21 April 2011
Conway hopes first win just the start
Team boss Michael Andretti admitted that he had been amazed by Conway's win. "It was crazy and I've got to admit unexpected. It's so difficult to pass here, so I was really happy to see Mike up in the top six, and I thought, that's not bad considering what he had to go through, and at that point we were feeling good about where Ryan [Hunter-Reay] was and then all of a sudden Ryan had this [gearbox] problem and I felt really bad for him.
"And then all of a sudden everybody starts cheering, and I'm like, 'What are they cheering about?', and Mike is like, boom, going past Dario, and next thing you know he's past Briscoe. Unbelievable. And then he just walked it. I was so happy and proud."
Conway had already been looking like a strong contender for IndyCar success early in 2010 when he headed into the Indianapolis 500 in May and duly proved to be one of the fastest cars in the field. But as the leaders headed into the final lap, Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay collided and Conway was launched up into the air into the catch fence, and his car was ripped apart by the wire fencing with debris raining down onto the track and slightly injuring a number of fans.
Despite sustaining serious injuries that put him out of racing for the rest of the year, Conway never considered quitting the sport. "Straightaway I was thinking about when I could get back in the car. That's all I really thought about. I knew I had obviously the physical things to get over first, but mentally I was fine really. Once I knew sort of the extent of the injuries, how long it would take, my mindset was basically just set on that.
"Initially I saw the injuries I had, and I just wasn't sure when I'd get back. Things like that can definitely stop your career. But I was just determined to not let it, determined to get back, back to fitness and back in a car.
"From there it's just an ongoing process, bit by bit, day by day, until kind of where I am now ... It was a long off‑season, but I had a lot to focus on and a lot to keep my mind on, and when I kind of got the chance to get back in the car, I was ready."
Has he even seen replays of the crash? "Never really thought about the accident after. It was never a positive thing for me to look back on it and see the accident. I kind of just got on with things and just focused on what I needed to do. Just got through things bit by bit."
Having such a long period out of active duty could have left him without a race deal for 2011, and it surprised many observers when Michael Andretti backed Conway and signed him up, despite having shown star driver Tony Kanaan the door just weeks earlier. But Andretti denies he had any doubts about the move.
"I don't think it was [taking] a chance," Andretti said. "I think Mike showed a lot of signs of brilliance last year at the beginning of the season and then unfortunately had his accident. Coming back, I had no question in my mind. I personally felt like he was going to be hungrier than ever coming back, and that's exactly the way it came about.
"I was so happy that we were able to put a deal together with Mike because I was really wanting him all the way from the end of last year, and the deal came together really late and I was very happy because I felt like he was going to be a great addition to the team not only as a great talent, but he just fits in with the other three drivers, which is quite important to have that chemistry ... because of that, I feel really good about the rest of this year. I think we're going to be strong."
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