Mike Conway became the IZOD IndyCar's first maiden winner of a race in almost three years when he emerged victorious from the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, marking a triumphant return from serious injury at last year's Indianapolis 500.
This week's win places him firmly among the top drivers in IndyCar and means he's unquestionably "arrived" in US open-wheel racing. As well as being fifth in the current championship points standings, he's enjoying the attention and the publicity that his win has got him.
"When I landed on Tuesday morning back in the UK, that's when everything was being put in the papers after the race," he said on a teleconference on Wednesday, having flown home after the Long Beach win to spend Easter in England with his family. "Some great coverage in the big national papers here. It's been really good. Been busy all day doing phone interviews, got some TV stuff lined up. It's been great. Lots of coverage."
Conway says he still finds it hard to understand or explain why his pace at that crucial final restart was so much better than everyone else around him. "I probably don't have a real answer for you.
"[The] car just felt good. Once I got past [Ryan Briscoe], I knew we had the pace to pull away. I don't know, just head down and just pushed for kind of a good eight to ten laps," he said. "I was surprised to see how quickly I pulled away initially, two or three seconds in two or three laps ... I really did focus on the restarts, keeping the tires warm. The last thing you want to do is pick up all the debris, marbles on the track. The warmer you can get the tires, the better. It just makes the restarts better. Maybe that was just enough to really make some good moves."
The win is still sinking in. "It was awesome when I was on the podium to look down and see all the winning names imprinted on the floor, seeing Mario and Michael [Andretti] on there, Al Unser, Jr. These are the guys I get to see every race weekend. It's great that my name will be on there now and be part of a great race. Got some serious history to it!"
Conway was happy to admit that having the experience of the Andrettis at Long Beach had definitely helped him with his performance. "Michael being a very experienced driver, Mario also who was at St. Pete, Marco, the great history between the three of them. Yeah, I mean, it's great to learn from them guys.
"I didn't actually ask him before Long Beach coming into it because I knew that the car would be good there because Ryan was quick the year before," he said. "Michael lets us sort of get on with our own kind of thing. When he feels that we need some direction or some help, he always gives us his point of view. That's always very helpful."
Both the driver and the team were hopeful that the new pairing would prove mutually successful, but Conway was frank in admitting that "I think [hoping for a win] three races in would have been maybe a bit much."