FORT WORTH, TX – Conor Daly was called last minute as a new addition to the Carlin organization for Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600. See, when Max Chilton made the decision to walk away from ovals in the NTT IndyCar Series, the No. 59 Chevrolet needed a driver.
The call came to Daly. Of course, he obliged.
But, how can you come into a struggling team after being in the best ride of your life just two weeks ago? Daly, was in a position to be picky because his last impression was a good one. He proved in his top 10 finish in the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 that he belongs as an Indy Car driver. He deserves a top ride at that.
But, with whom?
Team Penske is full. Chip Ganassi Racing is set with two cars and if they eye expansion, you better have talent as well as a big check. Andretti Autosport wants Daly back, but it comes with a reported $6-million price tag.
So, Daly went from the top of the pecking order to among the bottom for a team that’s trying to make ends meet. Two of the three cars that failed to make the Indy 500, belonged to Carlin – one of which the car that Daly was tabbed to replace Chilton in.
In his last 24 starts in this car, Chilton’s best finish was 11th in the second dual in Belle Isle last year. The best finish this season was 14th in Barber.
Daly, not only takes over on days notice this week, he pilots the car to an 11th place finish on the 1.5-mile track. Did I mention this car didn’t make the Indy 500?
One start, an almost top 10.
“I think we can be super happy with that result for the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet,” said Daly. “We had a bit of a slow start. I just really struggled at the beginning of the first stint, but once we changed to the second set of tires, we just kept going faster and faster and were able to get into the lead group even though we were a lap down. We were keeping up with those guys really well and we just had solid pace all night. Every restart we seemed to pass people, which is a lot of fun, and we just kept working on it little by little. I’m pretty happy with moving from 19th to 11th and I think it’s something we can all be proud of coming out of this weekend.”
That’s how impressive Daly is. Saturday drive shows that again, he needs to be a full time entrant. Maybe Carlin is a good spot after all.
This wasn’t the first time Daly shined in a sub role. In literally a days notice, he took a Dale Coyne Racing entry to their best finish of the season at Long Beach in 2015. He had never driven this new aero kit car as his past Indy Car start was nearly two years prior. Two months later, he was a replacement for his friend James Hinchcliffe with Schmidt Peterson Motorspots following Hinchcliffe’s near life threatening accident in a practice crash at IMS. One week later, he finishes sixth in Belle Isle.
In his first race as a fill in with Harding last year in Toronto, he gives them a season best finish at the time.
On Saturday, he does the same for Carlin. When will a team wake up and sign the guy to a long term deal?