Race Weekend Central

‘I Feel Ready’ — Conor Daly Brings Confidence Into Iowa Doubleheader

Over the years, Conor Daly has earned the reputation as one of the “super subs” of the NTT IndyCar Series.

While the 31-year-old veteran would much rather be in a full-time ride, as he was earlier this season with Ed Carpenter Racing, he’s shown in the past that he’s always up to the task of stepping into a car on very short notice. That much was evidenced by his performance three weeks ago when he took over for an injured Simon Pagenaud at Mid-Ohio.

After a practice crash sent the 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner to the infield care center, Pagenaud was not cleared to race by the IndyCar medical staff. Daly hopped in the Meyer Shank Racing No. 60, and with only the Sunday warmup to get comfortable in the car, he drove it to a 20th-place finish.

Pagenaud has still yet to receive the medical go-ahead, and while Tom Blomqvist drove the car last weekend at Toronto, Daly is back in the seat for this weekend’s doubleheader at Iowa Speedway.

Though Daly wasn’t in the car in Canada, he was on-site and on the MSR pit box. So, in effect, he is preparing for his third and fourth races for the team. He’s quickly become very comfortable with the team.

“Mike Shank has given me everything I need to prepare, which is great,” Daly said. “I feel ready, we come into this weekend wanting to compete at the front. I feel good, and everything is pointing to a great situation and a great chance.

“This team is made up of great people, and I’ve worked with almost all of them at different teams before, and I have so much respect for them as an organization. They’ve welcomed me like family.”

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After bouncing around several IndyCar teams in the first few years of his career, Daly found a home with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020. Daly drove the road and street courses for ECR in 2020-21 – along with the Indianapolis 500 – before moving into the seat full-time for 2022.

That partnership looked set for all of 2023 as well, but then the two parties unexpectedly parted ways after the Detroit race in early June. He wasn’t on the sidelines for long as Dreyer & Reinbold Racing brought him on board with their Nitrocross team, where he made the Group E final.

Two weeks later, he was at Mid-Ohio subbing for Pagenaud, then he returned a week later to drive in the Craftsman Truck Series race for Niece Motorsports, where he finished 18th despite suffering power steering issues.

Daly definitely feels like he got a fresh start, and that has him in a good headspace.

“I feel more confident than ever,” Daly said. “Anything I’ve gotten to drive since [moving on from ECR] has gone great. I don’t lose confidence, and this weekend is one of the most important weekends for me in the last six years.”

Daly has plenty of reason to be confident at Iowa, because he’s always been quick on the high-banked, 7/8-mile bullring. In 2020, he qualified first and third, respectively, while driving for Carlin Racing, and started third in both races a year ago.

While Daly’s path to IndyCar was more of the traditional road course variety, ovals are his jam, and Iowa definitely fits his eye.

“I think [Iowa] is high commitment, and I really like what you have to throw at the track,” Daly said. “I have figured out what I like in the car and I’ve figured out the profile that I need in the corner. The goal is to use it efficiently and take care of the tires.”

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What also buoys Daly’s spirits is that the team feels it has what it needs to run up front, and so they are going to go for it. That’s significant, given the car’s precipitous pace in the annual Leaders Circle standings.

The series annually gives over $900,000 to each car that finishes in the top 22 in points, which is a significant part of every team’s budget. Right now, the No. 60 is on the outside looking in, standing 24th with seven races to go.

Scoring points and moving up in the entrant points standings is important, but if the chance is there, Daly is ready to compete.

“Mike Shank has said ‘dude, I know we need the points, but go out there and try and win this thing,’” Daly said. “I agree, let’s go win this thing.”

In the lone practice session of the weekend, Daly finished the session ninth on the speed chart with a lap of 174.003 mph.

Qualifying for the two races will take place at 9:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, with lap 1 setting the field for Saturday’s race, and lap 2 for Sunday. Saturday’s race will start at 3 p.m. ET, with Sunday’s race going green at 2 p.m. ET.

Both races will be 250 laps, or 223.5 miles.

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