The streets of Long Beach have always played a big part in the Andretti family, and today was no different. It was an up-and-down day for the team, but in the end, team owner Michael Andretti left with a win.
With about 25 laps remaining in today's IndyCar race at Long Beach, the race was relatively calm. Things changed dramatically in the next 10 laps. Once again, it involved the new double-file restart, which actually didn't even pan out the way it was supposed to.
Making his 25th career start in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Mike Conway had only led in one race; last year's Indianapolis 500 that almost took his life. Today he restarted in fifth place with about 20 laps to go and quickly made his way to the front.
It all started when Helios Castroneves took out his own Penske teammate Will Power going into Turn 1. They were battling for second position, when he locked up his brakes and slid into the left-rear of Power. Conway was able to make it through that and get into third.
Conway's Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay then had mechanical problems, which moved him up to second. He then made a great move in Turn 6 on Ryan Briscoe, out-breaking him and taking the lead with 13 laps to go. He was not challenged the rest of the way and went on to victory lane. Briscoe finished in second, and Dario Franchitti came home third.
A pair of Canadian drivers rounded out the top five. Making just his second start in the series, rookie James Hinchcliffe finished fourth, and Alex Tagliani came home in fifth.
The rest of the top 10 finishers were Oriol Servia, Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan, Vitor Meira and Will Power. Helio Castroneves finished in 12th, and Scott Dixon finished 18th. He was running in sixth place when he suffered some damage to his right-front in the Penske teammate crash.
Car owner Michael Andretti lost a great veteran driver in Tony Kanaan, but getting a talent like Mike Conway for the future is something he can hang his hat on. "We had a lot of high hopes for Mike and he's not letting us down," said Andretti after the race.
Conway came over to AA from Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and has had some bad luck early. He was looking great in the season opening race in St. Pete, only to be taken out in that first lap crash. He had a decent run going last week at Barber before he ran into more problems with the car. Today, though, things finally seemed to go his way.
The strangle hold that Penske and Ganassi have had over the past few seasons finally seems to be evening out—a little. Power and Helio took each other out, as all three drivers were in the top five during the incident. Franchitti still got a podium finish, and Dixon was running in sixth when he suffered damage in the same wreck.
Still, this race once again featured many different teams in the top 10. The top five finishers were all from different teams.
This was the first win for Andretti Autosport since last year's win by Tony Kanaan at Iowa. Danica Patrick managed to bring her car home in seventh place, improving 13 spots. She managed to get away from EJ Viso when he came down on her, making contact. Fortunately for Danica, he was the only one to suffer damage, as he bounced off of her and into a very familiar place: the wall.
While Conway got his first career win, and Danica Patrick finished in seventh place after starting in 20th, things weren't all that good for the team's other two drivers.
Ryan Hunter-Reay had a car that could have won the race, but had something break in the car with about 14 laps to go. Marco Andretti made a mistake early leaving pit lane, collecting Sebastien Bourdais on the way out. They both were out of the race early.
Paul Tracy made his return to Long Beach, where he has had well-documented success. In his first race of the season, he drove his car to a 16th place finish for Dragon Racing.
Dario Franchitti moved into the points lead, taking a seven-point advantage over Will Power.
The series will take next weekend off, as teams prepare for the next race: the Sao Paulo Indy 300 in Brazil. This race, which will be run on May 1st, will be the final race before the world famous Indianapolis 500.
Last year's race in Brazil was the season-opener, and it was filled with a little bit of everything. The inaugural race was won by Will Power, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Vitor Meira finishing behind him. It was an action-packed race that included a first-lap crash, seven lead changes and a rainstorm.