndyCar and the FIA World Endurance Championship for 2015, a divorce almost seemed inevitable – if long-delayed for the driver who sought to continue to do both.
CFH team co-owner Ed Carpenter confirmed the Englishman’s departure during the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show in Indianapolis.
“It’s unfortunate, but we thank him for what he did,” Carpenter told IndyCar.com. “We’ll be going in a different direction and hopefully in the next month we’ll be able to make a decision on a driver and make an announcement and have more success.”
Carpenter also confirmed Conway was under contract to Toyota, which seems to lead to the likelihood of him taking up a deserved full-time ride with that team’s WEC program.
But the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet in IndyCar is a prime ride that is now, officially, open. And while JR Hildebrand, who has tested with the team this offseason, would seem to have the inside line, there are no guarantees he has the seat locked down given the available talent on the free agent market.
“Just when we think we have (a list) narrowed we get a call from someone who is intriguing” Carpenter added. “That is the difficult part about it. It went so well with Mike last year. Now it’s about bringing someone in who is going to help the team.”
Considering Hildebrand would be a popular choice to land the seat, it would be unfortunate if the American was to lose out on the opportunity.
Similarly, others who are waiting in the wings and have paid their dues in the open-wheel ladder system would likely garner more favoritism from the fan base than an ex-Formula One or other European driver only exploring IndyCar as a backup plan, rather than as their primary goal.
Nonetheless, Conway’s official departure – long rumored but never finalized until Carpenter said so today – leaves a void at one of the best remaining seats on the IndyCar grid.