MADISON, Ill – Conor Daly proved on Friday night that if he had any good luck at all, then he’d be a race winner in no time in the NTT IndyCar Series. See, everyone has openly said this weekend from the World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis that track position is going to be key for Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 (8 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network).
The 1.25-mile oval is a tough one to pass on. Plus, this series is so tight these days, that it’s the norm for the difference between winning and finishing last being around a second a part. With margins so tight and drivers so skilled, it’s tough to make moves on track.
Conor Daly during final practice on Friday night at the World Wide Technology Raceway – INDYCAR Media Site
So, for Daly’s 18th place starting spot in the 248 Lap race, it’s going to be difficult to reach victory lane. But, it’s not like he has an 18th place car. It’s also not like he’s an 18th place driver either. What put him back there was some bad luck.
Prior to qualifying on Friday evening, a vintage car leaked oil all over Turns 1 and 2. Sound familiar? Happened at Iowa too. The first qualifier in both sessions?
The oil was in the preferred lane in both places which meant a lengthy cleanup with speedy dry. After the speedy dry, the safety trucks will then blow that off. Due to that, the track lacks any sort of grip.
Due to Daly’s No. 59 Chevrolet being last in the entrant points standings, he had to qualify first in both Iowa and Gateway. That’s the absolute worst qualifying spot to be in. The track is already in its worst condition, then you add the oil cleanup to it.
“It’s an ice skating rink in (Turns) 1 and 2,” Daly said following his qualifying run on Friday. “That’s kind of what we have to go through when you’re first out. They said it was dry but as soon as I turned in, the car wanted to go straight towards the wall. It’s a shame because our car is really good and I love this track. But, qualifying is super important and when you have to go out first, that’s the price you pay I guess. Charlie (Kimball) felt the same thing though too. It’s a lot of oil. It’s very, very slick. It will get better as you run obviously. It really sucks to pay that penalty.
“There’s nothing you can really do about it. Unless you throw the 2-seater out there for like 20 minutes to sort of just do laps, it won’t do anything. You can run trucks, the jet dryer, whatever you want, but nothing produces the type of grip or suction that our floors do, so as soon as you go in there and turn, it’s the first time that it’s really being tested. The whole inside line is white. It’s just the price you pay”
But, final practice showed that Daly does indeed have speed in his car. He topped the speed charts with a lap of 181.931 mph. The speed is there. If he had a better starting spot on Saturday night, he’d be a legitimate contender for the race win. I mean, he finished fifth here in 2017 in an AJ Foyt Racing car. This is a good track for him. He’s not finished worse than 11th on an oval this season.
Unfortunately, the oil leak by another car not even in the series cost him.
Speaking of costly, pole sitter Josef Newgarden got a scare in final practice too. The Team Penske driver had an engine issue which prevented him from turning many laps in his No. 2 Chevrolet. Just as the team thought that they had the problem possibly fixed, Daly’s Carlin Racing teammate of Charlie Kimball crashed in Turn 4 to bring out the caution towards the end of the hour long session. Since the yellow flew so late, the checkered flag flew early meaning that Newgarden never got to turn a lap to determine if they fixed their issue.
So, they’ll have a long night and day on Saturday to determine if they need to change their engine or not. The speed is in the current one as he not only won the pole for this weekend’s race, he was P2 (181.312 mph) in final practice too.
Zach Veach (181.033 mph) was third while Takuma Sato (180.947 mph) and Felix Rosenqvist (180.806 mph) rounded out the top five.