Conor Daly hopes the best ride he’s ever secured for Indianapolis can blossom into more than May, and Michael Andretti sounds optimistic.
“That would be great,” said Andretti during Wednesday’s press conference to announce Daly as his fifth driver at Indy in 2019 with sponsorship from the U.S. Air Force. “I think we’ve already talked about it, working on a few things. I think it’s a real possibility.
“We’d love to still keep him in the family not just for the one race. Hopefully we can work something out. Comes down to obviously sponsorship. But we are working on a few different things. We’ll see.”
Daly tested an Indy Lights car for Andretti a few years ago and they have previously tried to put a deal together for an IndyCar ride.
“We’ve been working for quite a few years to try to figure out how we can get Conor into our family,” continued Andretti, whose team has won three of the past five Indy 500s. “We highly rate him as a driver. We think Conor will fit in here perfectly with all the other teammates that he’s going to have.
“We started working on this awhile ago. I’m just so excited we’ve been able to get it together and end up bringing Air Force on, as well, the U.S. Air Force, which is really, really exciting.”
The 27-year-old IndyCar veteran had to bump his way into last year’s Indianapolis 500 driving a Thom Burns/Dale Coyne Racing car that didn’t sport all the latest chassis updates from Dallara. That won’t be the scenario in four months.
“Over the last 18 months, since the end the 2017 season, I’ve been in a couple different cars, a couple different situations,” said Daly, who was hired by Harding Racing for three races last summer to help sort out the team’s chassis. “I’ve always been sort of thrust into the deep end, just basically I’ve had to try and just do whatever I could do in a last-minute type situation. I’m used to that.
“But the Indy 500 is a little bit different. Last year we missed the first day of practice. It was definitely a bit of a hectic situation. I think this sort of situation, I’ll feel more comfortable in. I’ve matured as a driver I think now, and I feel ready to just take advantage of each day one day at a time.
“We’re not going to win the race in the first three days, we know that, not even in qualifying. I think it will just be a great situation for my brain really because I won’t be thinking — last year, heck, I was just trying to survive, make the race, take all the wing out we possibly could, see what happened. I think it will be a different situation this year. It makes me feel happy.”
Daly’s addition gives Andretti five American drivers, but the 1991 IndyCar champion doubts his team will field a sixth car like the previous few Mays.
“At the moment, no,” he replied. “I mean, I won’t say it’s definitely out of the question, but not looking like it.”