Conor Daly gets Indy 500 entry with Foyt
2 April 2013
Conor Daly will bid to make the starting grid of the 97th Indianapolis 500 this May, after AJ Foyt Racing selected the 21-year-old American, son of Irish former F1 and Champ Car driver Derek Daly, to fill the seat of the team's second car alongside Takuma Sato.
“I'm excited about bringing Conor to Indy for his first race at the 500,” said the team's general manager Larry Foyt. "I've been watching him come up through the open wheel ranks, and when we met at the F1 race in Austin, Texas last year, we hit it off immediately."
Daly himself was delighted at being able to officially confirm the long-rumoured move putting him behind the wheel of the team's #41 ABC Supply Honda.
“I almost can't describe what it means to have the opportunity to race in the Indianapolis 500,” he said. "It is truly my home race since I was born and raised in the Indianapolis area. I am so thankful that AJ and Larry have given me my first shot at the greatest race in the world.
"I know this will sound cheesy but I've never been happier in my life; this race means so much to me," he added. "The Indy 500 is part of my life; I love everything about the month of May."
The rumours that Daly was in the frame for an Indy 500 run started when he tried out with the team last December at Sebring International Raceway, and he certainly impressed team owner and motor racing icon AJ Foyt, who has himself won the Indy 500 four times in his career.
"I've run a lot of rookies at Indy and I think Conor will do a good job for us," said the 78-year-old, who last year gave 2005 Firestone Indy Lights champion Wade Cunningham his shot in the greatest spectacle in motor sport. "He ran well at Sebring when we needed someone to do some testing in the off season. He was fast, smooth, and didn't get in trouble.
“When we made a change on the car he felt it. I found him to be very savvy on the chassis setups," Foyt continued. "When we made a minor change which was really nothing, he thought about it and said it felt no different. I told him that was the right answer because we didn't do anything he'd be able to feel, so that impressed me too."
Almost as delighted with the news was Conor's father Derek, who is now his son's manager.
"With AJ and the engineering talent within the team it will be an ideal learning environment for Conor," said Daly, himself a veteran of six Indy 500 races between 1983 and 1989.
Before Conor is eligible to start this year's 500-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he'll need to pass next week's rookie orientation programme along with fellow Indy newcomers AJ Allmendinger, Carlos Munoz and Tristan Vautier on April 11.
ROP is a three-stage process in which the drivers demonstrate that they can hold a consistent line within a defined speed bracket and must be completed before qualifying, which this year is on May 18/19. Only the top 33 cars actually make it onto the starting grid for the race itself, which in 2013 is May 26.
The only downside to Conor's decision to run this year's Indianapolis race is that it clashes with the prestigious Monaco round of the GP2 Series championship.
“I have been to the 500 every year of my existence except for last year when I raced in Monaco [in GP3]," explained Daly. "In my early years I spent most of my time at 'Racing Babies' under the Tower Terrace suites watching the races because my whole family was busy working the race weekend.
"When I got older, no matter how hot it was I was always sitting in the front row of one of my Mom's Tower Terrace suites watching every single lap of the race," he added.
With the Indy 500 firmly in his blood, it's no surprise that even the bright lights of Monaco can't complete with the opportunity to join the field of 33 at this year's event.