LONG BEACH, Calif. — Mike Conway is certain it will take him only one lap to get up to speed at Long Beach, and he believes he's a threat to win Sunday's race.
"That'd be good. I could retire on top," Conway said Thursday.
Yes, the 29-year-old Conway was joking about retirement. But he knows there may not be another IndyCar Series race for him after this weekend.
And he knows that it was his decision alone that put him in this position.
Seven months ago, during a test session for the IndyCar season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Conway decided he just didn't want to race ovals anymore. The Englishman missed most of the 2010 season with serious injuries to his back and leg suffered in a last-lap crash at the Indianapolis 500, and he was in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas when Dan Wheldon was killed.
The next oval race after that was last year's Indy 500, and Conway was involved in an accident with Will Power in which his car turned on its side against the fence.
So when Conway, who had never before raced on ovals until he joined IndyCar in 2009, couldn't get comfortable in the car on Fontana's 2-mile oval, he simply gave up his seat.
"When you can't give it 100 percent, and you can't wait for the race to end, and you just want to get it out of the way, then you shouldn't be doing it," Conway said. "I didn't realize it until I got in the car at Fontana. I just wanted to get out and I didn't want to get back in. Then it hit me that I felt that strongly about it."
But Conway doesn't want to give up IndyCar outright, and if he could find a team willing to let him run just road and street courses he would jump at the opportunity. Right now, the only opportunity came from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which will field a third car Sunday at Long Beach for Conway.
Long Beach just happens to be the site of Conway's 2011 victory, his only career IndyCar win.
"There will obviously be people who are race ready having competed in the first two events, but I have been thinking about Long Beach since the start of the year," he said. "I don't feel like I am rusty."
RLL, which has one-race sponsorship from Blu eCigs for Long Beach, let Conway prepare for this weekend with a one-day test at Barber Motorsports Park. Conway said he was up to speed after just one lap.
"I felt at home straight away in the car and that was the main thing – I felt comfortable," he said. "I have been doing laps of Long Beach in my head for the last few months so I feel like I am in tune that way."
Conway also has race time under his belt this year. He's running the full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship sports car series for G-Drive Racing with Delta-ADR, and drove a full stint last weekend in the season opener at Silverstone.
But that WEC schedule has just eight races, and Conway would love to fill his time with some more IndyCar events.
"I know it's hard for a team to want to give me a seat and then swap the driver out on the ovals, but I'd like to try to do more IndyCar. I love the series," Conway said. "I'd love to do more with the Rahal team. I'd race every weekend if I could, it's just a matter of finding an owner willing to do something."