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Conway Captures Long Beach Grand Prix

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POSTED April 13, 2014 9:52 p.m.

LONG BEACH — Britain’s Mike Conway (Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet) took full advantage of a late race multi car accident among the leaders to capture Sunday’s thrilling 40th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“It is just so tough to win here so this is really special,” said Conway who also won on the twisting 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary Long Beach street circuit in 2011. “We had to fight hard all day long and luckily we had the car to do it.”

The first two thirds of race belonged the weekend’s top qualifier Ryan Hunter-Reay (DHL Andretti Racing Honda) who led almost every lap before of the 80-lap race before he ducked into the pits for his final stop for tires and fuel.

Returning to the track on lap 54 he found himself just behind Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda) who managed to just beat Hunter-Reay out of the pits after his final stop of the day.

When the ensuing mayhem finally ended seven cars were involved in the accident including last year’s Long Beach winner Takumo Sato, Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan, three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castoneves and Hunter-Reay’s teammate James Hinchcliffe.

“He was on reds (tires) and I was on the harder blacks. I knew I only had a lap or two to get him before his tires came in and he would be impossible to catch,” explained a dejected Hunter-Reay after the race. “I thought I had the opening so I went for it. In hindsight I guess I should have waited for a better opportunity.”

 It took nine laps before the mess was cleaned up and the race went back to green with a completely new lead pack headed by New Zealand’s Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet), Britain’s Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing Honda), Conway and Australian Will Power (Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet). 

Wilson’s day ended just a lap later when he attempted to pass Dixon going into turn one and clipped the wall sustaining damage to his suspension.

Dixon was able to hang onto the lead after getting together with Wilson, but with his final pit stop coming on lap 44, several laps before his pursuers, he but was forced to conserve fuel in the closing laps.

Dixon’s luck and fuel ran out just two laps from the finish as he slipped into the pits for a quick top off allowing Conway, who started the race from 17th in the 23-car field, to take the lead.

“I knew he was low on fuel and conserving,” said Conway. “Dixon and Power are two wily cats so I knew I still had to be perfect to have a chance to win.”

Conway was perfect as he able to hold off the hard charging Power and rookie Carlos Munoz (Cinsay Team Andretti Honda) to take the checkered flag.

“You don’t get these gifts to often so I’ll take it,” said Power in reference to Hunter-Reay’s accident. “We struggled in qualifying and I figured if we got a top five finish today I would be happy.”

Power thought he might have had a shot to win, but he had already exhausted his push to pass allotment, which allows a driver extra engine boost for a short period of time.

“Mike was very fast, but I wish I had one more push to pass left in the final laps,” lamented Power. “On the other hand we might have crashed and Carlos would have won it.”

Conway now trails Power in the season standings by a 93 to 66 point margin in the IndyCar standings.

The IndyCar Series circus next heads to Barber Raceway in Alabama for the Honda Indy GP of Alabama on April 27 before heading to the fabled Indianapolis Speedway for the inaugural GP of Indy on May 10 and the 98th running of the Indy 500 on May 25

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