By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Heading into the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series with AJ Foyt Racing, Conor Daly is feeling very upbeat.
Although he finished a somewhat sub-par 18th in the final standings, Daly had more than his fair share of impressive runs and established a good reputation of running up front on both pace and strategy.
Daly scored a podium at Detroit, and an additional top five at Watkins Glen International where he led a total of 56 laps. His come from behind performances also earned him the Tag Heuer Don’t Crack Under Pressure award for passing the most cars throughout the season.
With a full season under his belt, the 24-year-old from Noblesville, Indiana feels that the familiarity that he has developed with the series and its tracks gives him something to build on.
“I think we can be very happy with the season,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to expect going into it I was just hoping to get better every weekend. I think we accomplished that goal pretty quickly by getting out front and leading at St. Pete. To come out of the season with a trophy and the Tag Heuer award for passing the most cars, I’m happy.”
His best finish and qualifying result of the season came at tracks where he ran in 2015 – the street circuits of Detroit and Toronto. With those stats in mind, Daly thinks that his results will only get better with time and experience.
“We’re in a constant state of improvement,” he said. “There’s things that I already want to do differently, going to tracks, whether it’s from a driving standpoint or a car setup standpoint. I’m just excited just to get back at it.”
“Last year, the tracks that I had been to before, like Detroit and Toronto, you know, we had two of our best — well, Toronto qualifying, and Detroit would have been good qualifying had we not got a penalty. We obviously had a great race weekend in Detroit.”
“I want to use that experience at every track that we go to. So just trying to build on it, build on it, and continue to get better. More podiums is obviously the goal.”
While Daly ran well at the road and street courses, the ovals were his Achilles Heel.
In the five oval races in 2016, Daly had an average finish of 20.6 with his best finish coming at the 1.0 mile Phoenix International Raceway (16th). He also had a massive shunt at Texas in June when he spun and collected Josef Newgarden.
While the results are less than ideal, Daly noted that much of his struggles were because of a lack of testing in order to find the proper mechanical grip.
“The ovals are challenging for sure but I think it has to do so much with the damper program the team is working with,” he said. “Mechanical grip is so important and we didn’t have the biggest test program either so it was tough. We were certainly doing as much with what we had as we could and the team was trying to help me along as best they could but I certainly still have a lot to learn about getting them most out of the car on ovals.”
In light of his struggles, Daly feels that he has two valuable assets in team owner AJ Foyt and new teammate Carlos Munoz.
“I think Carlos has shown just incredible skills at every oval, really all the tracks. He was the highest-finishing Andretti driver in the championship. There’s a lot of experience I can learn from him, too. But, of course, A.J. has knowledge. He watches, he keeps an eye on it. I’m excited to use both of those things.”
For more insight into Daly, be sure and check out the exclusive driver column he wrote for us this season.