Mike Conway dominated the opening race of this weekend's IndyCar double-header in Detroit. The Briton won going away in the first half of his two-off appearance with Dale Coyne Racing.
Conway, who was only confirmed as the driver of the second Coyne car a few days ago, crossed the line more than 12 seconds ahead of second-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay. The pair had been fighting each other right from the start of the race, but the key moment came when Andretti driver Hunter-Reay switched to the red tires for the middle stint and immediately began to struggle.
His drop in pace allowed Conway to open a huge lead, and when the Brit made his own stop to put the reds on with 18 laps to go, most of his work was already done. Hunter-Reay was not able to get enough out of his final set of harder tires to close the gap back down, and Conway was able to enjoy a pressure-free run to the flag.
"The car has been great all weekend and as the track was rubbering in it was getting better and better," related Conway. "It was keep pushing and get a gap, and the strategy worked out perfectly at the end."
Justin Wilson completed a great afternoon for the Coyne team by finishing third, although he had to hold off a charging Scott Dixon to earn his place on the podium.
"Scott (Dixon) was coming fast and I knew he was good. I just tried to had to hit my marks and make sure I didn't make a mistake," said Wilson. "He had a couple of runs on me, and I just tried to position my car in the middle of the road so it made it harder for him to pass. I was just sliding around there at the end. It was good fun."
Dixon was satisfied too: "I got to the back of the field there twice and had to drive through it. I'm just so happy for Mike Conway," said the Ganassi driver. "He's one of the nicest guys in the paddock and he is so deserving. He did a fantastic job."
A late crash by Ryan Briscoe, who is making his first appearance with Panther Racing this weekend, raised the prospect of a second finish under yellows in as many weekends, but on this occasion the situation was controlled with local yellows in the vicinity of the Australian's stricken car, and the race was completed under green conditions.
Other significant incidents included the first-lap accident that accounted for AJ Allmendinger, who tried to go three-wide with Dixon and Wilson, and instead found himself flying over the back of Dixon's car and into the wall. Dixon was forced to pit under caution for repairs to his rear wing, but managed to remain on the lead lap.
Marco Andretti, who came into the weekend as the points leader, finished well down the order after losing several laps in the pits undergoing repairs to damage sustained in a clash with Charlie Kimball.
Andretti had earlier been involved in another accident that ended with Sebastian Saavedra's car hitting the wall.
1. (2) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 70, Running
2. (4) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 70, Running
3. (16) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 70, Running
4. (15) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 70, Running
5. (12) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 70, Running
6. (11) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 70, Running
7. (24) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 70, Running
8. (9) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 70, Running
9. (23) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 70, Running
10. (3) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 70, Running
11. (6) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 70, Running
12. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 70, Running
13. (19) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 70, Running
14. (25) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 70, Running
15. (20) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 70, Running
16. (17) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 70, Running
17. (1) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 70, Running
18. (22) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 69, Running
19. (7) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 68, Running
20. (18) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 67, Running
21. (21) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 66, Contact
22. (10) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 32, Contact
23. (5) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 28, Contact
24. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 19, Mechanical
25. (13) AJ Allmendinger, Dallara-Chevy, 0, Contact