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.