By Conor Daly, Verizon IndyCar Series Driver
I can’t believe the season has already come to an end. It went by so fast, especially the last couple of months. I really didn’t want it to end.
The last race of the season didn’t really go the way we wanted it to. It was unfortunate that our worst races this year were on the double points weekends in Sonoma and Indianapolis. That cost us a chance at the Rookie of the Year title. Of course with Rossi winning the Indy 500, that gave him a pretty good points cushion though!
That said, I’m still super proud with what we did this year. We led a lot of laps for Honda and we led at a lot of different races. I had five top-six finishes including a second place finish. We came so close to winning a race as well. I think we can we can be super pleased with what we’ve accomplished.
When you look back and compare with the first season of other drivers, this is a pretty solid one, at least I think so!
I don’t know what the future holds for me right now, the hard work of getting back in Indy car has already started, but I’m super lucky and happy to have had this year to compete and drive for Dale Coyne Racing. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been a dream of mine. It’s a great team and I’m thankful to Dale (Coyne) and the Byrd family for giving me this opportunity.
The season was definitely filled with highs and lows. Since my last blog, I scored my best qualifying position of the season in Toronto in July, but the race went in the opposite direction. At Mid-Ohio, I struggled all weekend long in practice and qualifying but came back strong in the race, led 22 laps and finished sixth!
That last paragraph pretty much sums up my season. When we qualified well, the race didn’t go our way but when we qualified closer to the back of the field things seemed to go well for us in the race!
It was frustrating at times, to say the least, but overall, it certainly was a learning experience that I truly enjoyed. Some race weekends might not have been as enjoyable, though. Iowa comes to mind. That was a difficult learning experience!
At Pocono, I learned a ton. While we didn’t have the finish that we wanted, I was very happy to finish a 500-mile race. I hadn’t done that since my first Indy 500 in 2013. It was nice to get that experience at such a difficult track. They don’t call it the Tricky Triangle for nothing!
Pocono was a tough weekend on many levels. We had just lost my Indy 500 teammate Bryan Clauson the week prior. People ask how we do it. How we get back in a car and drive after losing someone like that. The only answer I can come up with is that we have loose wires! We just do it. We know Bryan would’ve done the same thing as us.
It meant a lot to me and to the team to honor Bryan by driving the #88 BC Forever car at Pocono and also to keep BC Forever signage on the car for the rest of the races. Bryan’s a legend in his own right. What he accomplished in such a short time is amazing. I hope we made the family proud by honoring him.
After Pocono, there was the return to Texas, and that again was a frustrating moment because I wasn’t able to compete based on the fact that I had crashed out of the first part of the race in June.
It wasn’t easy being there as a spectator but I was able to do a bit of TV as an in-race reporter. That was fun, but I much prefer driving!!
The race at Watkins Glen was crazy! After starting 17th, I ended up moving to the front and came so close to another podium finish. It was a back and forth race with all kinds of stuff going on. While it didn’t show with our qualifying result, our car was fast all weekend, we just had horrible luck.
In order to make it to the end with our strategy, I had to save fuel like crazy. My engineer Michael Cannon said I was hitting the right fuel number and I was making up positions. I was even told I could go a bit quicker at one point, so one lap I used more fuel but then with only a few turns left to go, he’s on the radio saying code red, do not use full throttle, coast when you can… I had to clue if I was going to make it and I had no clue at this point what position I was in.
Going into the final turns, Helio (Castroneves) got by me had I known it was for a spot on the podium I might’ve fought him a little more for the position, but I had to save fuel. I preferred to make it across the finish line. I stopped the car just past the finish line and I couldn’t have gone any further had I wanted to, there was no fuel in the car when it got back to the tent!
Having to save fuel is such a different mentality to what we’re normally used to as a race car driver. It’s pretty much the opposite of what we’re meant to do! But it’s also such an important part of racing in this series and you need to master fuel saving.
Looking back, I think my best memory from this year was the Indy Grand Prix, that was very cool to lead laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, even if it was on a road course. It was a pretty special weekend and it was our first top result of the season. Of course the podium finish at Detroit is also unforgettable!
Despite the highs and lows, it’s been overall a memorable season. One I’ll never forget.
One last thing before I sign off, I can’t end this blog without mentioning my roommate, fellow racer and friend James Hinchcliffe who is surprising us all on Dancing with the Stars. He’s killing it on the dance floor and making all of us proud. So I’ll say it again, don’t forget to watch and to Vote for Hinch!!
Thank you all for your support this season, I greatly appreciate it.