Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: A Mini Open Wheel Invasion Is Coming to Mid-Ohio

On Wednesday (July 5), in the midst of an announcement that Group1001 would sponsor Spire Motorsports throughout the 2023 season, it was also announced that IndyCar driver Marco Andretti would make his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 8.

This will mean that two drivers from the NTT IndyCar Series will attempt to compete with the Truck Series regulars, as Conor Daly was already announced to drive Niece Motorsports’ No. 41 for this race.

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While both drivers are open-wheel racers at heart, they’ve both dabbled in stock car racing and what’s helping them attempt this race is that they have no commitment to IndyCar right now.

Following the 2020 season, Andretti stepped back from full-time IndyCar racing and became an Indianapolis 500-only driver. During that time, he joined the Camping World SRX Series, where he is the defending champion entering 2023.

He made his NASCAR debut at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval in 2022, driving for Sam Hunt Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He was caught up in an accident late in the race and did not finish.

Meanwhile, Daly has been dabbling in NASCAR for several years now. He briefly made headlines when he made his NASCAR debut in the Xfinity Series in 2018 at Road America. The deal came together to promote diabetes awareness with his then-Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ryan Reed – both drivers are Type 1 diabetics.

While Daly’s debut was a story for a while, his scheduled sponsor Lilly Diabetes backed out after reports surfaced of his father Derek using a racial slur in an interview in the 1980s. He finished 31st.

In 2020, Daly returned to NASCAR for a one-off Truck Series start with Niece at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the fall, where he finished 18th. The pair reunited the next season at the same track, only in the spring race this time.

Unfortunately, Daly crashed out and finished 40th.

In 2022, Daly made his NASCAR Cup Series debut at the Roval, one day after Andretti made his NASCAR debut. He drove the No. 50 for The Money Team Racing, finishing 34th.

Daly and The Money Team have worked together for two Cup races this season, finishing 29th in the Daytona 500 after miraculously making the race in his Bluegreen Vacations Duel, and 36th at Circuit of the Americas.

Now Daly and Niece are reuniting at Daly’s bread-and-butter: a road course. The announcement came after Daly was released from his full-time IndyCar ride at Ed Carpenter Racing.

However, as fate would have it, Daly made an unexpected start in IndyCar for Meyer Shank Racing on July 2 in place of Simon Pagenaud, who was not cleared to race after his No. 60 had a wild flip in practice.

The track that Daly filled in for Pagenaud at? None other than Mid-Ohio. And while an IndyCar and a NASCAR truck are vastly different in comparison, Daly has track time on the track that he wouldn’t have otherwise gotten if he didn’t get the call from MSR to step in for Pagenaud.

It’s a stretch to call this an “Open Wheel Invasion” for the race with only two open-wheelers attempting to compete, but it’s hard to overlook them, especially when both drivers are in semi-competitive trucks for the race.

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Andretti’s No. 7 has two victories in its two seasons of existence, including one this season with Kyle Larson behind the wheel at North Wilkesboro Speedway, while Daly’s No. 41 is fresh off of a top-five finish with Bayley Currey at Nashville Superspeedway.

These trucks are competitive, and after watching what Shane van Gisbergen just did at the Chicago street course in the highest echelon of NASCAR, these two have to have some form of confidence that they can compete should they make the race.

So who gets the competitive edge? Experience would lean towards Daly, but Andretti is also the defending champion of a series that has closed fenders. It could really be a toss-up.

We’ll have to wait until qualifying to find out who has the performative edge – and if both can make the show.

Author’s Note: I’m so excited to be covering my first-ever race in person with Frontstretch at Mid-Ohio this weekend (July 7-8). Follow me on Twitter (@AnthonyDamcott) for at-track updates and stay tuned to Frontstretch’s Twitter and YouTube for exclusive coverage of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 150, which takes places July 8 at 1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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DoninAjax

SVG should serve as further proof to get stock car drivers and not open wheel drivers. The only open wheel drivers to make an impression in stock cars are Mario, A.J. and Johnny, and Mario and A.J. were pretty good in stock cars to begin with.

Shayne

Wow. NASCAR knows how to put on a great show. We’re taking a drink everytime Jamie Little says “beach”. Good times. Rain tires, wiper blades, and Swiffers. You can’t make this stuff up. And we thought NASCAR was an innovative, diverse, superlative organization.

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