Race Weekend Central

Conor Daly Eyeing 10th Indy 500 Start Ahead of Qualifying

At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, cars lapping the 2.5-mile oval at 230 miles per hour aren’t the only thing that is flying.

Time is too.

Ten years ago, a then-21-year-old Conor Daly made his first Indianapolis 500 start. Driving for AJ Foyt Racing, he was the second-youngest driver in the field behind Carlos Munoz and finished in 22nd place.

Fast forward to 2023, and should Daly qualify his Ed Carpenter Racing machine for the 107th Indianapolis 500 this weekend, he will be making the 10th start of his career on Memorial Day weekend.

That would put the Indianapolis native in pretty exclusive company. Of the 791 drivers to have taken the green flag in the race’s 106-year history, fewer than 80 have made 10 or more starts.

“It’s been awesome,” Daly said. “I love racing here, and I want to be racing here for a long time. It feels good because since 2018 we’ve had a lot of good runs here. This place is the coolest place ever, I love being here.”

It hasn’t always been easy, and Daly has seen and experienced everything a driver can go through. For the first several years his participation was always in doubt until a deal could be put together at the last minute. He’s struggled in qualifying, has qualified in the last row twice, and in 2015 Daly didn’t even get to see the green flag after an exhaust issue set his car on fire.

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The perspective he’s learned as a result of that has become his superpower as he navigates through the pressure cooker that is the Month of May.

“You have to take this place for what it is, and how hard it is,” Daly said. “This place is hard. If you have a rough day, it doesn’t matter how long you have been here, you are still shaking when you get out of the car.

“It’s that type of electricity you feel when you drive here, and the highs and lows here are wild. It’s part of the aura of this place.”

Daly’s profile at IMS rose in 2019 when he piloted an Andretti Autosport entry to a 10th-place finish, and in 2021 he led a race-high 40 laps – and had an encounter with a flying wheel from the car of Graham Rahal. Last year, Daly led seven laps and drove from his 18th-place starting position to end up a career-high sixth.

In Wednesday’s opening practice, Daly logged 123 laps and posted a top time of 226.510 mph. While that was the 14th-best speed of the day, he was fifth-quickest on the “no-tow” list, with ECR teammates Rinus Veekay and team principal Ed Carpenter occupying the top two spots.

Another thing experience has taught Daly is to not get too caught up in what the scoring pylon looks like this early in the week. But he does feel confident that when it comes time for speed to matter, the ECR cars will have it.

“Ed was 28th fastest [Wednesday], and he’s way better than that,” Daly noted. “He was going quite well, I could say. You just do your own thing, and when you roll out to qualify you just put all of the information you’ve learned all week and give it the best run you can.

“When the boost goes up [Friday] it changes things a lot. I feel confident that when it comes to extracting pure speed out of these cars, this team does a great job.”

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