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Conor Daly part of all-American Andretti lineup for Indy 500

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Conor Daly has been chasing sponsorship money all across the country in a nonstop effort to continue his racing career. He’s willing to drive anything, but the Indianapolis 500 is the priority.

The lean sponsorship landscape has pushed Daly and other drivers to the fringe of motorsports in that they can’t land rides unless they bring a significant portion of the funding. But Daly shouldn’t be such a hard sale: He’s American, an Indianapolis native, he just turned 27 and has name recognition beyond IndyCar from one season on “The Amazing Race” reality show.

None if it has been enough to land him that one big deep-pocketed sponsor that can jump-start his career.

Daly did, however, impress the Air Force during a partnership at last year’s Indy 500. Daly finished 21st driving for a smaller team and the Air Force received enough bang for its buck that it wanted to partner with Daly again this May. Only this time the Air Force wanted Daly with a team that could win, and it landed him the fifth seat in the Andretti Autosport lineup.

“If you want to be with a team that can win, then Andretti, absolutely, that’s the best choice, for sure,” Daly told The Associated Press.

He gives the team an all-American roster, rounding out the lineup with Marco Andretti, former Indy 500 winners Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Zach Veach.

It will be Daly’s sixth attempt to make the 500 but first with one of the series’ elite organizations. The Andretti cars are consistently in contention and among the most watched during the buildup to the 500 because of the storied family organization. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Mario Andretti’s victory, the only win for an Andretti.

Daly is close friends with most of the Andretti lineup and raced Rossi in Europe, but the two have been teammates only once before, during their fourth-place finish last year on the reality show.

The all-American element to the Andretti team is a genius marketing move that could have longer financial gains for Daly and the organization. The Air Force already has signed as an associate partner for the entire Andretti lineup during the full IndyCar season, and Daly was popular enough for them last year to warrant a return to Indy with him.

That alone is considered one of Daly’s biggest victories.

“No one is being handing rides, this was a ride that was created through great partnerships,” Daly said. “The system, the financials, nothing is going to change in the immediate future so you just have got to do your best with what you’ve got. I do feel good about the money and sponsors we’ve had the last few years because it is hard and I am starting with nothing.”

The business model in motorsports has shifted in that almost everyone besides the very top stars need to bring some sort of funding to a team to secure a ride.

Daly ran four IndyCar races last season and one Xfinity Series race on a NASCAR road course. He ran the full IndyCar season in 2017 and, acting as his own agent, learned that most potential sponsors care only about his success in the Indy 500.

“My ideal goal is to do more races,” he said. “I don’t want to just do Indy, but that’s all I’ve got so far and it makes it a little bit weird that you show up to the biggest race in the world having not raced at all in an Indy car since last year.”

His priority is to seize this chance with Andretti and deliver the kind of showing he can parlay into more races. Until that happens, he’ll be readying for the May 26 race by trying to find more work.

“I have four other deals I am working on, some of this year, some is already for 2020, but that’s all I do, all day long I pound around on my laptop and take random meetings,” Daly said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity with Andretti to show I’m a worthy investment.”

Supercross Preview: It’s Webb’s World for now

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A short launching area and tight left-hand turn is going to create a lot of drama this week in Round 8 of the Supercross season as the riders invade Detroit’s Ford Field after one year off.

Last week Cooper Webb won for the fourth time in the last five races. Incredibly, two of these count among the five closest finishes in Supercross history with a .760-second win over Marvin Musquin at Oakland and last week’s .028-second win over Ken Roczen. Webb has won in a variety of ways so far this year. He has gained experience protecting a lead and coming from behind with Arlington’s incredible run. He even won the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim II after taking two of the three heats.

Last year, Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to grab the points lead in Round 2. He never relinquished it. Webb has tighter competition in 2019, but he shows know sign of letting up as the four-man battle for the lead became a three-rider challenge last week with Eli Tomac’s trouble.

Eli Tomac cooled off in a hurry. After sweeping the top five in the first five rounds and winning San Diego, he finished sixth in Minneapolis and 12th at Arlington. This week will be a test of his ability to rebound.

Which rider will be the first to win in 2019, Roczen or Musquin? Between them they have finished second or third 10 times this season. They have both stood on the podium in the last three events, but have yet to climb to the top rung.

Vince Friese injured his knee during practice at Arlington and may have a torn ACL. He is unlikely to ride this week.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 12 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 7 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold, 8 p.m. on NBCSN

Last Week:

Cooper Webb won his fourth event in the past five races over Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner won over Justin Cooper and Chase Sexton in the 250 class.

Last Year:

Event was not run in 2018.

In 2017 Eli Tomac beat Marvin Musquin and Ryan Dungey in the 450 class.
In 250s, Jordon Smith won over Joey Savatgy and Adam Cianciarulo in the 250 class.

Winners

450s:
[4] Cooper Webb (Anaheim II, Oakland, Minneapolis, and Arlington)
[1] Justin Barcia (Anaheim I)
[1] Blake Baggett (Glendale)
[1] Eli Tomac (San Diego)

250 West:
[3] Adam Cianciarulo (Glendale, Oakland, San Diego)
[1] Colt Nichols (Anaheim I)
[1] Shane McElrath (Anaheim II)

250 East:
[2] Austin Forkner (Minneapolis and Arlington)

Top-5s

450s:
Ken Roczen (7)
Marvin Musquin (6)
Eli Tomac (5)
Cooper Webb (5)
Blake Baggett (3)
Dean Wilson (2)
Joey Savatgy (2)
Justin Barcia (1)
Jason Anderson (1)
Justin Bogle (1)
Chad Reed (1)
Justin Brayton (1)

250 West:
Shane McElrath (5)
Adam Cianciarulo (5)
Colt Nichols (4)
RJ Hampshire (3)
Dylan Ferrandis (3)
James Decotis (2)
Jacob Hayes (1)
Garrett Marchbanks (1)
Jess Pettis (1)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (2)
Jordon Smith (2)
Justin Cooper (2)
Chase Sexton (2)
Alex Martin (1)
Martin Davalos (1)

Points Leaders

450s:
Cooper Webb (150)
Ken Roczen (148)
Marvin Musquin (144)
Eli Tomac (134)
Dean Wilson (110)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (114)
Shane McElrath (105)
Colt Nichols (104)
Dylan Ferrandis (102)
RJ Hampshire (75)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (52)
Justin Cooper (44)
Jordon Smith (42)
Chase Sexton (39)
Mitchell Oldenburg (34)
Alex Martin (34)

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