INDIANAPOLIS – I wrote a long time ago that if Conor Daly ever got the ride that he deserved in the NTT IndyCar Series, then watch out. See, Daly had a ton of talent but never was given the right tools to showcase it. In the brief stints that he had in the Road to Indy, he shined. Unfortunately, no one on the Indy Car side scooped him up and overseas he went to achieve a dream of racing in Formula One.
The money though dried up for Daly and back home he came. It was a large gift given to the series, but no one took a shot on him. Over the years, the opportunities that he was given was in questionable cars.
Now, he’s in an Andretti car, a good one at that, and is the fastest driver at Indy heading into Time Trials this weekend. Daly, circled the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday with a speed of 231.704 mph in his No. 25 Honda. He was nearly one full mph quicker than the next fastest.
That had Daly a little emotional when he saw that he set the days fast lap.
“I mean, honestly, I almost shed a little tear in my helmet at the end there just because my dad and my mom were there, and I love this place,” said Daly on Friday evening. “It’s just — heck, I took pictures with Gil ((De Ferran) when he won when I was an infant it felt like, a very small boy, little pudgy, pre-diabetes, all that stuff, and I took picture with him (Fernando Alonso) here, too. Geez, wow.
“But yeah, yeah, I just love it here, and I’ve always worked so hard to try and have the best chance that we’ve had with what I’ve been driving, and definitely have made mistakes here, definitely have had a lot of bad luck here. But I still love it. I love driving every lap, and this week has gone a lot better, I think, than we’ve shown on the time sheets, and so today was definitely a reward for the guys really. I think they work so hard — I’ve done more laps in these last few days than I think I’ve ever done on practice days, just getting ready.
“I mean, that helps. Every lap here helps. We’re going to keep at it.”
Daly, said that it was also emotional for his mom Beth when he gave her the news that he would be racing with Andretti Autosport for the Indy 500.
“Well, my mom was crying,” Daly said on the reaction when he found out he was going to drive here for Andretti. “It was two days before — it was December 18th, three days after my birthday, and we had just gone over for a little pre-Christmasing, and it was pretty cool to realize — we’d been working on it for a couple months, and honestly I had been working with Doug Bresnahan and Michael Andretti and Jay for years, since like 2014, to try and be a part of the team somehow, but it’s always been sponsor dependent, right? It takes funding to go racing. I haven’t quite fit in yet, and then this was the perfect opportunity.
“Michael is on my stand. It’s been awesome to have him and learn from him a little bit. He’s obviously got an incredible amount of experience here, and he’s an incredibly talented driver. So just super happy with my group in general and just kind of honored to be a part of the team.”
The only problem with a good car now is the pressure is higher. This is his chance to prove his worth but also could be his last chance. Daly said he isn’t used to have a car like this and had to reach out to a friend in the paddock to see what the car is supposed to feel like at these speeds.
“Well, I’m always super honest, and I’ll be honest with you, there were many times where I’ve suited up in the past few years, and I was like, I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Daly said. “You just hope that you make the right choices and decisions on the setup. I think we obviously know that Andretti has an incredible amount of resources. They’ve built a strong team. They’ve got, I mean, smart people here, smart people back at the shop still working on stuff, just incredible people in general. And they’ve been there for a while, know what I mean? So it’s not like people are in and out of there. There’s a lot of strong people that have been there for a long time and they know how to make these cars work, and their development is something that I’ve loved to be a part of.
“And yeah, honestly, it’s been so much fun to drive. I mean, traffic, it’s a little sketchy, but it’s sketchy for everyone. Last year it was sketchy and I was like being left behind, and now it’s sketchy and you’re in the front, you’re in the hunt. So yeah, it’s obviously going to be a tough race, I think, for everyone unless you’re leading, but yeah, I mean, the car has been really enjoyable to drive. I’ve talked to my old pal Josef Newgarden quite a lot. He was in my bus last night. We were talking for like 40 minutes, like how does it really feel in qualifying like when you guys are going that fast because I’ve felt super sketchy and I was doing 224 last year or whatever we qualified at, and those guys have been at 230, and now today we’ve literally done every lap above 228 or something like that, and it feels great. So it’s wild to think about how different things can be. I mean, you don’t really think that it can be like that until you — it makes me appreciate, I guess, this opportunity even more for sure.”