Conor Daly wanted advice on whether he should take the opportunity to attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500, so he pulled out his phone and started making calls.
“I actually misdialed A.J. Foyt,” Daly said Wednesday. “I was going to call A.J. Allmendinger but accidentally called A.J. Foyt. I canceled that right away; I didn’t mean to bother him. It would have been an interesting call. It was very funny.”
Foyt is a previous Daytona 500 winner, but what it takes to win NASCAR’s biggest race isn’t what Daly was looking to discuss. Daly, an NTT IndyCar regular, was contemplating whether he should drive the No. 50 Chevrolet for The Money Team Racing when he’s not guaranteed a spot in Sunday’s race.
Daly was on the IndyCar Chevy sim in Charlotte when the opportunity presented itself. Allmendinger was the first one Daly wanted to call, and he did end up connecting with him as well as Chase Briscoe. With a laugh, Daly said he could show off a screen shot of all the people he called.
“I called all those guys, and everyone did say the same thing,” Daly said. “They were like, ‘It’s going to be hard, but why not?’ So, I agree (with all of them).”
A deal came together quickly. Daly’s fellow open-wheel competitor Helio Castroneves was working a deal with the team, but it didn’t come together.
“Helio, I’m sure, will have an opportunity to do this race pretty much anytime he wants,” Daly said. “When he looked at it, it’s like, well that is going to be tough to make it. Eh, maybe I don’t need to do it. Which is fair because it’s Helio. He’s got plenty of rings and trophies to lean back on.
“But for me, it’s a bit of a different scenario. I’m also a little bit younger than he is, so I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can just take this opportunity and run. But it did all happen very quickly. It was like, ‘Hey, do you want to do it?’ I was like, ‘Well, let’s look at everyone else doing it first.’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, but we should do it.’ So, I’m like, ‘Yep, we should.’”
Daly, 31, understands that being offered an open seat at Daytona is a gift that doesn’t happen often, nor will having the funding to bring to a team.
“We have a sponsor, which is the only reason this is happening,” he said. “There is a lot of business that goes into motorsport and Bitnile.com has been a huge supporter of mine and they love motorsport.
“It’s a great upside, and the downside really is not big because we’re still going to have our sponsor, we’re still going to go to COTA to race there.”
Daly has to either qualify on speed Wednesday night at Daytona by being one of the two fastest open cars or through his Thursday Bluegreen Vacations Duel race. Not knowing what to expect or having driven a Cup Series car at Daytona, Daly is “just excited for the chance” and is ready to learn a lot at a high rate of speed.
“It’s the biggest uphill battle I’ve probably had to make a race,” said Daly. “The 2018 Indy 500 was going to be tough, but we made it fine, so that was good. But this one is going to be a real challenge with the other good cars that are also trying to qualify.”
Having taken the chance to be at Daytona, Daly will not say whether experiencing it will be a one-time thing.
“I never do anything one and done,” he said. “I would love to do as much as I can. But obviously, you never know when those opportunities come about. But my goal is to hopefully learn a lot in the Duel to hopefully use in the race that we get to do on Sunday, to hopefully come back next year and feel way better about it.
“Who knows? I obviously can’t tell the future, but I’ll do anything, anytime, anyplace.”