By Conor Daly, Verizon IndyCar Series Driver
Welcome to my blog on Tribute Racing! I look forward to sharing the experience of my first full-time Verizon IndyCar Series season with all of you this year.
We’re only two races into the season but it’s been very busy with testing, racing and promotional appearances, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love what I do and I love every part of it.
So far the season has been very much up and down. We struggled in practice and qualifying at the season opener in St. Petersburg but we had a really good race car.
It was unfortunate that we were involved in unavoidable contact and that we had to do an extra pit stop to remove debris that was stuck in the side pod causing some overheating, because everything was going really well and looking good for us at the time.
It felt awesome to lead in St. Pete, it’s the best feeling. Dale (Coyne) and Michael (Cannon), my engineer, came up with a good strategy to get us to the front. Once I was up there, I was able to fight with the likes of Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan and a couple of the Penske cars.
That was probably the most encouraging and important part of the weekend. We were able to fight upfront with those guys and they weren’t getting away from us, we were right there with them. It was also a great weekend of learning, which is something I know I’ll be doing a lot of this year being in my rookie season.
Phoenix was my first short oval race aboard an Indy car. It was interesting! During the race, the car was good and very well balanced, I think we had a decent pace. I was able to race with others and I had really good restarts, which to be honest was pretty much the only time that there was any passing.
It was definitely a lot more active on track than I thought it would be! I had some interesting moments and some hairy moments during the race. I’m just glad we made it to the end of the race unscathed! Going off line was a little crazy.
I think the toughest part of the weekend in Phoenix was qualifying. It was the first time that I experienced this type of qualifying format and believe me, you take the green flag pretty quickly! I didn’t get up to speed as fast as I needed to. It’s tough to do that when you’re on that much of an edge. In practice, our fastest laps would always be four or five laps in so it’s something I have to get used to. Again, it was a great learning experience and I know what to expect the next time.
We had a few issues at the last race that didn’t help us, but we’re all learning out there and we know what we need to work on to improve. The results so far don’t reflect how well we’ve done at Dale Coyne Racing.
I’m excited about the progress we’re making. The car has been strong at both races and that’s the most important part. I just want to keep that going into Long Beach and I have a feeling that we will.
Aside from the racing part of my job, I’ve been pretty busy with appearances. As I said, I love all the parts of this job so if I can help promote this sport and our team, I’ll do whatever they ask me to do.
I’ve been lucky as there’s been a lot of cool stuff that I’ve done involving other sports like hockey and the NBA and being able to meet other athletes and trade stuff like helmets and jerseys with them. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do so it’s been cool to be part of it and a lot of fun.
Some of the appearances I did include attending the NBA All-Star game in Toronto, which was a blast. I’m a huge basketball fan so that was a great experience. I’ve also been to some Indy Fuel hockey games in Indianapolis representing our sponsor Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality and I went to an NHL game in Phoenix in the lead up to the race to help promote the event. I even did the Howl before the start of the game, which was fun to say the least! There’s video of it online somewhere if you want to check it out!
I can’t say that it’s been an easy start to the season. It’s been tough, but it’s definitely been fun overall. We just need to keep going at it, grind every day and keep trying to get better.
Until next time. Thanks for reading!