INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens

Conor Daly on IndyCar ride for Texas: ‘I’m always ready to go’

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Conor Daly is getting another shot in the NTT IndyCar Series this weekend.

The American driver takes over the No. 59 Chevrolet at Carlin for Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway – replacing the team’s full-time driver, Max Chilton, who has decided to stop racing on ovals this season.

Chilton will run the No. 59 in all remaining road and street course races. As for the ovals, the team has yet to determine who will run it for Iowa, Pocono and Gateway.

For Daly, this weekend is a return to familiar ground. He competed with Carlin in Europe during his early career.

“I’ve known Trevor Carlin for a very long time and I loved seeing Carlin come over to IndyCar,” Daly told NBCSports.com on the phone while he was at a Lamborghini test at Watkins Glen International on Wednesday. “It didn’t take a very long time to come to fruition. It was very recently when Max made his decision to step out of the car at Texas and I respect that decision.

“I always have my helmet and I’m always ready to go. The Indy 500 is still fresh in my head. It hasn’t been too long since I’ve been in an IndyCar. With this generation of Indy car and with the different tires, it will be a learning experience this weekend.”

Chilton (pictured left), a former Formula One driver, has struggled this season in the NTT IndyCar Series. Both he and rookie teammate, Patricio O’Ward, missed making the Indy 500 field last month.

As for Daly, he’s coming off his best “Month of May” as an IndyCar Series driver. He competed in an extra Dallara/Honda for Andretti Autosport at the Indy 500, and took it as high as fourth during the race before finishing 10th.

“We had a great month, we ran a ton of practice laps and a lot of great things happened,” Daly said. “I’m super thankful for that. The Air Force was the key to that program. I wouldn’t have been there without them. It was great. We had a couple of things go wrong in that race so it wasn’t all perfect.

“To finish the way we did and have the day that we had meant a lot to me. It continued to light my fire towards being back in the series full-time.”

Does that mean a full-time opportunity exists at Carlin?

“I really don’t know,” Daly said. “I don’t think it’s fair to judge, yet. The 59 car is a full-season car and the Leaders Circle Program is very important so that car cannot miss a race. I’m obviously available and I have the experience and the maturity to fit in there at Carlin for right now.

“I still don’t know what this means beyond really for this weekend.”

For the remaining ovals, Daly actually has no commitments with Carlin and has other obligations. He has an IndyCar two-seater driver obligation at Iowa in July.

“Unless Carlin is willing to pay me what Honda is paying me for the ‘Two-Seater,’ I have to look after my life here,” Daly said. “Iowa has never gone well for me because mechanical grip is super important there and the smaller teams have struggled badly at Iowa.

“We’ll have to see. Right now, it’s just Texas. I have a [Lamborghini Super Trofeo] race scheduled for Gateway so I might not be able to make that happen, either. We’ll have to wait and see on that.”

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.