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IndyCar 2016 driver review: Conor Daly

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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver. Conor Daly earned an overdue first full-time season in IndyCar and generally maximized his opportunities with Dale Coyne Racing.

Conor Daly, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2015: 28th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 6th, Best Start 10th, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 12 Laps Led, 18.6 Avg. Start, 17.4 Avg. Finish
  • 2016: 18th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 7th, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 56 Laps Led, 18.1 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Conor Daly was, as one article I read earlier this year, “The bro we didn’t realize racing needed until he arrived.” Damn if a kid hasn’t worked harder and stayed persistent enough to beat down that door to a full-time IndyCar seat in five years, and after his tortuous, confusing, convoluted and winding road to get here, he finally achieved his dream with Dale Coyne Racing and the Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality group support this year. All honesty, I was overjoyed for him, and judging by the amount of positive reaction from fans I saw, I wasn’t alone.

Daly’s year was a strange one. When he qualified well, he didn’t finish well. On the contrary, when he qualified poorly, he got in good finishing position thanks to Coyne’s “wizardry” – Daly’s term – and his race pace was arguably his strongest component of the 2016 season. The podium at Detroit was fully deserved, as were the rest of his top-10 finishes and all 56 laps he led this year. In actuality, he outscored his fellow full-season rookie Alexander Rossi once you excluded the two double-points races. In the 14 races that paid standard points, Daly ended ahead of Rossi 275-246, but lost the top rookie honors by way of being outscored a seemingly unfathomable 184-38 margin in the two double points rounds.

Drivers will make mistakes at this level though and that’s part of the learning process. A would-have-been top-12, maybe top-10 finish at the Indianapolis 500 went begging when he spun trying to avoid Mikhail Aleshin’s accident. Then there was that crash at Texas when he overcorrected and was saved from a head-on appointment with the wall only by Josef Newgarden’s car being there. On the bright side, it meant he got to play TV reporter in the makeup race in August.

There were a couple other tough moments, too. An outright top-10 – say sixth place – went begging at Road America after a suspension component failed and sent him into the gravel at Turn 1. The spin in practice at Watkins Glen was a tough setback. The combination of an engine failure and an exhaust issue at Sonoma made for a nightmare final weekend. Then there was the fact that while Daly had the measure of more experienced teammates Gabby Chaves and Luca Filippi most of the year, when fellow rookie RC Enerson arrived the final three races, Daly was perhaps taken aback by the freshman’s performance.

The year proved Daly has talent, which was never a question. His “aw, shucks” demeanor and outward goofiness is actually a benefit to the series – other than Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe, no driver put himself out there for the fans and promotional aspects more. His Indianapolis 500 banquet speech thanking Christopher Columbus entered legendary status. The way he handled Pocono, representing late teammate Bryan Clauson with the BC Forever signage and Clauson’s No. 88 on his car, was nothing short of admirable. He had a decent rapport with engineer Michael Cannon and the Coyne team. It was a properly good first full season for the young man who screams “’Merica” at every opportunity, and fully deserves a second year.

NBC Sports presents IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama Sunday live at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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From NBC Sports Group PR:

* Sunday’s Pre-Race Coverage Begins with IndyCar Live Presented by Verizon at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

* Pre-Race Coverage Includes Robin Miller Feature on Rookie Zach Veach, Following Career-Best Fourth-Place Finish at Long Beach

* CNBC Presents Live Qualifying Saturday at 4 p.m. ET, Airs on NBCSN at 6:30 p.m. ET

STAMFORD, Conn. – April 19, 2018 – NBC Sports continues its coverage of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series this weekend from Barber Motorsports Park with live coverage of the Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Pre-race coverage begins with IndyCar Live presented by Verizon at 3 p.m. ET.

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport) delivered a dominant performance at the Grand Prix of Long Beach last weekend, winning the pole and leading wire-to-wire for his third career victory, and third consecutive podium finish to start the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series campaign. Rossi currently leads Josef Newgarden (Penske) in the driver standings by 24 points. Newgarden won last year’s Grand Prix of Alabama, his second career win at Barber, while Rossi finished fifth.

This weekend’s live coverage from Barber Motorsports Park begins Saturday at 4 p.m. ET with qualifying on CNBC. NBCSN will air qualifying on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET. Sunday’s pre-race coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET with IndyCar Live presented by Verizon and will take place from the grid in the lead up to the command, bringing viewers even closer to the action prior to the race.

Pre-race coverage will include a feature by IndyCar on NBC pit reporter Robin Miller on rookie driver Zach Veach, who’s coming off a career-best fourth place finish at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Lead IndyCar play-by-play commentator Leigh Diffey will call this weekend’s Grand Prix of Alabama, analysts Paul Tracy and Townsend BellMarty Snider, Robin Miller, Kevin Lee, and Katie Hargitt will report from the pits.

NBCSN will also present coverage of the Indy Lights race from Alabama late night on Monday, April 23, at 1:30 a.m. ET. Current IndyCar driver Conor Daly will join the NBCSN booth for the race broadcast, alongside Kevin Lee and Anders Krohn, with Katie Hargitt reporting from the pits.

Following is this weekend’s IndyCar schedule on NBCSN and CNBC:

Date Coverage Network Time (ET)
Sat., April 21 Grand Prix of Alabama – Qualifying LIVE CNBC 4 p.m.
Grand Prix of Alabama – Qualifying (Encore) NBCSN 6:30 p.m.
Sun., April 22 IndyCar Live presented by Verizon NBCSN 3 p.m.
Grand Prix of Alabama NBCSN 3:30 p.m.
IndyCar Post-Race NBCSN 5:30 p.m.
Mon., April 23 Grand Prix of Alabama (Encore) NBCSN 12 p.m.
Indy Lights – Alabama NBCSN 1:30 a.m.

NBC SPORTS GROUP AND INDYCAR PARTNER ON COMPREHENSIVE, MULTI-YEAR MEDIA RIGHTS AGREEMENT

On March 21, NBC Sports Group and INDYCAR announced a new, multi-year media rights agreement in which NBC Sports acquired the rights to present all INDYCAR races, qualifying, practices, and Indy Lights races across its platforms beginning in 2019.

The Indianapolis 500 and seven additional Verizon IndyCar Series races will be broadcast annually on NBC, with all remaining races televised on NBCSN. All races will be live streamed to authenticated subscribers on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Details of NBC Sports’ 2019 INDYCAR schedule will be announced at a later date.

NBC Sports Gold – NBC Sports Group’s direct-to-consumer product – will offer a package to INDYCAR fans that features all qualifying and practices not televised live, all Indy Lights races, and full-event replays. Additional details, including the cost of the Gold offering, will be announced at a later date. Click here for more information.


VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES ON NBCSPORTS.COM AND THE NBC SPORTS APP

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value to their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app are powered by Playmaker Media and available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.