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.”