Conor Daly hopeful part-time ‘auditions’ turn into full-time 2020 ride

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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MONTEREY, Calif – Fans who follow the NTT IndyCar Series know very well that the series is one of the most competitive racing circuits in the world on the track, but some may not know the challenges drivers face outside of the track.

For some drivers, simply finding the opportunity to race in the series can be difficult, especially on a full-time basis.

Conor Daly knows this all too well. Daly remains a fan favorite, but since losing his full-time ride with A.J. Foyt Racing following the 2017 season, he has competed in IndyCar on a part-time basis – something he hopes to change soon. 

“For me, it’s always a fight to be back full time,” Daly told NBC Sports. “It’s always a pressure-packed situation.

“People are always looking for some sort of special result, but it’s very hard to do that as a one-off entry or a substitute entry. We’re just trying to make the best of it. I think it’s gone really well so far this year.

Chris Owens/IndyCar

Sunday’s season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca will mark Daly’s seventh and final start of 2019. After finishing tenth at the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport in what was supposed to be Daly’s lone start this season, the 27-year-old was able to catch a few more opportunities to race this season. 

The first team to offer Daly addtional starts this season was Carlin.

“It was really just an interesting situation with Carlin because Max Chilton pulled out of doing the ovals – which is a respectable decision,” Daly told NBC Sports. “I guess I was just that next man up.”

Then came an offer to return to Andretti for the season finale, as well as the offer from Arrow Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports to fill in for Marcus Ericsson at Portland International Raceway three weeks ago. All in all, Daly has been provided with the opportunity to run seven races between three teams this season.

Not bad for a driver who began 2019 expecting to run only the Indy 500.

“Honestly, any time you can drive an Indy car, you’re a lucky human being,” Daly said. “This is the top level of motorsport across the world.

“There’s 22-24 full-time cars [in IndyCar], and there’s 7 billion people in the world. To be one of those guys is really special.”

During his partial schedule, Daly has put together several more respectful runs. He finished 10th at Indy and finished no worse than 13th in all four of his starts with Carlin. Daly also looked as if he’d run well at Portland, though he was collected in a crash on Lap 1.

Daly has used these opportunities to audition for a full-time ride next season and has kept his fingers crossed that his auditions will pay off soon. He is hopeful of an announcement in the near future. 

“I think this year has elevated our stock for sure,” Daly said. “I know that there’s potentially one seat available with the Arrow SPM team, which would be awesome, but there’s also probably a hundred people that would also love that seat.

“All I can do is try and help the Air Force figure out where we want to be next year if we can continue that program. But we know that is very Indy 500 focused. I think there’s a lot of positive stuff happening and depending on how this weekend goes we’ll be able to know for sure next week.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III