Saturday, September 23, 2023

2022 IndyCar Driver Reviews: Helio Castroneves and Conor Daly

Conor Daly leading Helio Castroneves around WWT Raceway in the 2022 Bommarito Automotive Group 500.
Conor Daly leading Helio Castroneves around WWT Raceway in the 2022 Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Photo courtesy of James Black/Penske Entertainment.

Over the next several weeks there will be a driver review series published starting with the 20th placed driver in the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship. This will continue until reaching Will Power, the 2022 IndyCar Series champion.

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Here, we will focus on Helio Castroneves (18th place) and Conor Daly (17th place).

A year after his fourth Indianapolis 500 win, Helio Castroneves just has to be wondering what went right in 2022. A seventh place finish at the Indianapolis 500 and two other top-10 finishes were the only highlights for the Brazilian in 2022.

The No. 06 Honda finished 13th or lower in each of the 14 remaining races in the 2022 IndyCar season. Those results dropped Castroneves to 18th in IndyCar points with the distinction as the highest-placed IndyCar driver without a top-five finish.

This was Castroneves’s first full IndyCar season since 2017 and his first full season for a car owner not named Roger Penske since 1999 with Carl Hogan’s team in CART. The good news for Castroneves is that his two retirements in 2022 were not his fault.

Castroneves had a mechanical failure at Detroit in June and was an innocent victim in the three-wide accident at Texas Motor Speedway in March.

2023 can only be better for Castroneves, especially with former Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud returning to Meyer Shank Racing for another year in the No. 60 Honda.

As for Conor Daly, his 2022 was a year of one step forward, one and a half steps backward. In terms of driving, Daly was on a good form by himself. The 2010 Indy Pro 2000 champion had no race-ending incidents nor was he a part of a negative highlight reel other than in the second IMS road course race in July.

Daly pulled off an incredible top five at the IMS road course in May and a sixth place finish in the Indianapolis 500. The rest of the year was full of anonymous results, leaving many wondering what could have been, even at Indy. Daly had a good car at the Indianapolis 500, but a slow tire change on the final pit stop dropped the Noblesville, Indiana native down some places.

Continuing on the bad luck theme, what was probably Daly’s oddest moment came in the season’s penultimate race at Portland. 

A fuel fire erupted as Daly pulled away from a pit stop. Despite the fire extinguishing itself as the car rolled, the fire damaged the clutch of the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, handing Daly his only retirement of the 2022 season.

If Daly and the ECR crew can get things working properly in the offseason, then one of IndyCar’s most popular drivers should be running further up the running order. Daly will be in the No. 20 car full-time in 2023 so the offseason won’t be as stressful as years prior.

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