20 September 2011
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.
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