The first half of the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach generally was a stately affair. However after a major multi-car incident on Lap 54 effectively reset the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Scott Dixon emerged as the leader but still had to try and stretch out his fuel to the finish with Conway and the rest of the field chasing after him.
As Conway increased his pressure, a radio transmission from Dixon’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing team disclosed that the defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion would be half a lap short on fuel. Instead, Dixon came to the pits with two laps remaining, and Conway did the rest by holding back Will Power to claim his second career win at the Beach.
“I can’t believe it, I can’t believe I’m actually here,” said Conway, who started 17th in the 23-car field. “Just an awesome job by the team. We weren’t sure what we had, but we hung in there all the way to the end and it just seemed to come to us…I can’t believe it – two times a Long Beach winner. Unbelievable.”
Conway, 30, is a part-time driver for the team owned by fellow IndyCar racer Ed Carpenter. “It’s great to repay them with a win this soon,” Conway said. “I’m very thankful for the position I’m
Conway was one of multiple drivers that was forced to work his way around the aforementioned crash, which started when pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay went to the inside of Josef Newgarden after the latter had just emerged with the lead following a pit stop.
Going into Turn 4, Hunter-Reay made contact with Newgarden and both of them went into the wall. By the time the melee was over, James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato, and Tony Kanaan had also been collected and eliminated from the race.
The race restarted with 16 laps to go and Conway was in fourth behind leader Dixon, Justin Wilson and Power. But off the restart, Dixon and Wilson came together going into Turn 8, and the latter went into the runoff with terminal damage.
Another caution brought about what would be the final restart of the race with 10 to go, and this time, Conway was on the rear wing of Dixon, who had emerged unscathed from the run-in with Wilson.
Dixon, known as perhaps the best fuel conservation man in all of IndyCar, had last pitted on Lap 44 and was trying desperately to not only save fuel but keep Conway in his rear view mirror. Unfortunately for him, it was not to be. The New Zealander was also remorseful for the contact with Wilson, whom he wasn’t expecting to be on the outside of him.
“You’re looking to the right [at Turn 8] and I obviously got into him,” he said. “I felt a little tap there but I apologize to him and his whole team.”
“My teammates had some bad luck, but it’s racing – it’s happened to me a long time ago,” Munoz said. “But I’m really happy for the third place. Those were some great last laps…I have to thank my crew, who did an awesome job on pit stops.”
Also doing well was Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished fourth and came away with the first Top-5 finish in his return to open-wheel racing after a seven-year run in NASCAR.