By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — With no guarantees of another shot in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, Conor Daly had to make the most of his one opportunity with Andretti Autosport in the Indianapolis 500 and take advantage he did with a 10th place finish.
The No. 25 U.S. Air Force Honda turned the fastest lap of the month and started 11th in the 33 car field. After some close action with a few drivers and running as high as second in the last 30 laps, Daly faded on a late race restart and eventually finished 10th.
“It was just awesome to be with those guys,” said Daly. “We were in the front all day and that’s just such a fun feeling to just see everything that’s going on and try to take advantage of it. To run with Alex (Rossi), one of my best friends and teammates now, he’s so good here, he’s really good here and to be able to see sort of what he was doing and try to run with him was really really cool. I think we can be proud for sure of what we had, this is a great team, great car, great sponsor, US Air Force, I just wish I could be here more often.”
The field bunched up in front of Daly and the Noblesville native lost track position that he could not recover with just under 40 miles left in the race. Despite losing track position late, Daly at least finished highest of all non-full time drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series.
“I think we can be really proud,” said Daly. “I don’t know how to rate it but we did the fastest lap this month, we qualified 11th, we finished 10th and we didn’t put a wheel wrong so for a guy that just shows up to do this, I think we can be pretty proud of it.” said Daly.
The 2010 Indy Pro 2000 Champion has no open wheel racing rides lined up after his effort on Sunday but chasing a full-season effort has been Daly’s goal for a while now. A productive season at Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 followed by a somewhat less productive 2017 with A.J. Foyt Racing put Daly out of a ride despite having results indicating that he deserves a place.
“I never really know what is good enough,” said Daly. “I’m on the podium my rookie year, I’ve led races, we’ve passed people for the lead, we’ve won awards for passing the most cars in a year, I don’t know what you have to do. Obviously win, winning is the most important thing and I get that, we haven’t done that yet but I think today was a pretty good run for this team and my engineer, I think Andy (Listes) did an incredible job, it was his first time race engineering a car, he’s been an assistant for a long time and he did an incredible job. I don’t know what’s enough but I’m not going to go away.”
Car owner Michael Andretti is upset with himself about Daly’s result. Andretti was Daly’s strategist and called for a front wing adjustment late that ended up costing Daly a couple of spots near the end.
“I’m really proud of him, he did a great job all month,” said Andretti. I’m really sorry that in a way I sort of screwed him. We told our guys that if we can get the front wing in, do it. I should’ve just said just don’t touch the front wing and I didn’t and that cost him like three spots under the green there on that last stop and that was the difference because he would’ve been ahead of all that stuff and he would’ve been right up there with Alex.
“I feel really bad there but other than that, he did everything right. He drove a really really good race and like I said all month he was really good. He was fun to work with.”
Andretti is hopeful to have Daly in a car for a few more races if not in 2019 then in 2020.
“We’re working on a few things. I think there’s a possibility, yeah.”