Conor Daly did everything he needed to do in Detroit for SPM

2 Comments

Conor Daly did everything he needed to do this weekend, filling in for his injured friend James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda on the streets of Detroit.

The American came up only 0.3 shy of advancing out of his group in his first street course qualifying effort with the team on Friday, and was in position for a decent result in the first race of the Verizon IndyCar Series weekend. He got up to fifth but inadvertent contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay set him back to 19th by the checkered flag.

“Sadly, the accordion effect got us. I don’t think it’s really anyone’s fault but we were just the victim,” Daly said.

Sunday provided new hope and for the second straight race, excellent strategy from the pit box and strategist Robert Gue got Daly into the lead by Lap 39.

Daly made two excellent restarts from the point, not losing any ground to the cars behind him or getting swallowed up into Turn 1.

He dropped back in the field after his last pit stop but rose back through the field. He had one hairy moment when called by Race Control for blocking on Lap 61, which dropped him to the back, but recovered to finish P6 by the checkered flag.

“Well, that was very interesting,” Daly said post-race. “Such a crazy race up and down but our car our Arrow car was fantastic the whole time – wet and dry. To lead the race, and to lead the race with the strength that we did, makes me over the moon.

“We got a little bit unlucky with the yellows but to come back and finish sixth, was so great. It was my goal to try and be here at the end of race two. I almost had a tear in my eye because I enjoyed it so much. It was wild and crazy, but I’m just happy to have it here and have a great finish.”

The fact he got the result and led 12 laps on Sunday were bonus factors, but consider what Daly has had to do in the three IndyCar weekends he’s done this year.

In Long Beach, he got drafted in for an injured driver, had his old GP2 firesuit, had never worked with the team or car before (not in this aero package), and had one 45-minute practice session to get acclimated.

In Indianapolis, he finally got a deal done to race with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, with a one-off crew, and while he had the month to get acclimated he didn’t even get the opportunity to race with a fire out the back sidelining the “FUELED by BACON” special before the green flag.

This weekend, in Detroit, he was in his third different car and with his third different crew in as many weekends, and he had his best weekend yet.

The last two drivers who raced in three different cars in as many weekends were Carlos Munoz (No. 26 Andretti Autosport, No. 4 Panther Racing, No. 5 Andretti Autosport) and Simon Pagenaud (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, No. 22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, No. 78 HVM Racing) in 2013 and 2011.

Munoz (Andretti) and Pagenaud (Schmidt Peterson) garnered full-time rides the next season.

Daly’s done enough to be listed alongside those two for 2016, if not the balance of this year in the No. 5 car.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

Leave a comment

Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).