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IZOD IndyCar Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

IZOD IndyCar Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Michael Andretti
Mike Conway
April 17, 2011


THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winner, Mike Conway of Andretti Autosport. This is Mike's first career IZOD IndyCar Series win. The win comes in his 26th start in the IZOD IndyCar Series. His previous best finish was third place at Infineon in 2009. This is also Andretti Autosport's second consecutive win here on the Streets of Long Beach. The team won last year with driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, and team owner Michael Andretti is a two-time winner at the track.
Mike, congratulations. It's got to feel good. Will you talk about today's race, specifically that last restart there and then that pass on Ryan for the lead?
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, I mean, initially was just kind of following Will and Ryan. The car was good, kind of just saving fuel, just keeping the gap the same and not pushing too hard, trying to save a little bit of the tires just in case. If they pitted early I still had some tires left to push.
And we came in for that pit stop, and things kind of went a little bit wrong from there. A little bit my fault, I think, just coming in just locked the tire in. There was a problem with the left front. From there it was kind of a case of try and pass as many cars as I could. But at the same time it wasn't easy; it was tough.
But as soon as we came out on the reds and kind of jumped a few people in the pits, car kind of came to life again, and yeah, on the restarts the car was awesome. Everyone else was kind of struggling for grip and we were just kind of charging through.
Yeah, great we won, and Dario and Ryan I passed later, so it was nice to really fight for the lead there and a nice clean pass, and from there it was kind of just head down and try and pull away.

Q. Were you surprised how big a gap you were able to open up once you were in the lead? Because it looked like you just kind of drove away from them.
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, I mean, as I said, the car was good on the restarts and I was kind of just pushing the car to its limits, as always, and yeah, they just kind of dropped away from my mirrors, so it kind of made my day a little bit easier not having to fight with Ryan all the way through to the end there. Yeah, the car just was good, and came out determined to do really well. Yeah, we were just able to pull away.
I think the gap that we pulled so quickly was great, and I would just keep it from there. So yeah. I don't know, a little bit surprised maybe, but the car felt hooked up, so I thought I could do it.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by team owner Michael Andretti. As I mentioned, a two-time winner here at the track and his second consecutive win as a team owner here at Long Beach. Michael, Mike joined the team here at the start of the season. What made you take a chance on Mike and his comeback this year?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: First of all, I don't think it was a chance. I think Mike showed a lot of signs of brilliance last year at the beginning of the season and then unfortunately had his accident. Coming back, I had no question in my mind. I personally felt like he was going to be hungrier than ever coming back, and that's exactly the way it came about. The first time he got in a race car for us, he was literally up in speed in about four or five laps after being out of a car that long.
I never felt like it was taking a chance. I was so happy that we were able to put a deal together with Mike because I was really wanting him all the way from the end of last year, and the deal came together really late and I was very happy because I felt like he was going to be a great addition to the team not only as a great talent, but he just fits in with the other three drivers, which is quite important to have that chemistry. And I think we have a great chemistry right now between the drivers, and because of that, I feel really good about the rest of this year. I think we're going to be strong.

Q. You won last year with Ryan Hunter-Reay; your father Mario had a lot of success here; you had a lot of success here. Is this one of your favorite tracks?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's a special place for sure. For me personally, like you said, winning my first and my last race here, my career, and there's something about Long Beach. When you come here, you just feel the energy. It's different than anywhere we go. The fans are just so great, and the track is great, promoters are great. It's a fun part of the year.
You know, it seems like when I go to places like that, you feel like you do better, and I think maybe that's one of the things that really has always affected me in that way and that's why I've had good luck here.

Q. Considering what happened last year, how much does this victory mean to you, and did you at any point after last year's accident think that your career might be over?
MIKE CONWAY: Well, yeah. I mean, initially I saw the injuries I had, and I just wasn't sure when I'd get back. Yeah, things like that can definitely stop your career. But I was just determined to not let it, determined to get back, back to fitness and back in a car.
As soon as we were kind of talking to Michael, it was really exciting times knowing that we could possibly be with such a good team like Andretti Autosport. Yeah, for it to finally come together was awesome.
Yeah, this year just full of energy and just all ready for the fight ahead. A long season. To get a win in the third race in, third race back, is awesome, and I can't thank Michael enough for believing in me and the team for doing such a great job.

Q. For Michael, talk about how quickly your emotions changed from when Ryan had his issue and then all of a sudden you look up and there's Mike in the lead?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was crazy and I've got to admit unexpected. It's so difficult to pass here, so I was really happy to see Mike up in the top six, and I thought, that's not bad considering what he had to go through, and at that point we were feeling good about where Ryan was and then all of a sudden Ryan has this problem and I felt really bad for him and the whole DHL Sun Drop team, and I was like, oh, man, this is over.
And then all of a sudden everybody starts cheering, and I'm like, what are they cheering about, and Mike is like, boom, going past Dario, and next thing you know he's past Briscoe. Unbelievable. And then he just walked it. I was so happy and proud.
But like you say, mixed emotions. That's the only downside about it when you have a four-car team, that not everybody is going to be happy leaving here. I feel bad for the other three, but so excited for Mike, and I know what he's gone through and how hard it's been, and to come here and do it that way was -- it wasn't given to him. He had to fight back hard, and it just shows he doesn't give up, and that's what he did. He drove like a champion today.

Q. How do you think this is going to play back home, and have you heard from any of your family and friends back in England yet?
MIKE CONWAY: Well, yeah, actually my mom, dad and brother are here, so it's great that they're here to enjoy it all. Yeah, I'm sure it'll be great. The press back home is always pretty good; my local kind of town always follow me. Yeah, I'm actually flying back to the UK tomorrow, so I'll probably see. I'll see what it's like. No, it's always good. Great following in the UK with the IndyCar Series, and I think it's just getting stronger and stronger as it is over here. Yeah, I think it should all be good.

Q. In the months after the accident, was it more physical or mental at that point to get back to where you're at?
MIKE CONWAY: Just physical, really. I mean, as soon as it happened I wanted to know what the time frame was and when I could get back in a car. I was already kind of over it, really. And then you've got the physical side of things, which just takes time. From there it's just an ongoing process, bit by bit, day by day, until kind of where I am now. Yeah, I mean, it was a long off-season, but I had a lot to focus on and a lot to keep my mind on, and when I kind of got the chance to get back in the car, I was ready.

Q. For both of you, Mike, we had talked about the support earlier in the weekend that you got, and even on the side of the car it makes a lot of sense with When the World Cares and the heart. Maybe if you could talk about that. And Mr. Andretti, you know the history of this race leading up to Indianapolis and how important that is, and is your driver aware of what this has meant in the past?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I don't know, you'd have to ask him, but this is always a good one to win. It doesn't matter what. It's always nice to have the momentum of a win going into the long month of May, so it's great.
What was the other part of your question? Oh, yeah, it's great to have When the World Cares on board. They've been great supporters. They're with -- my cousin John is going to be a sponsor, When the World Cares, and this is their big charity, When the World Cares. It's so cool to have those colors on the car and to get them in victory lane, and hopefully help the cause, which I know they do a lot of different things, but one of their big things is with the St. Jude's Hospital for Children and things like that, which are great things, and it's nice to help out a little bit.

Q. For Mike Conway, you made it sound like it was an easy drive today. Did you have any difficulties at all during the race?
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, maybe I'm making it sound too easy. No, it was not an easy day. I mean, at the beginning it was just kind of controlling it, the gap between me and Ryan and Will and saving fuel, and from there, once we dropped back in the pack, it was a fight, really, a fight to stay where we were and to try and move forward on the restarts and to keep us in the game. You know, kind of restarts worked out for us, the strategy worked well, and yeah, the car was just on fire, really, at the end. We were just able to push by the guys and make some good moves, and before I knew it I was in the lead and went for kind of a few laps. Yeah, just a great job from the guys made my day that little bit easier, I suppose.

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