Jun 1, 2013
DETROIT -- With his black firesuit with white piping sans sponsor logos, Mike Conway looked somewhat out of place as awards were being presented for Race 1 of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans.
But to 24 IZOD IndyCar Series competitors, there wasn't anything amiss about Conway standing on the top step of the podium. Not after what he had accomplished in past road/street course races, earlier in the day on the 2.346-mile, 13-turn Belle Isle street circuit and in the 70-lap race.
The Englishman, who turns 30 Aug. 19, dominated and set himself up for a $50,000 bonus if he also can win the second race of the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series doubleheader weekend June 2.
Conway, who started second in the Honda-powered No. 18 Sonny's car for Dale Coyne Racing, overtook Ryan Hunter-Reay for the lead in Turn 3 on Lap 44, built a 20-second gap leading into the final round of pit stops and went on to easily claim his second series victory. Conway led 47 laps; he led a total of 31 laps in his previous four seasons.
Click it: Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans Race 1 box score
“The car has been great all weekend and as the track was rubbering in it was getting better and better," said Conway, whose other IZOD IndyCar Series victory came at Long Beach in 2011. "It was keep pushing and get a gap, and the strategy worked out perfectly at the end. I wanted to stay out and do more laps."
Hunter-Reay, the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion, was 12.9707 seconds back and Conway's teammate, Justin Wilson, claimed his second consecutive top-five finish by holding off 2012 race winner Scott Dixon by .0984 of a second for third. Dixon's No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car sustained rear-wing damage in a Lap 1 incident that dropped him to 24th of 25 cars after pitting twice for repairs.
"Tough day," Dixon said. "I don’t feel too bad. The pace of the race was very high. It felt like it was qualifying all over again almost every lap."
Conway, who took over the seat from Ana Beatriz for the sixth race of the season, also claimed the Verizon P1 Award for Race 2 (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC) with the quickest lap in the two-group qualification session six hours before Race 1. It was the first earned IZOD IndyCar Series pole for the driver from England and Dale Coyne Racing. Click it: Race 2 qualification results
A driver who sweeps any of the three doubleheaders this season will receive the $50,000 SONAX Perfect Finish Award. If Conway can't complete the task, the prize fund carries over to Toronto in mid-July ($100,000). If no one wins both of those races, the Houston doubleheader in early October will be worth $150,000.
"Want to go to Toronto?" team owner Dale Coyne proposed to Conway in Victory Circle. "We were impressed this morning. We’ve never had a driver qualify on the pole, let alone win, lead the most laps, set the fastest lap (1:17.8447 on Lap 47), everything he did. It’s pretty amazing on his part and for the entire team to put both cars in the top three."
Helio Castroneves finished fifth and reclaimed the championship lead by three points over Hunter-Reay. Marco Andretti, the points leader entering the race, placed 20th after his No. 25 RC Cola car for Andretti Autosport also sustained damage on the narrow circuit and is four points behind.
"Jumping straight from the couch to the driver’s seat," Castroneves said of Conway. "It just proves that the series is very competitive with the teams. And now we’ve taken the points lead, which is very good. What we had was great; I wish it could’ve been a little bit more, but we’ll take it. Our strategy for tomorrow is just to keep it clean like we did today."
Dario Franchitti, who earned the Verizon P1 Award on May 31 but started 11th because of a grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change at Indianapolis, secured sixth place. Josef Newgarden was the biggest mover in the race (17 positions to seventh) for his third top 10 of the season in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car.
Will Power finished eighth and Graham Rahal also was a big gainer, advancing 14 positions to ninth.
The Verizon P1 Award for Race 2 was awarded to the best overall lap time in the two sessions. The remainder of the cars in the pole sitter’s group will occupy the odd-numbered starting grid positions, starting with third. Cars from Group 1 will occupy the even-numbered starting grid positions.
James Jakes, who finished 10th in Race 1, posted the quickest lap in Group 1 (1:18.1704) in the No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He'll also start on the front row -- an IZOD IndyCar Series career high through 37 races. In 1992, team co-owner Bobby Rahal started second and went on to win the race at Belle Isle.
Conway previously had a best qualifying result of second at Barber Motorsports Park in 2010 and Baltimore in 2012. Wilson, who has provided Dale Coyne Racing its other two series victories, will start eighth in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America entry. He also had the team's most recent best starting position of second at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2009.
“This is great to get our first pole,” Coyne said. “We have had many front-row performances, but I am thankful for Mike bringing us our first pole. Maybe a yellow Sonny’s car is good luck.”