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Conway wins Toronto race 2 with tyre gamble

Mike Conway made a daring decision to switch to slick tyres before anyone else in Toronto, and it ended up handing him his fourth career IndyCar victory
CLICK: Full race 2 results from Toronto
CLICK: Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings

Almost four hours after the chequered flag, it was time for the green flag to get the race underway.

Confused? It was that sort of day, with the Verizon IndyCar Series having to pull out all the stops to pack in two full races into one day for the first time since June 1983, after persistent rain washed out track activity on Saturday afternoon. And just to add a little spice into the rescheduled proceedings on Sunday, the radar was showing more rain heading to Toronto within the hour.

No wonder then that race control pulled forward the standing start for the 65-lap race 2, with the grid positions determined by championship standings. That handed Helio Castroneves pole alongside his Penske team mate Will Power, with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport's Simon Pagenaud alongside Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay on the second row. Way back at the other end was Luca Filippi, who with a limited number of starts for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was lining up in 23rd and last place.

The start went without incident with the top four retaining position through turn 1. Justin Wilson needed to be re-fired after stalling in the Dale Coyne Racing #19, but there was still a quick caution after Tony Kanaan went wide at turn 3: he avoided ploughing into the tyre wall but the engine died on him, forcing the safety team into action. The race was quickly back underway, this time with the usual single file rolling restart on lap 4 that ran incident-free.

A mechanical issue left Pagenaud limping back to pit lane, his day effectively over early just seven laps into the race; he managed to avoid bringing out a full course caution as he brought the #77 back for the crew to work on. Of more concern was the appearance of sprinkles of rain on pit road, and sure enough within minutes the rain was clearly picking up and by lap 12 the pit crews were telling their drivers to come in for rain tyres as soon as possible.

It came too late to avoid a multi-car incident in turn 8, which started when Juan Pablo Montoya nosed into the tyre barrier. That left the rear end of the Penske #2 sticking out into the race line, and Hinchcliffe clipped it and went into the tyres himself. More seriously, Mikhail Aleshin's attempt to make the corner ended up with the Dale Coyne #18 sliding straight into and underneath the stricken car. Everyone feared for Aleshin possibly sustaining a nasty head injury, but the Russian was fine once Montoya's car was craned off and revealed that it had been the heat from the underside of the #2 that had made it difficult to breath which had been the real concern for him.

In the meantime, other cars had managed to get past or had slid into the run-off area and were now heading to pit lane for a change to wet weather tyres. The exceptions to the rule were Josef Newgarden and Sebastien Bourdais who opted to stay out, reasoning that the track wasn't wet enough yet to move off the slicks. That call put them at the front of the field behind the safety car ahead of Castroneves, Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and Will Power and Newgarden and Bourdais made it work for a couple of laps, but then the rain picked up and there was no longer any question about the need for wet weather tyres.

Bourdais made it into the pits but Newgarden spun at pit entry, forcing him to wait for the rest of the field to file past before he could get going again. Not that having the wet tyres was any guarantee against disaster either: Carlos Huertas spun around at turn 8 and Sebastian Saavedra flew into the run-off area in the moments that followed, before the yellow flags were out again on lap 24 for a large piece of debris (actually one of Huertas' rear wheel guards) on the racing line.

Castroneves was back in the lead for the restart with Power alongside him, followed by the Ganassi threesome of Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe. Luca Filippi had kept his head down and his wits around him and had managed to climb up from that last place on the grid to sixth ahead of Wilson, Charlie Kimball, Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth for the restart on lap 27.

Hawksworth spun before reaching the restart line but was able to get going again under local waves yellows, while up ahead Filippi made more progress with a quick move on Briscoe for fifth down Lakeshore Boulevard into turn 3 despite the water spray making visibility a serious issue. And unfortunately Filippi's fine progress ended up in the tyres at turn 8 to bring out a new caution on lap 32, which would have been the halfway point of the race if the rain and safety car delays hadn't already ensured that the 80-minute time limit was now in play.

The rain had stopped and the track was already starting to dry out by the time racing resumed on lap 35 with just under 30 minutes remaining on the clock, but no one was inclined to attempt an early jump back to slicks at this stage so it was still Castroneves from Power, Kanaan, Dixon and Briscoe, with Charlie Kimball passing Justin Wilson for sixth to put all four Ganassi cars into formation, line astern.

There was conspicuously little team camaraderie at the front between Castroneves and Power, and no sign of team orders from Roger Penske either as the two battled lap after lap for control of the race. Finally Power could stand it no longer, and with 20 minutes on the clock he made a sharp left hand turn while side-by-side with Castroneves: Power made it work and took the lead without causing mortal damage to either Penske car, but it wouldn't have endeared him to his team mate.

The question now was who was going to be the first to make the switch to slick tyres. It fell to Mike Conway, who startled the Ed Carpenter pit crew with the decision to pit earlier than expected. The timing turned out to be a master-stroke as seconds later Sebastian Saavedra planted himself in the tyres at turn 3 on lap 44 to bring out a new caution which closed pit lane. Will Power only just got the word in time to abort his own stop, which could otherwise have cost him a drive-thru penalty. He went on to win the race off pit road but was now down in sixth place, behind a number of drivers who had opted to stay out on the wet tyres - Wilson, Newgarden, Huertas and Filippi - and of course Conway, who had made his own stop just in time.

A fast and furious restart on lap 48 with ten minutes to go allowed Conway to quickly cut his way through to the lead ahead of Wilson, with Kanaan quick to get around Power and give chase. However there was one final twist in the tale, triggered by contact between Kimball and Huertas going into turn 3 on lap 51 which turned Huertas around and triggered a pileup that caught up Hunter-Reay, Briscoe, Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz in the second multi-car logjam of the afternoon. With Graham Rahal's car also grinding to a halt in the middle of the track with a mechanical issue, race control decided to throw a red flag to allow the safety teams to deal with the various situations: that froze the clock with four and a half minutes to go in an attempt to deliver a green flag finish to the race for the fans.

Mike Conway had the lead for the restart ahead of Wilson, Kanaan, Power, Newgarden and Kimball. By now the racing line had completely dried out which left Wilson a sitting duck to those around him on slicks, sending him tumbling back to tenth place in the remaining minutes. Also falling backwards was Castroneves who had suffered front wing damage that ended up leaving him down in 12th place by the finish.

But at the front there were no problems for Conway, who immediately shot out clear of Kanaan. The pair well ahead of Power, who had his hands full holding off Kimball. Not putting a foot wrong, Conway went on to pull out a three and a half seconds in the remaining time before the chequered flag came out, leaving the Briton to celebrate his second win of the year and his fourth IndyCar career victory in total.

It had been a day or racing worth waiting for, but the drivers and teams will surely be grateful for a week off before the next round of the 2014 IndyCar season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 3. Castroneves goes into that race still in control of the championship by a slender 13 points over Power.

See full race 2 results from Toronto
See current Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings



Related Pictures

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Chevrolet sweeps the podium with winner Mike Conway (center), driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrating his victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the second of two IndyCar Series races through the streets of Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Canada. Tony Kanaan (left), driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet celebrates his second-place finish. Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet celebrates his third-place finish. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, Tony Kanaan and Will Power celebrate on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway jumps for joy after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates with his team after winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates with his team owner Roger Penske after winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates with his wife Liz after winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Team Chevy sweeps the podium as Tony Kanaan (center), driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Saturday, August 30, 2014, during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Teammate Scott Dixon (left), driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes second, and Ed Carpenter, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes third. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Gregg EllmanLAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, takes the chequered flag while racing to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, makes a quick pit stop while racing to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Brian Cleary/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by posing with the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by hoisting the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by kissing the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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