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Daly Delivers Best Home Race Finish in Crazy Race

Daly Delivers Best Home Race Finish in Crazy Race

A rough start, a challenging set of tires, occasional rain and a chaotic finish were no match for Conor Daly as he recovered to finish fifth in Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

It was Daly’s first top-five finish in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in nearly five years, dating from his fifth-place finish at World Wide Technology Raceway in 2017, driving for AJ Foyt Racing. It was the fourth top five finish of his INDYCAR career.

The finish is his best in any track configuration at IMS, which made it even more special for the Hoosier driver.

“I think I’ve only finished sixth here before, if I remember correctly, but it’s great,” said Daly. “I love this place. I really want a trophy from here. But this is a great way to start the month. I mean, we wanted to bounce back here. This is the goal. We knew we had a fast car. We had a great qualifying, we performed all weekend and that’s exactly what we wanted.”

Daly started up front and qualified fourth in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 BitNile Chevrolet. It was his best qualifying effort for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES since qualifying sixth in this race last year and eighth for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race on the IMS road course last August.

But things quickly went south for Daly after the green flag waved. The race started on a damp track in light rain. The start was declared wet, so Daly and the rest of the field had to start on Firestone rain tires. But on lap 3, Daly made a pit stop to switch to alternative (red) Firestone tires.

The tires used did not suit Daly’s car and driving style and he immediately dropped through the field. At one point, Daly drove 23rd out of 27 cars.

“I thought it was just another day at the office, but I never give up on this series, and I tell the team that,” Daly said, referring to his seemingly frequent bad luck. “I said, ‘It doesn’t matter if the day goes bad, but I will always fight to the end.'”

Daly said his car was “perfect” once he shed that set of tires for another set of alternates. And that started his rally back to the front of the field.

All day long it rained at times challenging the NTT INDYCAR SERIES field. Daly said he was proud of himself and his fellow drivers’ achievements as they kept pace with the ever-evolving track.

But the several wet stages on the 14-corner, 2,439-mile track and the different tire strategies that came with it allowed Daly to climb through the field.

He got back into the top 10 for the first time on lap 48 of the 75-lap race. On lap 62, Daly pitted his car for another set of wet tires as the moisture increased. That turned out to be a very favorable move.

Daly moved up to fourth as the closing minutes of the GMR Grand Prix approached, but Marcus Ericsson was able to work his No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda past Daly before the final warning came to end the race.

“I really don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like this,” Daly said. “This was really strange. I mean, it rained, then it was sunny, and then it rained again, and then you couldn’t see anything. So it was really interesting today.”

While it wasn’t the best day of his career for Daly — his 2016 runner-up in Detroit is that honor — it was his best finish in the Racing Capital of the World. Previously, his best on the IMS road course was sixth and his best on the IMS oval is 10th.

It was a landmark moment for Daly, who grew up in nearby Noblesville, Indiana, lives in Indianapolis, drives for Ed Carpenter in Indianapolis, and is the stepson of IMS president J. Douglas Boles. And the strong day has fueled his drive to maintain momentum as the series moves into Indianapolis 500 mode next week.

Last year Daly led a high 40 lap race in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge before Graham Rahal’s loose tire hit the nose of his car and affected the rest of his day.

This year Daly seeks redemption.

“I mean, I’m confident every race, but these are the two biggest for me,” Daly said. “God, I love them. We know we have a great car at Indy, so we’re going to come out swinging and ready next week. †

The opening day of Indianapolis 500 practice is Tuesday, May 17, with veteran oval drills opening the day from 9-11 a.m. (ET). Rookie Orientation Program and refresher courses for veterans are scheduled from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM, and open Indianapolis 500 drills take place from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Tickets for the Indy 500 training are available through IMS.comand all the action on the track can be seen live on Peacock Premium.

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