Fit-again Conway seals first IndyCar win at Long Beach

Mike Conway
Conway was fortunate to survive after his horror crash last season

Mike Conway claimed an emotional maiden IndyCar victory by winning Sunday's Grand Prix of Long Beach less than a year after suffering a horrific crash.

The 27-year-old Englishman broke his leg and back on the final lap of the Indianapolis 500 in May 2010.

But in his third race since returning from that accident, he triumphed for the first time in 26 starts.

Ryan Briscoe was more than six seconds back in second place, with reigning champion Dario Franchitti third.

Conway passed Briscoe with 14 laps remaining in the 85-lap race and stormed home to rise 19 places to fifth in the standings.

"The car was just on fire, really, at the end," Conway told the LA Times.external-link "Before I knew it, I was in the lead."

Referring to the famed 11-turn, 1.97-mile Long Beach seaside circuit, Australian driver Briscoe commented: "Kudos to Conway; it's a pretty special place for him to get his first win.

"Conway was lightning fast, I really had nothing for him."

It was a superb result for a driver who was involved in one of the most frightening crashes in Indianapolis 500 history.

Competing for the Dreyer & Reinbold in his second IndyCar season, Conway collided with Ryan Hunter-Reay - a current team-mate at Andretti Autosport.

His car flew through the air before smashing into a catch fence and almost disintegrating, leaving him with multiple fractures to his lower left leg and a compression fracture in his back.

"I just wasn't sure when I'd get back," said Conway. "Things like that can definitely stop your career.

"But I was just determined not to let it, determined to get back, back to fitness and back in a car."

Of the decision to hire Conway, Andretti stated: "I had no question in my mind. I personally felt he was going to be hungrier than ever. I never felt like it was taking a chance."

Conway went through a gruelling rehabilitation programme to be fit for the start of this campaign and finished 23rd in his first event back at St Petersburg before coming 22nd at Alabama.

He qualified in third for Sunday's race and stuck with the leaders until a poor pit stop saw him fall deep into the 27-car field.

But he fought back brilliantly to capture a superb victory.

"After the hiccup in the pits, you'd think the race was over for him," added Andretti. "But he just hung in there, made some beautiful passes and did what it takes."

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