Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Conway to Andretti: What It Means

Most of us were blindsided yesterday about the news of Mike Conway being signed to Andretti Autosport for 2011. I know that like many people, I fully expected him to be either part-time or full-time at Dreyer and Reinbold Racing. Congratulations to Andretti Autosport and Mike Conway for playing it close to the vest and surprising almost all of us.

So what does it all mean?

Conway led 15 laps at Indy before his accident last year.
Well, for one, it means one of the biggest names for the second Dreyer and Reinbold seat is now out of the picture. Do we see Ana Beatriz in there full-time? Tomas Scheckter? Let's not forget Dan Wheldon is still out there. The move for Tracy to Conquest seems a bit more plausible today than it did a week ago (though I can't count him out at DRR quite yet), so now we're looking at a somewhat smaller potential pool for that team.

For Andretti, they have a driver who's coming off an epic season-ending crash in 2010, but who was also showing vast improvement in his second campaign before that happened. He had placed three Top 10s on road/street circuits, and was absolutely gangbusters at Indy before his big crash. It also means we likely won't be seeing much of Andy Soucek, whom I believe went from "practically signed" to an afterthought in pretty rapid progression.

For those looking for Conway in the familiar and distinct Dad's Root Beer colors, I wouldn't hold my breath. Dad's is a Dreyer and Reinbold sponsor (Buddy Rice used to run those colors), and unless they follow him over, he'll be in new livery for 2011. Perhaps we'll be seeing Dr. Pepper or Snapple step up and get some prime sidepod real estate?

This is the part of Silly Season where I start to feel like Charlie Bucket probably did in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory after four of the Golden Tickets had been found (no, I am not comparing Mike Conway to Mike Teevee). We know someone we want in the series will not make it in, but precisely who that will be is still up in the air. In any case, congratulations again to Mike Conway and Andretti Autosport for the big signing. Mike's recovery from 2010 is going to be one of the most interesting early stories of 2011. And the quality of the field for 2011 continues to increase with every bit of news that trickles in.

(Photos courtesy of IndyCar Media)

2 comments:

  1. I wonder if Conway's crash has had a positive effect on him finding a ride and sponsorship this year. Prior to the crash, he was just another non-American in the series that may or may not do anything. Now he's "that guy who had that crash last year". Maybe sponsors expect that he is going to get a lot of on-screen time this year, especially at Indy, as the story of his crash and recovery plays out.

    I don't know the answer but I'm curious about the dynamic. Did the same thing play out to Will Power's benefit last year?

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  2. I think Power had impressed people before his crash, and the seat was accordingly held for him. He definitely repaid that trust in spades.

    For Conway, there's no question he's higher-profile than he was a year ago, but he had also shown great improvement on the road courses and at Indy before his accident. I think his star would have risen more last year without the accident. To be honest, I'm not sure how the accident impacted his marketability, but I do know he's probably going to have some fans and well-wishers he otherwise would not have had.

    Personally, I can't imagine getting back in the car after what happened to him, but that's why I'm a blogger and he's a racer.

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