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IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Conor Daly

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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, and continues with those who made part-time appearances this year. Impressing in just five starts for two different teams, in three different cars, was Conor Daly.

Conor Daly, Nos. 5 and 43 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2014: GP2
  • 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

Here was a driver who could afford to feel aggrieved at the colossal amount of bad luck or limited opportunities that defined his 2015 season in both IndyCar and sports cars, yet still frequently overcame challenges when they presented themselves.

Daly and I were standing on pit lane on Friday practice at Long Beach, equally amused and disappointed we were both standing there rather than only me standing there, watching Daly in a car. Under highly abnormal circumstances, Daly got his chance the next morning following Rocky Moran Jr.’s hand injury and seized it for Coyne, in what was arguably the best 17th place finish in recent memory.

There was pure agony, and irony, when Daly’s “Fueled by Bacon Special” went up in flames – literally – on the parade lap of the Indianapolis 500. Afforded a mulligan, Daly then did everything he could do when called upon by Schmidt Peterson again to fill in for the injured James Hinchcliffe in Detroit and Toronto. He led in the rain in Detroit – conditions he usually thrives in – and also did his friend “Hinch” a solid at Toronto, paying homage with red gloves.

He’d only made five starts, but Daly’s season was in my estimation the 2015 equivalent of what Simon Pagenaud did for Dreyer & Reinbold and HVM in 2011 – best-as-possible success with late call-ups, worthy of a full-time drive for next year. Budget pending, of course.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.