Conor Daly steps in for good friend James Hinchcliffe at Duals in Detroit
Noblesville, Indiana resident Conor Daly had a star-crossed 99th Indianapolis 500. While he qualified and prepared to start the race from 22nd on the 33-car grid, inside the eighth row, Daly experienced a mechanical fire on the pace laps and was forced to pull off, his 200 laps of racing success shot in the foot before Daly had a chance to see the green flags in the No. 43 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Smithfield Honda entry.
Daly took the disappointment like the fine young man he is and watched the race with his SPM team, ready to offer any insights he might have.
SPM, who ran Daly, James Jakes and Ryan Briscoe, the latter subbing for injured Canadian racing star James Hinchcliffe, won this race in 2011, with the late Dan Wheldon. Starting from the final row in 31st place, Briscoe would be the highest finisher for the three-car team in a credible 12th place; Jakes finished 18th, also completing all 200 laps of the exciting contest. The 99th Indy 500 was won by Juan Pablo Montoya, who now has two wins in three appearances in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
With Briscoe not available after Indianapolis (he races for Corvette Racing at Le Mans next month), SPM had some hard decisions to make. As they wait for an ever-improving Hinchcliffe, the esteemed Mayor of Hinchtown, to make his way back to the track, they’ve been hoping to find a single entity that can work with them through to that time, whenever it may be.
On the Tuesday after the Indy 500, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced that Daly, who has familiarity with the team and has already competed once this year on a road/street course with fellow Honda competitors Dale Coyne Racing (at Long Beach, where he practiced and qualified on Saturday and raced well on Sunday) was the proper choice for this coming weekend’s Duals in Detroit, the Verizon IndyCar Series sole doubleheader contest for the year.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to fill in for my close friend James this weekend,” Daly said. “I definitely want to thank Arrow Electronics, Lucas Oil and all the team sponsors for giving me this shot. I can’t wait to continue working with the Schmidt Peterson guys and do the best job I can to keep James’ seat warm.”
Daly drove for co-owner Sam Schmidt in the Indy Lights championship in 2011, winning the Freedom 100 at Indy, before going to Europe and making his way through the Formula 1 proving grounds of GP3 and GP2. The son of former F1 and INDYCAR/Champ Car driver and current broadcaster Derek Daly has focused on a full-time position in the IndyCar Series for the past year and a half, realizing his best opportunities are here, at home.
“Conor drove for our Indy Lights team and was leading in the championship points when he left for Europe to compete in GP3,” noted Sam Schmidt. “We’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen from him and, after the bad luck at Indy, we’re pleased to give a young American, uprising star another opportunity to compete.”
The Raceway at Belle Isle holds fond memories for the entire SPM team as that is the site of their first INDYCAR victory; Simon Pagenaud won for the team in 2013 on the parkland road circuit that abuts the Detroit River outside Detroit. With good results in the Duals, it’s possible that Daly could be the sole replacement until Hinchcliffe is prepared to resume racing duties. #GetWellSoonHinch
Words and Photo By Anne Proffit