Conor Daly scratched off the list for potential McLaren IndyCar ride

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski

INDIANAPOLIS – Scratch Conor Daly’s name off the list for a ride at Arrow McLaren Racing SP for next season, the driver told NBC Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Daly was one of several NTT IndyCar Series drivers and team members that were at the Speedway for Wednesday’s Aeroscreen test. Those tests were conducted by drivers Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and Will Power of Team Penske.

Daly, Felix Rosenqvist, Jack Harvey, Tony Kanaan and 2019 NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden along with numerous rival team engineers and personnel were interested onlookers at the Aeroscreen test.

“McLaren had some people on their list, and I did not end up being at the top of that list,” Daly told NBC “That’s fine. It was good to at least be in that conversation and talk to Zak Brown and Gil de Ferran and Sam Schmidt. I have a lot of respect for all of those guys.

“In the end, I don’t think the Portland situation helped. They wanted to see me race there for that team and in that car. That hurt the situation.”

The “Portland Situation” was the first lap of the September 1 Grand Prix of Portland. Daly was driving the No. 7 Arrow Honda filling in for Marcus Ericsson, who had a Formula One commitment that weekend. McLaren became a partner of the operation in August and team officials were using Daly’s race at Portland as a chance to evaluate him as a driver to join James Hinchcliffe on the Arrow McLaren team in 2020.

Daly’s dream ride, however, didn’t make it through Turn 1. He was one of several drivers involved in a first lap, first-turn crash. The others included Hinchcliffe, Graham Rahal and Zach Veach.

Rahal accepted responsibility for causing the crash, but the residual effect on Daly’s audition led McLaren to consider other drivers.

“It’s a huge letdown when you start up front and crash early in the race,” Daly said. “It came up multiple times in conversation, where they say, ‘We would have liked to have seen what you could have done in Portland.’ That has come up.

“All I can do is what I can do, and I did what I can do, and it was out of my control what happened there. It is a shame, but it played a big factor in what happens in the future.”

2019 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

So, what is next for the popular driver who is a fan favorite but never seems to find a full-time ride in the NTT IndyCar Series?

“That’s a great question,” Daly said. “I really don’t know. We are working away at everything. There really aren’t many seats left for a full-time ride. Rahal Letterman Lanigan doesn’t look like they have anything. I have some help with the Air Force, but there needs to be some other pieces there to make that happen and it doesn’t look like they have those pieces.

“I don’t think McLaren is where I’m going to be at. They are going to go a different way. It was cool to be in the talks of being there.

“Other than that, I’m trying to see what else is out there and what might work. There are potential opportunities there, but it’s super early.

“At least I know where I’m not going to be.

“I’m always on people’s lists, but I never seem to be the top person on that list. I’m going to keep working on trying to be on the top of that list at some point. In McLaren’s situation, they know what they have and want to pick the people they want.”

Daly has some funding from the United States Air Force. The military recruitment sponsorship funded his effort at Andretti Autosport in the 103rd Indianapolis 500 and at the season’s final race in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on September 22.

Daly probably has enough sponsorship for a half-season.

“I would like to think I could fund a half-season, but that’s not enough,” Daly said. “You have to hunt for more or find the best position now and wait for a ton of driver’s contracts to come up next year. Things change. You don’t want to wait until 2021 because you need to be racing all that you can.

“Andretti is full for next year. There are still things on the table. I can’t really say what they are. We are not out of the fight, that’s for sure. It’s too early.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.