Conor Daly climbs back to finish 5th at Indianapolis road course
INDIANAPOLIS — Conor Daly was dropping like a stone at the start of Saturday’s (May 14) GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, simply avoiding chaos helped Daly earn his first top five finish in nearly five years.
After starting fourth, the Noblesville, Indiana native dropped to fifth early in the race and stayed there after all the drivers in the 27-car field stopped to replace their rain tires with slicks on the semi-dry track.
Daly was still fifth until Josef Newgarden got around his fellow Team USA purse winner in Turn 1 on lap 12.
At Turn 7, Takuma Sato passed Daly for sixth place and after the turn, Alexander Rossi moved up to seventh.
Scott McLaughlin, Jack Harvey and Rinus VeeKay rounded Daly after turns 10-11. Shortly after, Romain Grosjean and Callum Ilott each gained position into Turn 12 while Simon Pagenaud made his own pass into Turn 13 rounding the outside of the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.
Daly started Lap 13 in 14th place and went down to 18th on Lap 15. Exasperation seemed to set in for Daly at the wheel as the pits called on him to pick up the pace.
“I swear, I try,” was Daly’s reply.
“Everything in the data looks correct.
I get it, there’s no way it’s changing that much. It’s not your fault.”
— Christopher DeHarde (@CDeHarde) May 14, 2022
Pit lap 28 seemed to remedy the car’s problems, as a new set of redwall tires improved the handling of the car.
“I don’t know what happened on the first set of reds,” Daly said after the race. “But they were used reds, and we just went straight back. The car was an absolute handful, and I don’t know why. Then it kind of forced our hand and we put on new reds, and we went back to the great car that it was.
“Firestone obviously makes a great tire, and sometimes when you put the worn reds on, I don’t know if you notice anything on them. It’s something. It’s happened to me before in other races randomly, but it could be a bit like the luck of the draw. You might have run over something that – it looked like we had a left-back going flat, but it didn’t. Very strange feeling. Literally, as soon as you put on another set of tires, everything was perfect. There is only one variable that we have changed, and that is the tires.
Climbing back through the pitch was the next challenge Daly faced. After moving up a few places due to on-track mistakes by other drivers and strategic bets that didn’t pan out, the top-10 fringe became Daly’s home – around 10-11.
After the warning for Jimmie Johnson’s broken down car, about half the field stopped on lap 59. . Two laps later, Daly and eight other riders realized their mistake and switched to wet tyres.
Daly gained two pit road positions under this warning and gained even more after Callum Ilott entered the pits and Jack Harvey served an end-of-line penalty for pit road contact, moving Daly to seventh row for reboot.
With three other cars ahead of Daly fitted with slick tires instead of faster wet weather tyres, all three positions were easily won. However, Marcus Ericsson made a late pass and dropped Daly to fifth as the race ended on bail.
The first fall through the field worried Daly. In the previous IndyCar race of the season at Barber Motorsports Park, Daly’s teammate Rinus VeeKay qualified on pole and finished third while Daly finished 19th after starting 22nd.
This time, even if we were worried about the final position, there were still a lot of laps to make up for those places.
“I thought it was just another day at the office, but I never give up on this streak, and I tell the team that,” Daly said. “I said it doesn’t matter if the day goes bad, but I will always fight until the end. Same at Barbier. Same at any track. That’s what I love to do. I want to be I want to beat those guys and girls that we’re racing against, and obviously we beat the majority of them today.
“It was something that worked out in the end, and we’ve seen crazy stuff like that before. I remember Sebastian Bourdais starting last and winning races, and people spinning everywhere, being at a behind laps and winning races, that’s what INDYCAR is all about.
Next up is practice for the 106th Indianapolis 500 starting Tuesday, May 16. Qualifying takes place the following weekend and race day for the 500 is Sunday, May 29.
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