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


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.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)