By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
After a difficult 2018 that included a pieced-together Indianapolis 500 ride, a NASCAR race with a sponsor that took its logos off the car following a PR storm involving his father and some dirt midget racing that didn’t end as expected, Conor Daly now has his best shot to perform well at the Indianapolis 500.
Daly announced today that he will attempt to qualify for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 25 USAF Recruiting Services Honda to complete an all-American lineup alongside Zach Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti.
“I couldn’t be prouder to represent the Air Force for a second consecutive year at the Indianapolis 500,” said Daly in a team statement. “I would not be here without the effort from everyone at Andretti Autosport to make sure this program is structured for success. It means a lot to see the commitment that Air Force has shown in me, and the chance to have a shot at winning the biggest race in the world.”
Daly represented the Air Force last year in a program that was a partnership between Thom Burns Racing and Dale Coyne Racing and it was a partnership that tested nerves as much as anything, only making it into the Indianapolis 500 field after three qualifying attempts.
That, plus being a fill-in for Harding Racing at times last year wasn’t easy given that the car he drove had five-year-old shocks on it. But Daly is older and wiser now to his situation.
“Over the last 18 months, since the end the 2017 season, I’ve been in a couple different cars, a couple different situations,” said Daly. “I’ve always been sort of thrust into the deep end, just basically I’ve had to try and just do whatever I could do in a last-minute type situation. I’m used to that.
“But the Indy 500 is a little bit different. Last year we missed the first day of practice. It was definitely a bit of a hectic situation. Showing up to Indy now with probably a lot of information already that we’ve been able to study, I’m going to try and be at obviously every race with the team to see how it all works.
“I think this sort of situation, I’ll feel more comfortable in. I’ve matured as a driver I think now, and I feel ready to just take advantage of each day one day at a time. We’re not going to win the race in the first three days, we know that, not even in qualifying.”
Team owner Michael Andretti said that there were no current plans to go to six cars for the 500 and also that Daly’s ride at Indianapolis wouldn’t also be for the Grand Prix on Mother’s Day weekend.
“We want to make sure that the Speedway car he’ll be driving will be getting all the tender loving care that it needs because the superspeedway cars take a lot more preparation,” said Andretti. “For us to have to convert the car from a road course car to an oval car I think would probably hurt the effort. At the moment, we have no plan to do that.”
The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series begins March 10th at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.