After getting a taste of the IndyCar scene with A.J. Foyt’s team this year, Daly wants in full time for 2014. (Marshall Pruett photos)
Three years of training on Europe’s open-wheel ladder has left Indiana’s Conor Daly feeling confident he’s ready to tackle a full season of IndyCar racing. As he told RACER on Friday, all Daly needs is for a door to open in the IndyCar Series, and he’ll show what a difference time spent on Formula 1’s ladder system has made in preparing him for the big time.
“The years I spent in Europe did really amazing things for me as a young American learning from some of the best teachers in the business and racing against some really tough competition,” said Daly, who won the 2010 Pro Mazda title before continuing his education in the GP3 series from 2011-’13.
“The time I spent in GP3 with Carlin [Motorsport], Lotus [GP], ART [Grand Prix] it helped me develop to the highest level, and with the other racing I’ve done in India and even the two races I did in GP2, I really believe it helped prepare me for IndyCar racing a lot more than if I’d stayed here and just raced in Indy Lights. Everyone talks about how much of a difference that European open-wheel experience does for young drivers, and it’s true. I benefited from it the whole time I was there.”
Daly, like many young drivers, hasn’t given up on his dream of reaching Formula 1, but with the minimum buy-in price for a hopeless team falling in the $15 million range, he’s rerouting his career in a direction that offers a greater chance of making it to the top.
“I want nothing more than to get a shot to show what I’ve learned to prove what I’m capable of,” said the 21-year-old, who placed 22nd on his IndyCar debut with A.J. Foyt Racing at this year’s Indy 500 (LEFT). “For me, I want to show how far I’ve come since I raced here full time, to show what I’ve learned from being under such intense pressure all the time, how to go out and perform, to have that championship mindset.
“If there’s one thing racing in Europe has given me, it’s a huge amount of experience packed into just three years. Now I want to bring that to IndyCar racing, but I’m under no illusions it will be easy. I know there aren’t a lot of open rides.”
If Daly had millions of dollars at his disposal, he’d probably be out testing with his new IndyCar team, but with talent as his primary asset to offer, the Hoosier has a harder road to follow.
“I’ve been talking with a lot of teams, team owners, team managers, and obviously seeing if they might have an interest in me,” added Daly, who finished third in the 2013 GP3 championship with one win and six podiums. “And I’ve also been asking them for advice on how to transition into the IndyCar Series. It would be a lot easier if I could write a big check, and I’m looking for sponsorship, but I’m putting my faith in what I believe I can offer a team as one of the young guys who’s ready to be part of the series’ future.”
As much as Daly would like to be awarded the drive in the No. 10 car at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, he says securing a test with potential teams would is the more realistic starting point in his quest to join the IndyCar ranks.
“I’d love to be able to test for a team and build a relationship,” he explained. “I want to race and I’m confident I can become a champion, otherwise I wouldn’t be here, but I realize sometimes things have to start out small before they can become something bigger. Like I said, I’m just hoping someone will give me a shot, and [IndyCar] is where I want to focus my attention. The next step for me is to keep talking with people, keep building relationships and to remain positive that something good will come of it. I have all my gear ready and can be at Sebring tomorrow if someone wants to go testing.”