By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. – A new look, but far from joining a new NTT IndyCar Series team this time around for Conor Daly.
He’ll reunite with ARROW Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for this weekend’s Grand Prix of Portland after Marcus Ericsson was granted permission to be on standby for Formula One’s Alfa Romeo Racing at the Belgian Grand Prix.
During Thursday’s press conference at the Red Lion Hotel in Jantzen Beach, Daly said his sole objective is to prepare for the task at hand and represent the No. 7 team well.
“I’m here to fulfill a role as a substitute,” Daly said of his role at Portland. “They have an incredible reputation to uphold and I want to obviously be representing well for them on and off track because they have an incredible partner with ARROW Electronics. I want to make them proud and have a good weekend.”
Third team this season it may be, but to Daly, who had no intentions of going for a record of running the most teams like Roberto Moreno in the late 1990s, he finds running for SPM again welcoming.
Back in 2015, Daly ran three races when he filled in for James Hinchcliffe, who was recovering from injuries sustained in a practice crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Daly will also have familiar faces from his time at A.J. Foyt Racing in 2017, his last full season he’s competed.
It also goes even further than that, he’ll also have people from his Indy Lights days in 2011 when he drove five races, including a win at Long Beach.
All of those attributes he’s found super important to build continuity. A trait he’s not seen in quite some time after going the part-time route since 2017.
“I feel like I’m at home with these guys because I’ve known them, even since I was doing Indy Lights in 2011,” Daly said. “There are still people from 2011 that are there now. A great group of people. Some of the best of the best are a part of this team. Definitely feel comfortable and it’s one of the best environments you can be in for a one-off event like this.”
Challenges have no doubt been a burden for Daly in recent memory. While running part-time for Andretti Autosport and Carlin, he’s also competing in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Challenge.
“It’s made my IndyCar schedule that I’ve had a little more difficult,” Daly commented. “I don’t think I’ve truly been able to get the best out of myself yet. I think continuity or a longer term relationship with the engineering people.”
Furthermore, with testing becoming rare, Daly knows he has to work his brain quite harder and produce immediate results.
“That’s so important now in all the championships,” Daly said. “There aren’t a lot of series that have a lot of test days these days, so you got to be able to get in and go fast immediately.”
Those hellacious struggles, which he doesn’t recommend anyone going through, have also kept him humble to eventually work his way back into full-time competition.
“I’m also totally happy to be here and thankful to have these chances to potentially finally get back into that full-time seat,” Daly said. “It is hard for sure and I don’t recommend it, but I’m certainly happy to be driving no matter what it is.”
In five starts this season, Daly’s best result was the last round at Gateway, where he brought the No. 59 Carlin Chevrolet home in sixth. With positive momentum, he commented that he’s been thrilled how his year turned out and has a simple personal goal at Portland.
That’s running the No. 7 Honda as much as possible to utilize his chance with SPM.
“It’s been an awesome year. I feel more comfortable than I’ve ever been as a driver,” Daly said. “All I want to do is take advantage of every single session on track.
“Whether it’s practice, qualifying, warm-up, race. I just want to be the best driver I can be and be the best representative for the team and partners that I’m driving for, which is most important.”
The penultimate round of the IndyCar Series campaign will unfold Sunday September 1, airing live on NBC at 3:00 pm EST with the green flag dropping approximately at 3:42 pm EST. Takuma Sato is the defending winner of the 105-lap contest.