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.”