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Conway battles his way back at Motegi

"We seemed to be working our way up through the field and then had a bad pit stop on our last stop," he continued. "After that we were forced back behind the cars we had overtook and it made it hard from there."

Nonetheless he was back up to seventh place by lap 55 and challenging Sebastien Bourdais for position. But the Frenchman - a four-time winner of the CART/Champ Cars title before his switch to F1 for a season and a half with Toro Rosso - was in no mood to be overtaken and ended up running Conway off the side of the track and onto the dirt.

"He went wide at the last corner, so [I] went to go inside but [he] came across, so went left and lost all my speed," Conway explained in a tweet after the race.

With the tyres now caked in dust, it took Conway several corners to clean them off and regain momentum, by which time several cars - including his team mate Ryan Hunter-Reay - had streamed past, leaving Conway bumped down to 12th with only eight laps remaining.

"We were looking good for a strong points finish in fifth place or better when I was unfortunately forced off the track by Bourdais," summarised Conway. "We were able to get back up to ninth place but it was disappointing as we know we had the pace to secure a better result."

Up ahead, Hunter-Reay was now challenging the Frenchman for sixth position - and like Conway before him he too ended up off the track, this time on the receiving end of a hefty impact on his rear wheel that sent him skidding off into the sand trap where he became beached, bringing out the final caution of the race.

"It's disappointing, we had another solid top-ten going," said Hunter-Reay later. "We would have finished sixth if Bourdais hadn't taken us out. I'll have to look at the video; I thought I cleared him, and the whole team thinks I cleared him. We'll have to see a replay and see but it's disappointing."

Despite being involved in two incidents in which he forced two Andretti Autosport cars off the track in the course of three laps, Bourdais was not penalised and went on to finish in sixth place.

Andretti Autosport did had cause to celebrate when Marco Andretti benefitted from strong race pace and a well-timed final pit stop to finish on the podium in third place behind Scott Dixon and Will Power. But to Conway and Hunter-Reay, that just proved what could have been possible for the #27 and #28 cars if the luck and breaks had been different - and if Sebastien Bourdais hasn't been around.

"It was a tough day, really," admitted Conway.

Danica Patrick, in her final road course event in IndyCar before leaving the series and the Andretti Autosport team for NASCAR in 2012, finished two spots behind Conway - narrowly missing out on a top ten finish but still gaining 12 spots on her starting grid position while generally keeping her nose clean and staying away from the problems that had beset Conway and Hunter-Reay toward the end.




Related Pictures

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Mike Conway, Andretti Autosport, St. Petersburg, 2011
Mike Conway in pit lane before claiming fourth place on the grid for Sunday`s race on the streets of Toronto. July 2011. [Picture credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
Mike Conway cutting the apex on the natural terrain road course track at Twin Ring Motegi. [Photo Credit: IndyCar Media]
Ryan Hunter-Reay waits on pitlane prior to practice at Pocono Raceway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay with an early pit stop during the Pocono INDYCAR 500 (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves leads Ryan Briscoe (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Jack Hawksworth and Marco Andretti cross the start/finish line during practice at Pocono Raceway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves hits the wall after contact with Sebastien Bourdais. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway after making contact with the tyres in Race 1. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay exits Turn 2 during practice for the Chevrolet Dual In Detroit (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway on course during practice for the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit -- Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to a second-place finish Sunday, May 25, 2014, during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Castroneves finished just 0.0600 seconds behind race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, just missing becoming only the fourth four-time winner of the race. (Photo by Ernie Masche/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to a second-place finish Sunday, May 25, 2014, during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Castroneves finished just 0.0600 seconds behind race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, just missing becoming only the fourth four-time winner of the race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to a second-place finish Sunday, May 25, 2014, during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Castroneves finished just 0.0600 seconds behind race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, just missing becoming only the fourth four-time winner of the race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to a second-place finish Sunday, May 25, 2014, during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Castroneves finished just 0.0600 seconds behind race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, just missing becoming only the fourth four-time winner of the race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay kisses the bricks (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay wins the Indianapolis 500 (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)

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