Conor Daly is a big gamer.
In his free time, the 28-year-old enjoys playing popular games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Apex Legends and Forza Motorsport 7, often streaming his gameplay live on Twitch.
But despite his occupation, Daly surprisingly has not been an active competitor on iRacing, at least not until recently. He currently does not have a proper driver’s seat to race and only recently set up his steering wheel.
“The steering wheel and pedals have basically been sitting in my house for a year in the box,” Daly told NBCSports.com. “I only got them out two weeks ago. I never used it before but it is what it is.”
While he might be inexperienced with the simulation, Daly still doesn’t mind participating in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (where he’s ranked an unofficial 16th in the standings after a 23rd at Barber).
The virtual series still provides an opportunity to compete and also have some fun.
“Despite what people may think, I’m definitely giving it a shot,” Daly said. “I want to go fast. I want to do well. But there’s only so much I can do limitation wise. There’s some serious simulators out there that provide a better feel for what’s going on but I also don’t mind that.
“I’m totally happy with what I got, so I’m going to stick with it and basically try to be the entertainment guy. The Clint Bowyer of the virtual IndyCar Series.”
As an “in-race analyst” for FS1, Bowyer has played the role of court jester in the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series. On the IndyCar side, Daly certainly has lived up to his reputation as a jokester, too.
During last Saturday’s virtual race at Barber Motorsports Park, Daly delivered plenty of laughs on his Twitch stream with special guests Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta, and he views the opportunity to create new fans.
“For now, this is the best thing that we’ve got going, and I think for me this is still brand building,” Daly said. “I’ve been on Twitch for over a year and a half, almost two years already. Now all of a sudden it’s getting attention.
“We’re giving people something to check out with. Because we’re all locked in our houses, this is all we’ve got. So why not have some fun with it?”
No rage quitting
Daly might not be the best at iRacing, but he has no intention of dropping out of the iRacing Challenge. While he said that IndyCar drivers are not forced to participate in the virtual series, they are greatly encouraged, and he understands why.
“I think common sense encourages us (to participate) because it gets more attention potentially for our sponsors, more exposure for our team, and it gets people talking,” he said. “It’s only negative if you don’t do it. I think it’s positive for us no matter how well it goes because in reality, this is purely for entertainment.
“Yes, it is competitive. We’re trying to beat each other, but realistically, so many more things can happen than in real life that you just sort of have to take it for what it is.”
Daly finished 23rd and a lap down in last Saturday’s race at Barber Motorsports Park, two laps down. While the end result was likely not what he hoped for, he still continued to race all the way through to the checkered flag. While iRacing gives drivers the ability to leave the session (and some IndyCar drivers have dropped out of the first two races), Daly chose to continue.
The next day, Bubba Wallace generated a small controversy when he left the server of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
After being involved in a wreck, Wallace told viewers on his Twitch stream “That’s it. That’s why I don’t take this s**t seriously. Peace out,” before leaving the game. Wallace’s sponsor Blu Emu did not care for his actions and decided to end their sponsorship of the Richard Petty Motorsports driver.
GTK where you stand. Bye bye Bubba. We're interested in drivers, not quitters.
— Blue-Emu (@BlueEmu1) April 5, 2020
While Daly thought the incident was “weird”, he had mixed thoughts on the situation.
“Have I done that in video games before? Thousands of times,” Daly said. “Literally thousands of times.
“But you have to think about what stage you’re on. There’s a lot of people tuning in to try and watch. I understand how he feels a thousand percent, but also I think people overreacted a bit as well.”
Ready to return to real-life racing
While the iRacing Challenge provides a nice distraction while the whole word remains on lockdown, Daly admits that he cannot wait to sit behind the wheel of a real Indy car again.
“Honestly, it’s really tough to be not doing anything right now,” Daly said. “You get all the preseason hype, you get everything ready to go, you get everything finely tuned, you get your body ready to go physically and mentally, and then you have to just sit around for a really considerable amount of time longer. This is hard.”
Daly is supposed to compete in his first full IndyCar season since 2017 this year, splitting time between Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 21 car and Carlin’s No. 59 car.
“It is challenging, but I definitely can’t wait to get going. There’s a lot I want to do this year. There’s a lot of success we want to have as a team and a lot of success that I need to have for my career. I’m ready to do that. I feel good. I feel ready.”
The real NTT IndyCar Series is currently scheduled to begin on June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, while its virtual counterpart will resume action this Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. Live coverage begins at 2:30 pm E.T. on NBCSN.