A step in the right direction for Conor Daly at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The 30-year-old Indiana native has proved once again that the GMR Grand Prix layout simply works for him, in both races last year on the road course he started sixth and eighth. Daly rolls off fourth for tomorrow’s event, which makes it his highest qualifying position in the NTT IndyCar Series since Mid-Ohio in 2020.
Those pair of top 10 qualifying efforts were the only on the 2021 season, neither converted to a top 10 result. Considering Daly is not dividing driving duties between two separate teams, he could be looking at a season-boosting weekend.
“The Ed Carpenter team has a great handle on this circuit for sure,” Daly said. “We have done a lot of work on the simulator here as well, but I’ve obviously — there’s no question I’ve struggled with this generation of car. There’s certain places where every driver has there better tracks and their worse tracks.
“Apparently here I remember how to drive. I don’t know. It’s one of those things that this car here just, it feels fast. You can drive it fast, and it does what I want. So I feel like it’s been a difficult window to find at other circuits, but for whatever reason here, it suits my style more than a few other places for sure.”
Through the first four race weekends on the year, the No. 20 ECR Chevrolet team have not been near a result in the sharp end of the field with three finishes outside the top 15. A 12th at Long Beach is their best finish thus far.
Tomorrow’s 85-lap contest may not be as straightforward as it was planned, there is possible rain in the forecast shortly after the green flag. The strategy for teams will be the name of the game, as it always is.
“I think it always does, right?” he said. “And everyone is so close here and so competitive, so we hope to be the smartest people out there. When you are this close to the front, all you need is just one lap, but whether it’s an in-lap or out-lap to kind of change your race.
“I hope it stays dry now that we’re starting up front. But if it’s wet, we do have less spray starting up front, so that’s nice.”
Friday’s qualifying session was one of tight lap times, the fastest four qualifiers were all under a 0.2s blanket for pole position. As Daly came to clock in his third and final lap in the Fast Six, he lost half a tenth and a front row start in the final two corners.
“I think everyone is, honestly — it’s such a high level I think here that even though everyone is driving on the edge,” Daly said. “I think everyone has realized that here you have to be on that limit to be fast. In no way today have I ever been happy or comfortable, but that’s how you have to go fast here. You know what I mean? It’s interesting.”