Daly To Drive For Andretti In The 2019 500

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 1 2019
Conor Daly, who drove for A.J. Foyt Racing in the past, will be driving for Andretti Autosport in May.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Second-generation racer Conor Daly will compete in the 103rd edition of the Indianapolis 500 in May with an Andretti Autosport team figuratively waving the flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Daly will drive the No. 25 Honda fielded by Michael Andretti, whose organization has won five Indy 500s. Daly’s one-off entry completes an All-American Indy 500 lineup featuring race-winners Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay, as well as Marco Andretti and Zach Veach. 

“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” Daly said during a national teleconference in Indianapolis. “I think no one doubts the fact that Andretti has had so much success at the track, at the event, the whole series in general. I have two Indy 500 champions as teammates, just an incredible wealth of experience. It’s going to be awesome, certainly my best shot at the race ever.

“The car is going to look stupendous, the team is going to do an incredible job. I can’t wait just to get to work, that’s the thing. It’s going to be hard to count down the days, but May will be here in no time, for sure.”

Daly finished 21st (one lap down) to 2018 Indy 500 champion Will Power of Team Penske after starting 33rd and last around the famed 2.5-mile oval driving the No. 17 Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing. That was the first of four starts Daly made in 2018 in the recently re-branded NTT IndyCar Series.

Daly made his series debut in 2013 at IMS with A.J. Foyt Racing, finishing 22nd after qualifying 31st. In five previous starts around the Speedway, Daly’s best qualifying position is 22nd. Daly owns 43 career IndyCar Series starts and 10 top-10 finishes in stints with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Dale Coyne Racing and Foyt’s organization. Daly also has posted wins in both the Indy Lights and Pro Mazda (now Indy Pro 2000) series and claimed the 2010 Pro Mazda championship. 

“We’ve been working for quite a few years to try to figure out how we can get Conor into our family,” said Andretti, CEO of Andretti Autosport. “We highly rate him as a driver. We think Conor will fit in here perfectly with all the other teammates that he’s going to have. We think Conor is going to do a great job for us, have a real shot at the win.”

Daly joked that if he were to win the race, “There’s no way I’m getting out of that car. Probably going to sit in there for hours _ maybe days.”

Andretti said additional races for Daly remain a marketing possibility. “I think we’ve already talked about it, working on a few things,” Andretti said. “We’d love to still keep him in the family not just for the one race. Hopefully, we can work something out. Comes down to obviously sponsorship. But we are working on a few different things. We’ll see.”

A 27-year-old native and resident of Noblesville, Ind., Daly is the son of former Formula One and INDYCAR driver Derek Daly.

Conor said he has matured during the course of his nomadic career. “I remember in 2016 I think it was, (Juan Pablo) Montoya, he came up to me, ‘Man, you’re really fast, just be a little more patient,’ ” Daly said. “I know. That’s what my dad was preaching to me as well.

“Over the last 18 months, since the end the 2017 season, I’ve been in a couple different cars, a couple different situations. I’ve always been sort of thrust into the deep end, just basically I’ve had to try and just do whatever I could do in a last-minute type situation. I’m used to that.

“But the Indy 500 is a little bit different. Last year we missed the first day of practice. It was definitely a bit of a hectic situation. Showing up to Indy now with probably a lot of information already that we’ve been able to study, I’m going to try and be at obviously every race with the team to see how it all works.

“I think this sort of situation, I’ll feel more comfortable in. I’ve matured as a driver I think now, and I feel ready to just take advantage of each day one day at a time. We’re not going to win the race in the first three days, we know that, not even in qualifying. I think it will just be a great situation for my brain really because I won’t be thinking _ last year, heck, I was just trying to survive, make the race, take all the wing out we possibly could, see what happened. I think it will be a different situation this year.

“It makes me feel happy. I’m just a happier person, that’s for sure.”

Andretti added he admires the way Daly has handled adversity during his relatively brief open-wheel career. “I think he’s always shown when he would just jump in a car that he could be competitive right away,” said Andretti, who led in nine of his 16 Indy 500 starts for a total of 431 laps. “He tested for us in Indy Lights, did a really good job, had a lot of good races there, as well, which is important. I know he’s going to do a good job.

“I think the other thing that’s very important is that he’s going to really fit into the team. I think he’s going to work well with his four other teammates. There’s a lot to be said about that.”

“We’re really happy to welcome the Air Force to the Andretti family for the Indy 500 with Conor, and full season across all our cars,” Andretti said. “Having five American drivers represent the team at America’s biggest race is very special and we’re proud to have the opportunity to pay tribute to the brave men and women of the U.S. Air Force.”

Former fighter pilot Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, Air Force Recruiting Service Commander, recalled that Daly strapped into the cockpit an F16 last year to experience the jet’s capabilities.

“I had the opportunity to ride with Conor in an Indy car after the race last year,” Leavitt said. “It’s pretty awesome to see the analogies with the speed, the G-forces, how physically demanding it is. Like Andretti Autosport, the Air Force is committed to leading-edge technology, teamwork and excellence in all we do. We are trying to engage with the American public, inspire that next generation to join our team to protect all that we hold dear in this country.”

Andretti Autosport has fielded as many as six cars in previous Indy 500s, including the highly anticipated oval track debut of two-time Formula One World Driving Champion Fernando Alonso of Spain in 2017. However, Andretti said he is not looking add another car/driver combination.

“At the moment, no,” Andretti said. “I mean, I won’t say it’s definitely out of the question, but not looking like it.”

Ironically, this May will mark the 50th anniversary of father Mario Andretti’s lone Indy 500 victory, a moment that will be celebrated throughout the “Month of Mario.” Asked if his 78-year-old dad might consider coming out of retirement, Mikey said, “That could be our sixth car. We’ll see.

“It’s really cool what the Speedway is doing, for sure. I know it means a lot to dad. There’s things that we’re going to be doing as a team to help support it and celebrate the 50 years. Really happy for dad that he’s getting that notoriety from the Speedway. I think it’s going to be really good for all involved.”

The 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 26, with live broadcast on NBC. Qualifying is set for Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, and will be available via NBC platforms.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power unveiled the 2019 ticket for the 103rd running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” earlier this week, complete with a design capturing the color and emotion of his victory last May.

Power, the 2014 NTT IndyCar Series champion from Toowoomba, Australia, earned his first Indy 500 victory in his 11th career race start last May 27. The win was the record-extending 17th for Roger Penske and Team Penske in the world’s most prestigious auto race.

A photo of Power’s emotional victory celebration is the centerpiece of the 2019 ticket, designed by IMS Creative Services. Power is shown exalting toward the crowd with his left fist aloft, the winner’s wreath around his torso and drops from the winner’s traditional swig of milk evident on his face. Power is being lifted off the ground by Team Penske crew members, an extremely rare Victory Lane gesture at IMS.

“Very cool _ that is a great photo,” Power said at the unveiling. “That captures everything. The excitement, teamwork, the milk. Great job, fantastic job. I can’t wait to sign hopefully thousands of those tickets.”

A special varnish coats the photo, enhancing the ticket as a keepsake for fans. The ticket also features the event logo, “This Is May” event slogan, in maroon and navy blue colors. The famous “Yard of Bricks” start/finish line also is represented atop the ticket, which was unveiled by Power and IMS Creative Services team members at the Rhythm! Discovery Center in downtown Indianapolis.

Tickets for the 103rd Indy 500 on Sunday, May 26, and INDYCAR Grand Prix on Saturday, May 11, are available at ims.com.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 1 2019
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