HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) - Mike Conway is back at the track, sooner than even the most optimistic doctors suspected.
Getting back in an IndyCar, however, will take a little more time.
Four months after his horrific wreck at the Indy 500 left his left leg mangled, Conway watched Saturday's season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway with his family and members of the Dreyer & Reinbold team.
Sure, being in the cockpit of the No. 24 car would have provided a better view, but after spending the summer enduring surgery and a painful rehab, the 27-year-old Englishman will take it.
``I think we're ahead of schedule,'' Conway said. ``I can't wait to get back in the car, really.''
Not just yet. Conway estimates he's still a month or two away from having his left leg strong enough to endure the stress of driving on a road course.
He's fine with that considering where he was four months ago. Conway suffered multiple fractures in his lower left leg and a compression fracture in his back after colliding with Ryan Hunter-Reay on the final lap at the Brickyard.
Conway thought he simply hit the wall. He had no idea his car somersaulted into the catch fence before disintegrating.
``When you do actually watch it, you think, 'Yeah, that was a lucky escape,''' Conway said.
The long road back is well underway.
Conway ditched the crutches more than a month ago and walks without a limp despite the titanium rod in his leg. He's enjoyed a few sessions in the simulator, but knows it's not nearly the same as being behind the wheel.
He's anxious to return, feeling there's ``unfinished business'' out on the track. He posted three Top 10s in six starts in his second season with D&R before the injury.
``We had things going pretty good with (teammate) Justin (Wilson),'' he said. ``I'd like to see where we can go.''
He might not get the chance. His status for next season is uncertain while D&R searches for sponsorship.
D&R owner Dennis Reinbold is hopeful to get a deal done, and there's an outside shot the team could expand to three cars next year.
Conway's preference would be to return to the team that gave him his first shot in a major open-wheel series.
``There was a win for the team to have had at some point this year,'' he said. ``It'd be great to get back.''
RAHAL'S RIDES INTO 2011: Graham Rahal learned a valuable lesson last fall when a handshake sponsorship deal fell through, forcing him to take part-time work with whatever team would have him this season.
Determined not to let it happen again, Rahal decided to take a different tack. Rather than sell himself to teams and let them do the sponsor shopping, he went and got the sponsorship on his own.
The 21-year-old son of former Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal has agreed to a multiyear deal with TBC Retail Group that will have him riding full time in 2011.
He doesn't have a team yet. He's got something even better: options.
``I think there's a lot of teams in play,'' said Rahal, who drove five different cars for four different organizations this year.
Service Central will be on the car for every race, with other branches of the TBC Retail Group on the car depending on the location. Service Central sponsored the No. 66 car in a handful races for Sarah Fisher Racing this year before opting to make a larger investment in Rahal going forward.
``This series is a lot about the driver and it was important for us to be with the right driver,'' said TBC senior vice president Bob Crostarosa. ``Without a doubt, Graham was the leader of that pack. ... This is not a tiptoe.''
Rahal, who came in 10th on Saturday while driving for Newman Haas Racing, expects to announce a team sometime in the next few weeks. He says his goal is to sign with a competitive team, and that might not mean driving for his father at Rahal Letterman Racing. He finished 12th in this year's Indy 500 while driving the No. 30 car for RLR.
``Dad's team did a good job for me at Indy, but that's all I'll say,'' he said. ``The best thing for me to do is to not be in dad's shadow in order to do it on my own, so to speak. That's not to say that we cancel anything out.''
POWER PLAY: Will Power's weekend wasn't a total loss.
The Australian was voted the Driver of the Year for the third quarter, edging NASCAR stars Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch for the honor.
Power posted three victories and two runner-up finishes in the third quarter, which ended on Sept. 14. He totaled 109 voting points, edging Busch by two. Heady territory for a driver whose career appeared to be in jeopardy last summer following a crash at Sonoma that left him hospitalized.
He's bounced back to win IndyCar's inaugural Road Course championship while leading the points race virtually the entire season.
Barry Schmoyer, President of the Driver of the Year Foundation, called Power's comeback from the injury ``the feel good story of the year.''
VERNAY TAKES INDY LIGHTS TITLE: J.K. Vernay wrapped up the Indy Lights title on Saturday, but he wasn't in the mood to enjoy it.
Vernay finished 15th behind race winner Brandon Wagner. Not exactly the way the 22-year-old Frenchman wanted to celebrate his first points title.
``I'm happy we did a great 12 races, but the last race was horrible,'' Vernay said. ``It's difficult for a driver who is competitive to finish last, two laps down.''
Vernay's No. 13 Sam Schmidt Motorsports car actually managed to finish ahead of two others, but it didn't feel that way.
``I try to do my job, I'm a professional driver but when you don't have the package, you don't have that package,'' he said.
James Hinchcliffe finished second in the points. Followed by Martin Plowman, Charlie Kimball and Pippa Mann.

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