Conor Daly Crossover Continues with Daytona 500 Opportunity

Conor Daly might not have the accolades of AJ Foyt or Mario Andretti, but he certainly has their same spirit and desire to drive anything with wheels.
Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter Racing with BitNile
Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter Racing with BitNile

Every driver has strengths and weaknesses, no matter which series or type of vehicle they are racing. When a driver is able to excel in one area of their craft, they have an advantage over the competition that they can exploit.

Scott Dixon, for example, is a wizard when it comes to saving fuel. Will Power is the qualifying king with a clear track. Takuma Sato can make his car dance on water. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it is not.

When it comes to Conor Daly, his true talent may be difficult to see, even though it is in clear sight. Most drivers find one specific avenue in racing and hone in on that. Their tunnel vision may ultimately lead them to success, but it could also prevent them from having more. When Daly began his racing career, the road map did not include a dozen different types of motorsport, but that is where this journey has taken him.

The Noblesville native will attempt to make his 10th Indy 500 start in May, but his schedule will be quite busy even before then. The work has already begun. Daly will be testing his IndyCar at Sebring on Monday, then driving a Cup car on Wednesday as he prepares to race his way into the 65th Daytona 500. He will be one of six drivers battling for four spots in next Sunday's Great American Race.

Conor will be driving the No. 50 Chevrolet for The Money Team, which is owned by boxing Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather. The two first linked up last season when Conor made his Cup series debut with the team on the Charlotte Roval. Now, with bigger goals in mind, they will tackle multiple races together this season. This is all happening with support from BitNile, which sponsors his IndyCar program at Ed Carpenter Racing.

With 97 career IndyCar starts under his belt, that is where Daly calls home. Leading laps in the Indy 500 has become almost routine, guiding his fighter jet on wheels around the famed 2.5-mile oval at IMS. That is something his father, Derek Daly, was never able to do in his six starts at Indianapolis.

Conor Daly Crossover Continues with Daytona 500 Opportunity

In order to join the elite list of drivers (61 total) that have competed in both the Indy 500 and Daytona 500, Daly will have to beat out some accomplished NASCAR talent. At the top of that list is seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, whom he battled in IndyCar the last two years. The whole crossover topic is always a fascinating storyline, but it is nothing new to Conor.

Daly won the Skip Barber National Championship and was the Ontario Formula Ford 1600 Rookie of the Year. He also won the Star Mazda Championship, breaking four series records along the way. He is a multi-race winner in GP3, drove in GP2, won in Indy Lights, earned three IMSA podiums, and has started races in all three of the top levels (Cup, Xfinity, Trucks) of NASCAR.

Testing for the Force India team got Conor a taste of Formula One. He also earned the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 title shortly after that. Then Conor ventured into the dirt world, running sprint cars in various events, including the Chili Bowl Nationals. Because that isn't enough, he also took part in some SVRA races and became a hit on iRacing as well.

Therein lies Conor's biggest attribute. His ability to adapt and learn quickly make him an obvious choice for opportunities like this. Where as many drivers would shrivel up and fade into memory when funding falls through, he has found a way to pivot and continue. By putting himself out there, and accepting the risk of failure, Conor has proven that he is the very definition of a modern-day racer.

Legends like AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti will never be matched in their accomplishments. Times have changed, and this is simply a new era of racing. That doesn't mean drivers can no longer try their hand at various opportunities.

"My daddy used to get mad at me when I drove stock cars," Foyt recalled. "He called them taxi cabs, I called them race cars. A lot of friends of mine tried to adapt from one race car to another and couldn’t. I think I was born with the ability to adapt from one car to another. I was lucky enough I could do that."

Mario credits Foyt for his desire to try new things. "I was inspired by guys like AJ and Dan Gurney, who would move around and do other things. I did it to really challenge myself. I just loved racing so much that I just wanted to be driving. I didn't look forward to a weekend off. Those opportunities I had were special. I wouldn't trade that part of my career for anything."

Sometimes trying something different works out great (Bo Jackson) and sometimes it doesn't (Michael Jordan) but being willing to try and accept the result no matter what is something that should be commended, and appreciated.

Conor might not join AJ and Mario as the only drivers to ever win the Indy 500 and Daytona 500, but he is damn sure going to try.

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