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Conor Daly fitting in nicely with A.J. Foyt Racing

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The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season will be Conor Daly’s first full campaign with A.J. Foyt Racing, but that does not mean he is walking into unfamiliar territory, as he explained during IndyCar Media Day back on January 18th.

“I’ve had a great relationship with Larry (Foyt) and A.J,” Daly said. “They gave me a shot for my first IndyCar test at Sebring before the 2013 season. I love A.J., he’s the man. Larry and everybody down there is just super stoked to get this year going.”

That aforementioned test eventually led to an Indianapolis 500 effort, Daly’s first start in the series, that year, where they finished a modest 22nd. However, it marked a one-and-done at the moment, with Daly focusing much of his career in Europe at the time.

Upon returning to the U.S. in 2015, Daly completed a handful of races for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and one race for Dale Coyne Racing, before Coyne hired him for a full season effort in 2016.

While an 18th place finish in the overall standings may seem inauspicious, Daly expressed enthusiasm about the campaign.

“2016 was fun,” said the 25-year-old, who led 56 laps during the season and finished a career-best second during Race 1 of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit. “It was the first chance to do all the events, so it was a big learning experience. A lot of highs and a lot of lows, but generally, I kept progressing through the season.”

Now back under Foyt’s umbrella, Daly joins a completely revamped organization, one that overhauled its engineering staff,  brought on Will Phillips as technical director, changed both drivers, and switched manufacturers from Honda to Chevrolet.

Among the more striking changes, however, is that the team will split its entries in two locations. Munoz’s No. 14 entry will be based out of a Waller, Texas facility while Daly’s No. 4 will be in a brand new Speedway, Indiana shop. While out of the ordinary, the arrangement does not seem to bother Daly, who sees a potential benefit as the season progresses. “I can see both cars (in Speedway) for a considerable amount of time when the races are in the Midwest. I think economically it makes sense and logistically it makes sense, as well, so it could be a real good deal for us.”

Such a litany of changes mean it may take time for everything to gel and strong results may not be immediate. However, Daly expressed great confidence in the team’s preparation and sees good things on the horizon. “Their level of preparation and organization is really impressive,” he said of the team’s off-season work. “As they say, they’re going for quality and not quantity this year, so hopefully we can give them some quality finishes.”

And while A.J. Foyt is not technically running the team anymore, his mere presence serves as more than enough motivation. “It’s cool to have him on our side, I’d say,” Daly said of Foyt’s influence. “It really makes you want to win things for him. You see all these trophies and pictures and all these wonderful pieces of history of racing, and I say, ‘Man, I want to add to this cool trophy box or basically the entire shop of history.”

Foyt is recognized as a no-nonsense personality, yet his influence has not impacted Daly’s sense of humor, as evidenced when he discussed a possible career outside of racing. “I’m trying to start my bid to be on Dancing With the Stars, so I’m wearing shiny shoes. I really want to be on the show,” he quipped, referencing roommate and friend James Hinchcliffe’s stint on the ABC dance competition.

A.J. Foyt Racing completed a private test at Sebring International Raceway and will head to Phoenix Raceway this week for INDYCAR’s first open test of 2017.

F1 2017 driver review: Romain Grosjean

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Romain Grosjean

Team: Haas
Car No.: 8
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Austria)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 28
Championship Position: 13th

After leading Haas’ charge through its debut Formula 1 season in 2016, Romain Grosjean once again stepped up as team leader for the American team through its sophomore campaign despite scoring one point fewer.

Haas did not expect any major step in performance heading into 2017, having dealt with building all-new cars for two different sets of regulations, but the team was able to match its season one points total by the halfway mark this time around.

The big boost was the addition of a second points scoring driver – Kevin Magnussen – to partner Grosjean. Grosjean looked increasingly comfortable at Haas even if the car often presented problems, particularly under braking.

Radio rants were frequent, with Grosjean unable to drive around the issues as Magnussen did. But he was nevertheless able to finish the year as Haas’ top scorer, with his highlight moment being a perfect run to sixth in Austria.

Greater consistency was evident from both Grosjean and Haas through 2017, yet there were still swings in form that need to be ironed out in the future. The team was unable to capitalize on Renault and Toro Rosso’s late season difficulties that could have seen it jump to sixth in the constructors’ championship.

Grosjean once again proved himself to be a very competent and talented racer through 2017, but needs a little more panache – perhaps down to the car more than anything – if he is to put himself in the frame for a top-line drive in the future.

Haas continues to offer a good platform, though, and its third season should be its best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations. It will be a real chance for Grosjean to show what he can do.

Season High: A perfect run to sixth in Austria, leading the midfield cars.

Season Low: Crashing early with Ocon in Brazil, hurting Haas’ constructors’ hopes.