Full race results and championship standings
Mike Conway claimed his second winners trophy at Long Beach after a tense, exciting and eventful Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday afternoon in California on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit, after several of the leading contenders were wiped out by a multi-car pile-up mid-race. Following the costly wipeout, Conway then subsequently consolidated his position by overtaking Power during the restart and then pressured Scott Dixon into running out of fuel two laps from the end which enabled Conway to inherit the lead and maintain it for the remainder of the race to clinch the chequered flag.
“Somehow, I got it done,” said Conway as he stepped out in victory circle looking somewhat stunned by the turn of events. "It can't believe I'm actually here!
"You never know where you're going to be, so you just have to push as hard as you can all the time," he explained. "I pushed because I knew Will [Power] was going to be close and he was good off the last corner. I knew I had to keep it clean there. I wasn't sure Scott was going to pull in there - I couldn't see he was saving fuel where he should have been saving. Second would have been good, but this is awesome."
For much of the race, the victory seemed to be heading Ryan Hunter-Reay's way ans he and his Andretti Autosport team mate James Hinchcliffe lined at the front of the grid for the standing start. The top eight cars on the grid had all opted for the faster option tyres for their first stint, while from ninth placed Helio Castroneves on down the overwhelming selection was the longer-lasting prime tyres.
Hunter-Reay got a good launch off the front of the grid when the lights went out but Hinchcliffe struggled, opening the door for Sebastien Bourdais to get around him and pressure Hunter-Reay into turn 1. The cars then packed up through the fountain section resulting in some jostling, minor contact and miscellaneous front wing damage throughout the field. Hinchcliffe fell prey to a storming Simon Pagenaud and briefly to Marco Andretti, but Andretti's early surge was quickly undone as he was quickly bundled back down to seventh just ahead of Scott Dixon by successive passes from Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden and Jack Hawksworth.
Hunter-Reay quickly pulling out a three second lead over Bourdais while a number of drivers including Graham Rahal, Mikhail Aleshin, Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato all sought to find some tactical advantage by opting for very early visits to pit road to change to the option tyres (and in Sato's case, a new front wing). They slotted back in at the back just behind Sebastian Saavedra who had been the only staller at the start but who had been quickly re-fired by the safety team without losing a lap.
Nine laps in and Hinchcliffe successfully retook another of his early dropped spots with a nice power move on Pagenaud to reclaim third place. He was able to close up on he leaders when Ryan Briscoe pitted with electrical problems on lap 17 and ending up coming back out right ahead of Hunter-Reay, holding him up for a short spell.
Finding little forward progress, Will Power - who had started from 14th after a disastrous qualifying - switched strategies and pitted on lap 21, and the move was soon copied by other midfielders including Mike Conway. A couple of laps later and Hawksworth was in as well, having cooked his tyres and haemorrhaging positions at an alarming rate. Next time by and Bourdais pitted at the same time as Hinchcliffe, and that forced Hunter-Reay to respond in kind next time around. The first caution of the race materialised while the #28 was still being serviced, after Hinchcliffe's harrying contributed to Bourdais running nose-first into the tyre barrier at turn 8 while nursing cold tyres after his own stop.
The line-up for the restart on lap 32 consisted of Hunter-Reay, Paganeud, Hinchcliffe and Newgarden, ahead of three cars on the faster option tyres: Power now up to fifth ahead of Castroneves and Charlie Kimball. Graham Rahal - who had just had contact with Kanaan on pit road - managed to turn Justin Wilson around heading to the green flag, while seconds later Pagenaud was himself tapped into a tyre barrier by Will Power. Neither of these incidents resulted in a new caution and the Power/Pagenaud clash was deemed a racing incident even though it left Pagenaud fuming at Power after the race, but Rahal was issued a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact.
This time Hunter-Reay was not able to run away and hide at the front from his team mate Hinchcliffe. Newgarden was also doing a good job of holding on to the leaders while warding off Power behind him when a new caution was thrown on lap 41, for the same cause as the first - Bourdais locking-up and going nose-first into another tyre barrier at turn 9. As the field packed together behind the safety car, Charlie Kimball's Chevrolet issued urgent smoke distress signals and the #83 promptly expired and pulled over from sixth place, the first retirement of the afternoon.
Dixon, Wilson and Andretti all opted to pit even though they were around eight laps outside the window of making it to the end on a full tank of gas while the leaders all stayed out, Hunter-Reay once again pulling away ahead of Hinchcliffe, Newgarden and Power when the green flag came out on lap 46. Hunter-Reay was unable to pull away from the others and if anything he was holding up the rest of the field for the next few laps although no one at the front was able to take advantage of the close running, with a particularly spirited attempt by Power on Newgarden proving unsuccessful.
Thwarted on the track, Power resorted to strategy and pitted on lap 54 the minute the chequered flag was in reach. He was joined on pit road by Castroneves and both were hoping to use the overlap to get the jump on the leaders. Wise to this, Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe came in the very next lap and managed to stave off the threat, exiting pit road safely ahead of the Penskes. However, a new threat to their grip on the race then appeared when Newgarden was next in: the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing pit team played a blinder, putting the #67 back out on track right ahead of the leaders. Now all he had to do was hold on while his tyres warmed up.
Easier said than done: Hunter-Reay sensed his chance to reclaim the lead and made a run down the inside of Newgarden into turn 4, but the space he thought was there was suddenly gone and the two cars made impact, running into the outside wall on the exit of the corner.
“We had a strong car and Newgarden came out of pit lane and I knew he was on cold tyres,” said Hunter-Reay said. “He was really struggling to get up to speed through Turn 1, and then through Turn 3 he had some wheel spin so I went for it. I started to back out because he was closing the door. I could have waited a little later. Maybe that's my fault, but at the same time I had at least a half a car up along sides of him so I went for it. If we had given each other a little bit of room we both maybe would have gotten through there.
“I made the decision at that split second, when he had some wheel spin, to go for it knowing that I was on hot tyres. That's the type of driver I am, I go for it," he added, before owning up to the mistake. "I feel bad for everybody involved. A racing driver, when he's in the moment and he sees a chance to go for it ... I went for it because I want to win the race."
Following close behind, Hinchcliffe had no where to go but right into the heart of the accident; Will Power was able to weave his way through but Castroneves sustained nose damage running into the rebounding Hunter-Reay. And then the fun really started, as the rest of the field came around the blind corner without any idea of what was waiting for them. An already big accident got bigger still as defending race winner Takuma Sato ran into the back of Hinchcliffe followed by Hawksworth and then Kanaan also failing to avoid the calamity. The good news was that no drivers were seriously hurt in the making of this pile-up, although Hinchcliffe was later seen sporting a strapped-up left wrist and he admitted that he would need to go for an X-ray to ensure it was just a sprain. Castroneves and Hawksworth were able to extract themselves and head to pit lane for running repairs, but the five other cars had been eliminated by the single incident.
The chaos had left early stoppers Dixon and Wilson at the front for the lap 64 restart but short on fuel, while Power was now in with a real shot of winning his second race of the year in third ahead of Mike Conway, Carlos Munoz, Juan Pablo Montoya, Carlos Huertas and Graham Rahal after they had all successfully navigated the fallout from the crash. The lap following the restart proved to be all-action: Dixon and Wilson went side-by-side into turn 8 and made contact that booted Wilson into the wall, breaking the #19's suspension and putting the Englishman out of the race. Behind them, Conway got the jump on Power for what was now second place despite a damaged front wing on the #20, but behind them an attempt by Andretti to gain positions at the hairpin resulted in contact with Mikhail Aleshin. Added to all that, Carlos Huertas was handed a drive-thru penalty for jumping the start. Fortunately none of this triggered a return to yellow, and Dixon was left struggling on his ageing tyres to retain the lead from Conway. However, the yellows were back out a few minutes later when Graham Rahal was spun around at the hairpin and his overheated brakes caused a small smokey fire that needed the safety crew to attend to before he could be sent back on his way.
The race resumed with ten laps to go and Dixon still two laps short on fuel and certainly struggling on the old tyres to stay ahead of Conway, Power and Munoz. Conway showed no mercy and kept up the pressure to that the Kiwi had no chance to ease off and save fuel, and sure enough the #9 was forced onto pit road for a splash of fuel with two laps to go, handing Mike Conway the race lead but also putting the Ed Carpenter Racing car under fierce pressure from Will Power who threw everything he had to shake the Englishman.
However Conway was able to remain ice-cool, and despite his battle-scarred front wing it was the #20 that looked the better package as he slowly eked out just enough of a safety margin over the Penske car to ensure that he made it across the line first by nine tenths of a second ahead of Power, with rookie driver Carlos Munoz salvaging an otherwise dismal day for Andretti Autosport ahead of his Colombian compatriot Juan Pablo Montoya who claimed fourth one spot ahead of Pagenaud. An impressive rookie showing from Mikhail Aleshin in just his second race in the IndyCar Series saw the Russian secure sixth place in front of of Oriol Servia, Marco Andretti and Sebastian Saavedra with Carlos Huertas rounding out the top ten. The final drivers on the lead lap at the chequered flag were Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon, with Graham Rahal the first man a lap down.
It was Conway's second win at Long Beach after he had also won the event back in 2011; it was also the first win by Ed Carpenter Racing on a street/road course, validating team owner Ed Carpenter's decision to hand the race seat to Conway for these races while he himself continues to take care of the ovals.
Full race results and championship standings