Thursday, September 13, 2012

Conway Out, Cunningham In

Shocker of a report out of Fontana that Mike Conway has stepped away from his No. 14 ride this weekend and Wade Cunningham will drive in his place.

As reported many places, including this piece from, Conway came to the decision that he no longer wanted to race on ovals and while he does want to continue his racing career, it will be on twisties only.

I tip my had to the man. It takes a ton of courage to do what he did, because there are going to be a lot of circles where he will absorb some criticism. His admission is one that race car drivers aren't supposed to make. They are supposed to cast everything aside and race. It's what they do.

Ovals are hard to drive, and they can get scary sometimes. It's OK to be scared, all of them are at one time or another. Every driver who has ever driven a lap at speed on an oval has, at one time or another, had to make a deal with themselves to keep their right foot to the floor as they dove into a corner.

What makes someone a good oval driver is that the fear they feel doesn't creep into their driving. Because once they do that they will be a hazard to themselves, and even worse, a hazard to their fellow competitors.

Conway is fortunate to have survived two wicked crashes at Indy, in 2010 and again this year, and while the latter crash doesn't appear to be as violent, it happened right in front of me, and it was still frightening. My son Matt looked at me immediately afterwards and said "I will never forget the sound that wreck made".

And though he wasn't involved in the 15-car crash that took Dan Wheldon, he was in the field at Las Vegas and no doubt he, like everyone else who raced there that day, carries an emotional scar from that experience.

He has proven that with the right equipment he is a capable driver, as his win at Long Beach last year shows. But when you look at his oval record it is pretty easy to tell it was never something he seemed comfortable with. And that is OK, oval racing isn't for everyone.

So best of luck to Mike, who is a guy that while people gently tease for being so stoic and laid back, also seems to be pretty well-liked around the paddock. I'm guessing he will find something to drive soon.

AJ Foyt Enterprises will see a familiar face in the 28-year-old Cunningham, who jumped on a plane this afternoon and will be ready to drive this weekend. He drove for Foyt this past May at Indianapolis, where he finished in 31st place after dropping out just past the 100-mile mark with electrical issues.

Saturday he will make his sixth IndyCar start. He finished 29th and 20th in the Texas doubleheader races, placed seventh at Kentucky and started at Las Vegas and was involved in the Lap 11 accident.

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