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Conway surges to first series victory

At least he was still in the race: Sebastien Bourdais, minding his own business coming down pit lane after his own pit stop, found himself three-wide with Marco Andretti in the middle and Justin Wilson on the inside. Marco was giving Justin room and was completely unaware of Bourdais in his blind spot on the outside line, and he moved out wider and wider ... until the Bourdais was pinched into the wall and the two cars made crunching contact. Bourdais' car was wrecked, and Marco Andretti also climbed out of the #26 to talk with and apologise to the Frenchmen, explaining that "It was my fault" and that "I had no f***ing clue you were there!" - getting a quick apology from the commentators for the choice language just broadcast. But when Marco started to walk back to his pit box, his team shouted at him to come back to the car - it wasn't exactly in showroom condition anymore, but there was a chance he could continue.

Another incident in pit lane almost saw another collision, this time between Graham Rahal and Vitor Meira. Meira's crew complained that Rahal had simply pulled straight out into the fast lane: Rahal had ten needed to react to avoid full-on contact and swerved back into the pit box area, clipping one of Oriol Servia's pit crew members. Fortunately no serious harm was done, but it was a reminder that pit lane can be a dangerous place at the best of times.

The race resumed on lap 31, and Ryan Briscoe got a good run on Alex Tagliani to immediately take the lead, with last year's Long Beach winner Ryan Hunter-Reay also getting the better of Will Power. Tagliani's momentum had been sufficiently compromised by Briscoe's overtaking move to allow Hunter-Reay and Power to quickly get past the #5 as well before things settled down, and so the race was now led by the two Ryans with Power in third place.

Thirty two laps of green flag racing ensued, which saw Briscoe pull out a comfortable 4s lead over Hunter-Reay who in turn had a couple of seconds advantage over Power. Marco Andretti was clearly having handling problems and retired on lap 37, while JR Hildebrand made a couple of eye-catching slides and miraculous saves to keep the #4 car out of the barriers. Justin Wilson, still stuck back in 13th position, tried a seemingly random pit stop on lap 43 to go off-strategy, while the rest of the field all started to come in from lap 54 through to lap 60 for green flag stops. The race narrowly avoided a full course caution one lap later when EJ Viso moved over and pinched Danica Patrick against the wall out of the final corner: Viso got the worst of it and was sent bouncing sideways across the track into the opposite wall, where he retired. Fortunately the car was offline and in a good position to retrieve without needing to throw a yellow.

Whatever the Dreyer & Reinbold team had been thinking of with regards to making this odd strategy work, it came to nought when on lap 63 Wilson's rear right wheel suddenly locked under braking into turn 8, leaving him without any handling into the corner and a one-way trip into the tyre wall. This incident inevitably brought out the full course caution avoided just two laps previously for Viso, and left the field looking at another strung-out double file restart on lap 67: Briscoe, Hunter-Reay and Power had retained the top three positions through the green flag pit stops, while Helio Castroneves had got the better of Oriol Servia for fourth place and Scott Dixon was in sixth ahead of his team mate Dario Franchitti.

As the cars lunged down the main straightaway toward the first turn, Power attempted to go around the outside of Hunter-Reay but soon realised that he was running out of road and that there was not enough time. He dropped back to pull in behind the Andretti Autosports #2, but unfortunately for him his Penske team mate Helio Castroneves behind him was busy in battle with Oriol Servia and was leaving his braking too late into the first corner. Caught out by Power trying to drop back in line, Helio locked up - and hit the back of his team mate, sending them both into the tyre barrier.

Inevitably there was fall-out and collateral damage. Scott Dixon was immediately on the scene and hit the back of Helio's stalled car, resulting in damage to the Ganassi's chassis that dropped him off the lead lap to effect repairs. By rights, Oriol Servia should have joined him in pit road, but somehow his lightning fast reflexes saw him manage to avoid hitting Helio, instead steering a rapid 360 spin so that he was back round and rejoining the field with minimal loss of position and not even a single slight contact from the whole incident.

The biggest winner from this incident was Dario Franchitti, who after spending almost the entire afternoon in seventh place was now promoted to third by the removal of Power, Castroneves and Dixon ahead of him and by his own overtaking move on Tagliani, who was now in fourth ahead of James Hinchcliffe and the caution's other big gainer, Mike Conway, who was suddenly back up the sharp end in sixth place ahead of Danica Patrick.

The track initially stayed green, but further round the race track a second incident forced the IndyCar officials to throw the third full course caution of the afternoon after all: Graham Rahal had got into the back of Takuma Sato, sending the KV Technology Racing-Lotus into the tyres at turn 8 and wrecking his own front wing in the process. The incident triggered problems behind them, as Charlie Kimball ended up colliding with Sebastian Saavedra, sending Saavedra down the escape road while Kimball ended up running into the stationary Sato. Kimball retired, while Saavedra returned to the pits for a new front wing.

That left the field with another double file restart to contend with on lap 70, with just 15 laps remaining. It was the golden opportunity for anyone to make what could possibly be the last decisive move of the race: who was going to seize the chance?

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Mike Conway, Andretti Autosport, St. Petersburg, 2011
Helio Castroneves 2017 Indy 500 practice
Ryan Hunter-Reay Indy 500 practice 2017
Will Power Indy 500 practice
James Hinchcliffe, Long Beach, IndyCar
Will Power - Team Penske
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Will Power - Penske  [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Richard Dowdy]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Richard Dowdy]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
Helio Castroneves (Team Penske) celebrates pole at Long Beach   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]

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JOHN - Unregistered

April 18, 2011 7:39 PM

Great news!! Hope he wins the big one next month- 'The Greatest Spectacle In Racing' - INDY 500!!. The very race that could have ended his career last year.

Hats off to Crash for yet another thorough and detailed Indy report. I do so wish the others could be up to this standard. I actually get a feel for what happened and always read them right through. As for Mike Conway, this boy is one to watch out for in the future not to forget Dario who is going about his business quietly as usual. I wouldn't put a cent on who will win the championship this year but one thing for sure, its going to be pretty exciting.

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