If it wasn’t for incredibly tenacious perseverance, Conor Daly could have given up on racing a long time ago.
But there is no way the 28-year-old from Noblesville, Indiana, would give up on his dream of becoming a big-time NTT IndyCar Series driver.
Racing is in Daly’s blood.
His father is former Formula One and former CART and Indianapolis 500 driver Derek Daly of Ireland. His mother, Beth, is married to current Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles.
Daly made his debut in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 but just twice during that time has he competed full seasons in IndyCar — 2016 with Dale Coyne Racing and ’17 for A.J. Foyt Racing.
He’s been part time since, hoping to land a full-time deal to show that he can be an IndyCar star. Daly just needs a chance, and he is set to get that in 2020 in a combined effort with Ed Carpenter Racing and Carlin.
Daly will share the No. 20 Chevrolet with owner/driver Ed Carpenter. He will drive the street and road courses for the team, and also drive an additional entry Aug. 23 in the 104th Indianapolis 500. Daly will drive another Chevrolet on the ovals for Carlin Racing.
By joining the “Hometown Team” for the Indianapolis 500 at Ed Carpenter Racing, the second-generation driver believes he has his best chance to win the Indy 500.
“Ed has a lot of people that support him in Indiana and support the hometown team in that event,” Daly said. “That is really cool. He’s made the team one of the top teams at Indy. For any of us young drivers, when you look at teams and what is available, I think one of the most coveted seats in racing is Ed’s seat. Josef Newgarden has gone from there to Team Penske. They have won races, and that is the most important thing.
“He’s also in Gerry Forsythe’s old shop, and Gerry was one of my first supporters in racing.”
Prior to the unexpected shutdown to the season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Daly was focused on running a full season of races. He will still get that opportunity once the season resumes.
“It’s awesome,” Daly admitted. “It’s been an interesting road since 2017. That phrase that I never really believed for a while – work hard and it will eventually pay off – seems to be doing that. I’m going to keep on trucking and take advantage of what Ed Carpenter Racing has to offer. The guys are doing an incredible job on that team.
“I like Ed a lot. I think he is hilarious. I see him at the gym, and we always talk. He’s a great guy. It will be fun to see him in the trenches when we are fighting for something. Teammates at Indy, he is incredible there. It would be hilarious to share the front row with him. It would be a great photo shoot. That would be a lot of fun.
“Clearly, they have an incredible track record at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There is a bit of a new element with the aeroscreen, and you never know how that is going to work out. The good teams at Indy usually figure that out pretty quickly.”
Daly is quite familiar with some of the team members at Ed Carpenter Racing. Several came from the old Panther Racing team that featured drivers such as three-time IndyCar champion Sam Hornish, Jr., Scott Goodyear and IndyCar winner Tomas Scheckter.
One of the team’s management partners at Panther was Doug Boles, the current IMS president.
“It will be nice to have a consistent home,” Daly said. “All the preparation, there are no corners being cut at all. It’s on me to take advantage of it. We can’t wait.
“I have not thought about Indy that much because I haven’t started the season in forever. Once I get to Indy, I’m going to feel good about it. We’re going to have some races to be in synch with the team. Indy is going to be great. It’s going to be awesome. I’m looking forward to getting back to tracks we haven’t raced at.
“But Indy is going to be exciting.”
Daly will take over Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet on the street and road courses and drive a third car at the Indy 500 with a separate crew at ECR. Throw in the other oval races for Carlin, and that gives Daly a full season effort, though not for the same team.
“I didn’t mean to drive for three different teams last year; it just ended up being that way,” Daly said. “The crucial part was having support from the United States Air Force.”
With the U.S. Air Force as his sponsor, Daly finally can attempt to gain traction in a career that has been a long time in the making.
“I don’t live with regrets,” he said. “The biggest question is when I was 18, do I stay here or there? I feel really happy with eventually getting here. I’m older than I thought, but that is all right. Tony Kanaan is still racing. I’ll race another 20 years before thinking of retiring.
“I’m putting more pressure on myself. Now, I have to get in, deliver quicker and do the best I can.
“Now, we have the next weekend to get right back to it and get right back on the horse.”
“I’ve tried to bust my butt to get here. I’m sure a lot of people thought I would be gone forever, but we’re back. You never know what will happen in life.”
It has taken Daly a long time to get to this point. He was ready to go for the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, before it was postponed on March 13.
For now, Daly has to do something that he is all too familiar with in his career.
He has to wait.