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Conway wins 1st of 2 races at Detroit Grand Prix

DETROIT -- Mike Conway won the first of two races at the Detroit Grand Prix, showing he's well suited for IndyCar Series road racing after deciding he's uncomfortable on ovals.

The English driver finished nearly 13 seconds ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay on Saturday to easily win the 70-lap race on the Belle Isle street course.

Dale Coyne Racing picked Conway to drive one of its two cars this weekend — after he didn't have a ride during the Indianapolis 500 — and wasted no time offering him another opportunity.

“You want to go to Toronto now?” team owner Dale Coyne asked Conway after the race.

Yes, he does because the Streets of Toronto race in July suits his road-racing preference.

Conway backed out of last September's season finale at Fontana, California, because he decided he's uncomfortable racing on ovals. He had serious leg and back injuries after a 2010 crash at Indianapolis and wrecked there again in 2012.

In his only other IndyCar race since then, he qualified fifth and finished 25th this year at Long Beach for Bobby Rahal. Conway's only other IndyCar win was at Long Beach in 2011.

The open-wheel series is running a second, full-length race in the same weekend for the first time on Sunday when Conway will start up front for the first time in his career.

“The car has been great all weekend,” he said.

Conway's Dale Coyne Racing teammate and countryman, Justin Wilson, was third and Scott Dixon of New Zealand was fourth. Helio Castroneves of Brazil finished fifth, to make him the points leader just ahead of Hunter-Reay.

Marco Andretti, who put his famous family atop the standings for the first time in more than a decade, finished 20th and made at least one other driver very angry.

Sebastian Saavedra hit a tire barrier on lap 33 after Andretti ran him into a wall.

“It's just frustrating to see that Marco keeps doing these dirty moves and as usual nothing is done to him,” said Saavedra, who extended his middle fingers toward Andretti when he passed by on his next lap. “It's just a very frustrating day.”

It was for AJ Allmendinger, too.

After it was announced that he's getting another shot to race stock cars, he failed to finish a lap after getting squeezed between Dixon and Justin Wilson.

“It's just my fault,” he said. “I feel bad.”

Allmendinger, and the rest of the drivers who didn't win, will have a chance to bounce back in Sunday's race on the same track that held up much better than it did last year.

Dixon won last year's Detroit GP marred by potholes and grooves that stopped the race for a little more than two hours and shortened the 90-lap race to 70.

To avoid embarrassment and create more opportunities to pass, Roger Penske's Michigan-based company and Chevrolet invested nearly US$2 million to improve and reconfigure the track.

It looked like money well spent.

Drivers had opportunities to make more moves and Conway took advantage right away and the pavement stayed in place.

Conway passed E.J. Viso, who started first, heading into Turn 1 on the opening lap to take his first lead since a race in Edmonton in July 2011.

Hunter-Reay took turns with the lead as well, but couldn't prevent Conway from getting inside of him on lap 44.

Then, no one could catch him.

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 Kuchar grabs Memorial lead while Tiger struggles to 79 
Mike Conway, of England, driver of the #18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, leads Dario Franchitti, of Scotland, driver of the #10 Suave Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, during the IZOD IndyCar Series Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Michigan on Saturday, June 1. (AFP)

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