Indianapolis electricity charges Conor Daly for the Detroit GP

Daly Detroit GP
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There were 36 lead changes in the 105th Indy 500, but arguably none of them were met with more emotion than when Conor Daly took over the top spot on Lap 50 – and he’s expecting his Indianapolis momentum to carry him through the Detroit GP at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park this Saturday (2 p.m. ET, NBC) and Sunday (12 p.m. ET, NBC).

“I’ve been to the Indy 500 before,” Daly said in a Zoom press conference ahead of the Detroit GP. “I’ve cheered for moments like that before where, like, you just – I don’t know, it’s electrifying.”

Trying to find the words to express his emotions was like trying to catch lightning in a bottle.

Daly led the Indy 500 for 40 laps, including at the halfway mark, but that is not where his greatest charge was absorbed. It came two weeks previous in the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

It seems disingenuous to think that a last-place finish in that event would be the thing that gives him the greatest confidence entering Detroit. But drivers know the capabilities of their car isn’t always reflected in the box score.

Daly qualified sixth for the GMR Grand Prix and believed his car was just as strong as that of teammate Rinus VeeKay, who went on to win his first IndyCar race. He never had a chance to find out if that was true after getting pushed off course in Turn 1 of Lap 1. His car stalled in that incident.

After losing several laps, Daly returned to action before retiring with crash damage on Lap 50.

The debate has raged for decades. Is momentum a real force for race car drivers? It is for Daly.

And in a weekend with a doubleheader on a tough track, every little boost is needed.

Yes, mentally; I think physically, yeah, because we just did a lot of time in the car,” Daly said. “Our bodies are ready for this long weekend.

“But realistically what I look forward to most is the progress we made at the Indy GP. That’s what I’m most excited about. … We made a lot of progress there. I’m excited to see if we can continue that for another good run at Detroit.”

If Daly struggled in the Indy 500, that might have stalled his momentum. Crossing under the checkers 13th in a see-saw race, he scored his first top-15 of the season, however, and it wasn’t until well afterward that the electricity of the crowd impacted him.

“It was nice,” Daly replied when asked about the eruption of noise when he took the lead; in fact, he shed a tear while watching the replay. “But honestly the coolest thing was seeing all the Internet stuff afterwards. Actually. just last night for some reason I hadn’t gone through like the posts that I’d been tagged in on Instagram. I started going through them all. There were a ton of videos from race day. It’s just wild to see.

“You don’t appreciate it at the time. You’re in the car, you’re doing the business, you’re working. It was the coolest thing ever to see that video.”

But still, the Lap 1 crash in the GMR Grand Prix has to lurk in the back of his mind.

Indianapolis has wide run off areas that can be used as an escape route. The same thing is not true on a narrow, bumpy street course that hasn’t seen action in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it’s just the nature of the track honestly,” Daly said. “I love street courses. Always have in the past in my career. I’m just happy to get back there.”

Under normal circumstances, qualifying on Row 3 for a street or road course race should be good enough to keep a driver out of trouble. He will not dwell on the incident that ruined his GMR Grand Prix. Rather, Daly will stay focused on getting at least as strong a start to the Detroit GP.

Daly’s last-place finish in the latest road race dropped him outside the top 20 in points. His top-15 on the oval, worth 37 points, allowed Daly to claw back to 19th and put him contention for a much better ranking after the Detroit GP.

Competition is the driving force for racers – and having another driver in site provides focus. Daly is four points behind his closest competitor Sebastien Bourdais. He is only 16 away from cracking the top 15.

“The only pressure is just on yourself to continue to fine tune everything. I think we know that we’ve got some good stuff right now. I think there’s no pressure. You’re just happy, right? You know, we’re going to be able to do the job.

“Even Scott Dixon will show up to a race weekend and have … to put in a lot of work to get either a race win or get to the front.

“It’s the same on us.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)