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

Photo: IndyCar
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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.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

Petit Le Mans championship
IMSA
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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”