Check the box score of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and 16th place for Mike Conway stands out. Really? Did he crash in his debut with Ed Carpenter Racing or what?
No, and his finish is straight from the stats-don’t-tell-the-whole-story department.
Conway, who started 12th in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car, charged to third midway through the 110-lap race and was poised to make a run on race leader Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay. But as others in the top 10 ducked in for service on Lap 77 under the first caution of the race, Conway didn’t hear the radio communication from the team’s pit stand and remained on the 1.8-mile street circuit.
He was credited with leading a lap but accidently passed the pace car to enter the pit area on Lap 78, which led to a drive through penalty that essentially took him out of contention.
“We made some big gains on the red Firestone tires and drove by many people. So that was very positive,” Conway said. “I wasn't hoping for a safety car there. I wanted to hold the gap when we went to the black tires. Then I didn't hear a radio communication to come into the pits. I thought the safety car waved me by but they were waving (James) Hinchcliffe by instead. And that was it. It screwed up our whole day. That is definitely frustrating after driving to third."
Team owner Ed Carpenter, in his first race outside the cockpit, said the positives outweighed the disappointing finish.
“In my mind, we made some major gains with Mike and the car throughout the weekend,” he said. “The building blocks are there for down the road. We made some mistakes on the pit stop and passing the pace car. There are some things we learned.”
Carpenter, who will compete in the No. 20 car on ovals, gained a different perspective while on the pit stand.
“The only other time I have stood on the stand that long is when I had an early DNF in a race,” he said. “It was a learning experience for me as I watched what the guys do on the stand and during the races. I was able to see how strategies unfold.”
Conway is looking forward to another strong drive at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which he won in 2011. The Verizon IndyCar Series race weekend is April 11-13.
Tickets available to The Yellow Party in Long Beach
Ryan and Beccy Hunter-Reay will host The Yellow Party on April 11 as part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race weekend.
The Yellow Party is the biggest fund-raising event for Racing For Cancer, which Hunter-Reay founded following the passing of his mother from cancer. Activities at the Federal Bar in downtown Long Beach with paid admission include live music, silent and live auctions, food and beverages. To purchase tickets, visit theyellowparty.org.
Racing For Cancer focuses on helping the cancer community and raising awareness of the importance of early detection.
Bid on race-worn helmet by Rahal
The Graham Rahal Foundation is auctioning the helmet that Rahal wore in the 2013 MAVTV 500.
The auction, held on Rahal's celebrity eBay page at http://givingworks.ebay.com/graham-rahal/, runs through 9 a.m. (ET) April 7. Proceeds benefit both of the Graham Rahal Foundation's charities, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer and SeriousFun Children's Network.
Rahal, driver of the No. 15 National Guard car for Rahal Letterman Racing, held a contest for fans to design his helmet for the Verizon IndyCar Series finale. Fans voted for the winning helmet design, which features Rahal interacting with children.
"The winner submitted an incredible design that highlighted exactly what we do and the children we help at the Graham Rahal Foundation,” he said.
Marco Andretti is the cover story in the April edition of Naluda Magazine. CLICK HERE to check it out. ... Rahal was part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and Pro/Celebrity Race media day April 1 at the race venue. ... Paul Rodgers of Bad Company is the headliner for the Rock-N-Roar Concert on April 12 on the Concert Stage facing Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach. It's free to all race ticket-holders.