Mike Conway remains an absolute cipher at times for the IndyCar fan. For every brilliant race, such as his masterful charge at Long Beach, there's a number of races where it seems like poor luck, poor decisions, or perhaps a mix of both doom him to a Did Not Finish. It's why he finished P17 in the standings despite his victory last year, and it's why opinion still seems to be split as to whether he's a legitimate contender waiting to have a breakout year or an inconsistent driver doomed to mediocre finishes punctuated by a few great runs.
I'm in the same boat as everyone else; I don't know if Conway is the real deal or just a pretender. I do know he's seemingly the calmest person in IndyCar; if I've ever seen a situation where it looks like his heart had exceeded 20 BPM, he sure didn't show it. I also know his story of recovery and return from a disastrous wreck in 2010 Indy 500 is a study in resolve. But a cool, determined demeanor doesn't mean the on-track results will match it.
It's still most likely that if Conway returns, he does so in Andretti Autosport's 4th car, and if that's the case, the question will be one of consistency. In his two full seasons in the IZOD IndyCar Series (excluding his injury-shortened 2010), Conway finished P17 in both campaigns. That's not the type of consistency I mean, either--we're talking about measurable improvement in finishing races and securing good results across an entire season. We know he's capable of winning and podiums--can he do it with enough regularity for a Top 10 or higher in the points standings? For the record, it would have taken 54 additional points over the season to move Mike from P17 to a tie for P10 last year. When you look back on his season, you can see those potential points spread out throughout the year--in the Alabamas, Torontos, New Hampshires, and Baltimores along the way.
From reports, it sound like Mike Conway might be finalizing his plans for next year. What isn't finalized is whether or not his third full season will be the big step forward fans have been looking for.