Conor Daly happy to be iRacing goof: ‘Clint Bowyer of virtual IndyCar’

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
0 Comments

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).

MORE: Dale Jr. joins Saturday’s iRacing Challenge (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

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.

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.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
4 Comments

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”