Mike Conway (above) has stepped out of the No. 14 Foyt Honda for Fontana and no longer wishes to race on ovals in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Firestone Racing.
In what he called "the hardest decision [he has] ever had to make in [his] racing career," Mike Conway has stepped out of the No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda for Saturday night's MAV TV 500 at Auto Club Speedway due to a lack of comfort with oval racing.
Conway will be replaced for Saturday's event by former Firestone Indy Lights champion Wade Cunningham, who raced in a second Foyt entry at this year's Indianapolis 500.
"I’ve come to realize I’m not comfortable on the ovals and no longer wish to compete on them," said Conway in a statement released by the team. "I want to stress that I am not finished racing and to this end, I would love to continue with Foyt Racing, but that’s something we need to discuss in the future."
Despite claiming an upset victory in 2011 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and joining a long list of famous winners in North America's biggest street race, Conway may be best known for effectively cheating death not once, but twice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In the 2010 Indy 500, he was involved in a final-lap incident with Ryan Hunter-Reay that saw him climb over the latter's car and fly into a catch fence in one of the most horrific crashes in recent memory. Conway suffered multiple serious injuries in the wreck and he did not return for the rest of that season.
This past May at Indy, mayhem found Conway once again. Shortly after a pit stop, he lost control of his car and collected Will Power, whose machine caused Conway's own to go in the air and turn once again into the catch fence.
Unlike in 2010, Conway managed to escape injury in that incident. But considering the magnitude of those crashes and how close he's come to losing his life in recent years, then it's painfully clear to see why he's deciding not to race on ovals anymore.
And he should not be attacked for his decision, which undoubtedly took a lot of bravery.
There will be those that judge him as a quitter, which is unavoidable in a sports society that seemingly requires all of its main participants to "go for it all" regardless of the cost. But those people are likely not nor will ever be race car drivers.
They haven't felt the physical pain that Conway's gone through to keep his career going, and they haven't suffered the complete tragedy of watching a fellow competitor die like he has.
Everyone has their limit. Conway has found his. There's no shame in that and he deserves to be credited for his honesty about it.
Larry Foyt, team director at A.J. Foyt Racing, has done so.
"Mike’s been a great asset to our team, and I’m disappointed that we can’t finish out the season together," he said in the same team statement. "However, it took a lot of courage for Mike to come forward and we respect him highly for that and we certainly want to honor his decision."