Conor Daly on board for Indy 500 debut with Foyt

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Conor Daly will attempt to qualify for the 2013 Indianapolis 500 in A.J. Foyt Racing’s second car, the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Dallara-Honda.

Daly, a two-year veteran of the FIA GP3 Series who most recently raced in the GP2 season opener and also has experience in Firestone Indy Lights and the MRF Challenge series in India, tested for Foyt’s team in December at Sebring Interntional Raceway.

“I almost can’t describe what it means to have the opportunity to race in the Indianapolis 500,” said the 21-year-old Daly. “I have been to the 500 every year of my existence except for last year when I raced in Monaco. It is truly my home race since I was born and raised in the Indianapolis area.  I am so thankful that A.J. and Larry [Foyt] have given me my first shot at the greatest race in the world.  I know this will sound cheesy but I’ve never been happier in my life; this race means so much to me.”

Daly joins an Indianapolis rookie class that also includes Tristan Vautier of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Team Penske’s AJ Allmendinger and Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz. Indy’s Rookie Orientation Program occurs April 11.

Daly’s teammate is Takuma Sato, as Foyt’s team will again race two cars at Indianapolis. Wade Cunningham occupied the second seat last year. Daly did not race any ovals when he made a handful of Indy Lights starts in 2011.

As he wrote in a RACER magazine blog, Daly’s plans for the rest of 2013 have not been finalized, but may include a handful more starts in IndyCar and/or GP2, and perhaps another season of GP3.

See also:

Conor Daly heading for Indy 500?

Conor Daly confirmed for GP2 debut in Malaysia

American Daly to test GP2 car

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.