IndyCar driver Mike Conway was in town Monday to unveil his new black and yellow race car that will be sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings and Wings Across America (the Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar Maryland Franchisee). The local company will be the primary sponsor on his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Dallara in the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix.
But also of interest was Conway's opinion on the controversial finish of Sunday's IndyCar race in Loudon, N.H.
"It was a shame, really," said Conway, whose car crashed out of the race before he finished the first lap. "I wasn't involved, but I could see it was raining. The cars were still going round, but you could see the cars were slipping. The restart was a bad call. ... They made a bad choice [to restart the race]. I'm not sure why. But they saw that it was [a bad decision] and the important thing is that it doesn't happen again."
The race had been put under caution because of rain, but with one lap left IndyCar officials decided to restart the race, despite the still falling rain and, according to drivers after the race, despite drivers begging officials not to restart.
Some cars, like the one driven by leader Ryan Hunter-Reay, failed to get traction, while others behind him crashed. Oriol Servia, running second, and Scott Dixon, third, got good restarts and finished one-two. But officials decided they had made a mistake, ignored the results of the restart and declared the track positions prior to the last restart would stand as the final result.
That gave Hunter-Reay, Conway's Andretti teammate, the victory.
"I think they threw a yellow before the green came out for the actual restart," said Conway, pointing out that cars were spinning before they crossed the starting line. "When that happens, our rules say you're supposed to go back to the previous lap for the result."
But Conway didn't think it should ever have gotten to that point. At the 2010 Indianapolis 500 Conway was involved in a terrible crash that put him out for the rest of the season, making him sensitive to safety issues.
"Safety is key," he said. "When there is high speed on the ovals, [officials] are always supposed to be looking out for the drivers' interest. You always want a good, clean race and a safe race."
John Weiler, managing partner of Wings Across America, said he is thrilled to have his business sponsoring Conway's race car.
"It's a little bit large for us," he said. "We're only a franchise. For us to do it is really special. It gives us a chance to participate in the community, as well as sponsor the car, and it also gives our employees a chance to participate in the event."
Weiler said that after the race his franchise will continue to be a secondary sponsor on the car.
One of the biggest perks in the deal is the Andretti Motorsport drivers — Conway, Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and Hunter-Reay — will appear at Wild Wings grills in the Baltimore area Sept. 1. Conway and Patrick will be at the Reisterstown Road location and Andretti and Hunter-Reay in White Marsh.
"I think from brand awareness this will be a very successful investment," said Scott Schwartz, the franchise's director of operations. "It will help the whole company."