As Conor Daly prepares to drive for his sixth team since 2015, the rapid second-generation racer is hoping to keep that tally from growing.
The NTT IndyCar Series’ ultimate super-sub has been the man to call when teams are in a pinch. He’s guest-starred at Dale Coyne Racing, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and Harding Racing, all with rides lasting between one and four races. He’s done the Indianapolis 500 as a one-off deal on three occasions, most recently with Andretti Autosport where he finished a solid 10th.
Between those temporary assignments, he completed two full seasons of IndyCar racing—with two different teams, naturally—and now he heads to Texas Motor Speedway as Carlin Racing’s newest driver. But only for Texas. For now.
Dreaming of a day where his full-time career resumes and he has a competitive ride with the same team on a multi-year contract, the Hoosier welcomes another opportunity to remind team owners up and down pit lane that he’s a better solution than some of the drivers they’re currently paying.
“It’s interesting; I told Michael Andretti, after I got his approval to do this, ‘Hey man, you know I would love to have a home somewhere here in IndyCar…’” he told RACER. “And he gets that, he understands he’s trying to help, and we’re obviously trying to do more later in the year if we can, if we can find some people to chip in and help out.
“But realistically, until we’re at that point, it’s better to be driving race cars than not. So, I do feel good and I certainly think our performance at Indy helped. I’m just glad that people still want to have me drive cars. If there’s someone that needs a fill-in driver, I certainly seem to fit that bill in people’s minds.”
If there’s a common and positive theme Daly has found in the various last-minute requests to drive IndyCars, it’s his apparent ability to adapt to new environments and leave them in a better state afterwards.
“We did some good work with the Schmidt team when Hinch got hurt in 2015 and they asked me to fill in,” he said. “And last year with the Harding guys, I was brought in for a certain purpose of technical analysis, and I’m glad that part of my driving is appreciated, and I think that went well.
“It’s always for a certain purpose, and then you hear that seat is sold to the highest bidder or something else happens, and that’s fine; I just keep searching. But, yeah, I’m just going to keep trying to do what I can do, and hopefully I finally find a home somewhere.”
Having driven for Carlin in Europe in 2011, Daly knows many of the key players in the program. He’s also familiar with some of the engineers and mechanics who will look after the No. 59 Chevy vacated by Max Chilton for the rest of the ovals on the 2019 calendar. Beyond getting to know the car on Thursday at TMS, he’ll need to figure out how to help the team extract significant speed in a short amount of time.
“My teammate Charlie Kimball has a lot of experience with the Carlin cars on ovals, and was really fast at Texas last year,” he said. “So there’s certainly a lot of potential there. And I actually know some of the guys on the team, not super-well, but I’ve known them.
“They have a good idea of what we’re going to try to do. And I think the new tire from Firestone is obviously a real big question this weekend, from what I’ve heard from a lot of other people, teams and drivers. I think everyone’s going to learning how the tire situation could play out, and so I have not worked with any of the engineers before, but I’ve been in that situation before, so I think I work well with almost anyone that I’ve been paired with. And it’s obviously a short weekend, but hopefully we can take advantage of it and do some good things for the Carlin boys.”