Conor Daly, Sarah Fisher take COVID-19 vaccination staff for a ride around IMS

Daly Fisher COVID-19
IMS Photo

Conor Daly and Sarah Fisher gave health workers assisting with COVID-19 vaccines the ride of their lives in advance of a mass vaccination that will take place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of April.

The Indiana University (IU) Health System and IMS will team up in the month of April to vaccinate up to 100,000 persons, which is about 40 percent of the track’s seating capacity.

Roger Penske has stated a goal of having a full capacity of 250,000 fans in the stands, and in a good-faith showing to aim for a large crowd, he opened up the track to be a vaccination site.

Anyone 16 years or older currently is eligible for the vaccine in Indiana. They will pre-register for their vaccinations, drive through Gate 2 at the speedway (where their registrations will be confirmed) and then drive into the track through the garages along pit road.

“I know it seems like a lot, but it’s still a small number for the State of Indiana,” said Mary Kay Foster, IU Health mass vaccination clinic manager. “But it’s 100,000 people closer to getting to that herd effect that we keep talking about.”

Local officials share Penske’s optimism that the track can accommodate the quarter-million crowd. More than 170,000 tickets have already been sold for the May 30 event.

But before health workers got down to work, they were treated to rides around the track. To show their appreciation, Indy 500 veteran Sarah Fisher and the current driver of the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing IndyCar, Conor Daly gave health workers rides around the track in Chevrolet Tahoes.

Daly Fisher COVID-19
Conor Daly and Sarah Fisher treated IU Health workers to some hot laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in advance of April’s mass vaccination event. IMS Photo.

“To help out our friends who are helping us; who are on the front line in the fight against COVID is fantastic,” Daly said. “There are so many people working many, many hours trying to help Americans live their lives and get back into action as soon as possible, so we’re really thankful to them. If we can take them for a ride here at the race track, which is our home, our love – that’s fantastic.”

Daly crashed just shy of the halfway point of last year’s race, which was held without fans in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He finished 29th after starting 18th. Daly’s best result in the Indy 500 came in 2019 when he finished 10th.

“Any day that I get to come to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and take laps is always fun,” said Fisher. “This is hallowed ground – to have the honor to drive here. And then to take passengers like some of our frontline workers at IU is just tremendous.”

Fisher has competed in nine Indy 500s with a best finish of 17th in 2009.

“I’m very excited about the month of May here at IMS,” Daly said. “I can’t wait to get back on track . It seems that our world is heading in the right direction again, which is very exciting. I can’t wait to get back out here, see some people and drive some race cars really fast.”

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”