Mike Conway never doubted getting behind the wheel of an IZOD IndyCar Series car again after suffering back and leg injuries in a crash late in the Indianapolis 500 last May.
“I’m on the road to getting back in the car, not think about what happened before," Conway said in a September interview with indycar.com. "You just have to focus on what you need to do.”
That's included rehabilitation and a strenuous exercise program. Through it all, he's retained the fortitude and mental attitude needed to again be fit for the rigors of the diverse IZOD IndyCar Series season.
He'll get the opportunity to compete in 2011 for Andretti Autosport. The team announced that Conway will be its fourth driver -- joining Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and Ryan Hunter-Reay -- with sponsor details to be announced.
"I was driven to get back into the series," Conway declared a few hours after the announcement, "and to get back in with a team like Andretti Autosport is really something. I've been working hard since May of last year with the goal of returning and I'm all set to go. It's great to announce what we'll be doing; it's been a long time coming. The season is not too far away and I can't wait to start working with the team."
The 27-year-old Englishman has 23 IZOD IndyCar Series races under his helmet -- all with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing -- over the past two seasons. Conway recorded a career-best third place at Infineon Raceway in 2009 and posted three top 10s in six races in 2010 before being sidelined. He qualified 15th and was running ninth in the 500 Mile Race when he was involved in a Lap 199 crash.
After the initial recovery period in Indianapolis and then back in England, Conway set out to return to competition. His management team, headed by former Indy car driver Mark Blundell, had been exploring options the past few months.
"This is a really exciting moment in my career to be racing for Andretti Autosport," Conway said. "It's going to be an honor working with some great people and great teammates, and I can't wait to get started. We've already started to chat with each other about things to come. These are exciting times. I don't think I've been in this kind of position for a while."
An IZOD IndyCar Series Open Test is scheduled for March 14-15 at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Andretti Autosport also has a test day scheduled the week before at Sebring International Raceway that Conway expects he'll be a part of. The season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is March 25-27.
"The more days we can get in before the season the better shape we'll be in," he said. "Since May was the last time I've driven an IndyCar, I just want to get back in."
Hunter-Reay won at Long Beach and had five other top-five finishes last year in driving to seventh in the championship standings. Patrick recorded a pair of runner-up finishes as highlights to her season, while Andretti had four top-five finishes.
"Mike is a great addition to our team," chairman, president and CEO Michael Andretti said. "He is talented, has a lot of potential and should really fit in well with our team here. He was off to a good start last year and had started to show what he is really capable of in the IndyCar Series.
"He's got great credentials, has raced in some very competitive formulas and is a proven winner. We're really excited to be able to bring him to Andretti Autosport."