Conor Daly
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Daly hopes strong Indy 500 performance leads to more racing

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Conor Daly needed a solid Indianapolis 500 result to help jump-start his IndyCar career.

A top-10 finish can’t hurt – and it might even lead to some more work this season.

The 27-year-old American stayed near the lead pack through most of Sunday’s race before a surprise ruling and a miscue on a late restart shuffled him to a 10th-place finish in his only scheduled race this season.

Now comes the hard part: Seeing if a career-best Indy finish pays off.

“I never really know what is good enough,” he said. “You know we’ve been on podiums, we’ve run around passing the most cars in a year and led laps. Winning helps, obviously, and we haven’t done that. I don’t what’s enough but I’m not going to go away. I really want to run here full-time.”

Daly certainly turned some heads with what was easily his best finish in six Indy starts. His previous best came last year when Daly finished all but one lap and wound up 21st.

But with one of the series’ top teams and perhaps the best car he’s ever had on Indy’s 2.5-mile oval, it didn’t take Daly long to understand how different things could be this May.

He was near the top of the speed charts in practice and qualified 11th last weekend. Things didn’t change much on race day when he quickly started passing cars and moving up the leaderboard.

With 32 laps to go, he was fourth and Daly was still in contention when five cars were involved in a messy crash on Lap 178. Two laps later, the red flag came out and when the race restarted on Lap 187, officials had reordered Takuma Sato to move in front of Daly, who made his only real mistake on the restart when his gears got stuck as he tried to accelerate.

Otherwise, the son of former race-car driver Derek Daly and the stepson of Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles drove almost flawlessly.

“He did a great job all month,” team owner Michael Andretti said. “And really I kind of screwed him up. We told our guys if they can get the front wing (adjustment) in, do it. I should have told them leave the front wing alone and it cost him like three spots. Otherwise he would have been right there with Alex (Rossi),” who finished second to Simon Pagenaud.

Still, it was a promising result for a guy who appeared to be a rising star when he earned his first full-time IndyCar ride in 2016 with Dale Coyne Racing. After producing two top-five finishes and five top-10s that season, he moved to A.J. Foyt Racing where he had one top-five and four more top-10s in 2017.

Then things dried up.

He made four IndyCar starts last year with Harding Steinbrenner Racing and Coyne, and one start in NASCAR’s Xfinifty Series while losing his primary sponsor because of a racially insensitive remark his father, who is from Ireland, allegedly made decades earlier.

Daly’s most recent races came in April at Barber Motorsports Park where he drove to victory lane in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo sports car series. He didn’t finish a second race at Barber, and with no more races on this year’s docket, hopes Sunday’s result could give lead to another chance in the IndyCar Series.

“You never really know when a shot like this will come with a team like this,” the Andretti Autosport driver said. “I just wish we could be here more often.”

And at least one team is already trying to help Daly.

“We hope so,” Andretti said when asked if Daly might run more races with the team this season. “We’re working on a few things.”

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.