Mike Conway - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
Realizing the landscape of IZOD IndyCar Series racing is changing rapidly from its original emphasis on ovals to more of a road- and street-track circuit for the 2012 season, A.J. Foyt Racing has chosen Mike Conway, 28, to drive its No. 14 ABC Supply Indy car with Honda power next year.
Conway, winner of the 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, has shown resiliency throughout his Indy car career. In his first, 2009 season with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Conway surged toward mid-season, earning several top-10 results before gaining his first podium, a third-place finish at Infineon Raceway Sears Point.
Conway came back with DRR in 2010 with four top-10 finishes in six races, but he suffered severe leg and back injuries in a final-lap crash during the Indianapolis 500, sitting out the balance of the season.
Conway's 2010 injuries didn't deter Andretti Autosport from hiring Mike for the 2011 season; he qualified fourth at the season opener in St Petersburg and had an incredible drive on the Long Beach streets, returning from 21st place after a first pit-stop problem to lead the final 14 laps, passing eventual second and third place finishers Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti.
"With the series having twice as many road courses as ovals," said A.J. Foyt, "we looked for a driver who is fast on those tracks. Mike has certainly proved himself in that area. I'm looking forward to working with him and," Foyt said with a chuckle, "I may even be able to give him a little advice when it comes to ovals."
Conway's US exploits haven't gone unnoticed in the United Kingdom. He recently won the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) Innes Ireland award in recognition of his inspiring comeback from the Indy 500 accident. This prize, named for the late British Formula 1 driver who was badly injured in the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix (Ireland recovered to win three races that same season), the award goes to a driver who best displays the qualities of courage and sportsmanship epitomized by its namesake.
A former multi-time karting and British F3 International champion, Conway said, "I can't wait to start work with A.J. Foyt Racing and drive the No. 14 ABC Supply Car. It's going to be an exciting season with the new cars and multiple engine manufacturers. Hopefully we can hit the ground running with off-season developments and be quick out of the box. I"m counting the days until the first test and the start of the season," the usually soft-spoken Conway declared.
Foyt's team intends to take delivery of its first 2012 Dallara DW12 this week and starts its testing regimen in early February, the team said. It also intends to ramp up its engineering staff to better serve the new driver and its cause of gaining wins and a better finish in the championship.
"We all have big expectations for the upcoming season," said team manager Larry Foyt. "Mike shares our passion for getting the team back in Victory Lane. There is no doubt he has a ton of talent and, when combined with A.J.'s experience, I think we can accomplish great things together."
© 2011 Anne Proffit