Something Had to Give

Posted in IndyCar on June 9, 2023 by Oilpressure

We are only seven races into the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season, and we already have a driver change. Conor Daly was fired from Ed Carpenter Racing (ECR) on Wednesday. Less than twenty-four hours later, ECR announced that Daly would be replaced by 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.

On the surface, the firing seemed abrupt. Daly finished eighth in the Indianapolis 500 and had a mid-pack finish of fifteenth this past weekend in Detroit. But Marshall Pruitt, of, reports that “…the conclusion of the relationship between ECR and Daly is understood to be one that has more to do with interpersonal relationships than the Hoosier’s on-track results”. That sort of goes along with some rumors that pointed to a heated altercation at some point this past week between Daly and Carpenter. This was told to me by a friend who saw the rumors on TrackForum, so take that for what it’s worth.

Regardless of rumors of confrontation or a decent finish in the Indianapolis 500; I would not say I was shocked when this happened – even though Daly was the one who originally brought the sponsorship to the team. This was a team that had stagnated to the point that you tended to forget they were even on the grid – except for the Indianapolis 500, where their cars were usually fast. While Daly’s statement termed this as a mutual agreement, I don’t think for a minute that this was voluntary on his part.

I think it is a good move to put Ryan Hunter-Reay in that seat. Although he is forty-two, he has not forgotten how to drive a race car. I think he had also stagnated at Andretti Autosport. He seemed renewed driving in the Indianapolis 500 this past May, after more than a year out of an IndyCar cockpit. He can serve as a mentor to the still young Rinus VeeKay, a role with his accomplishments and experience, can be better filled by Hunter-Reay than by Daly, who has never won an IndyCar race.

Where does this leave Conor Daly? Unfortunately, not in a very good spot.

I say that’s unfortunate because I like Conor Daly. Although he doesn’t know me from Adam, I’ve had a few interactions with him over the years and they have all been positive. He is very popular with fans, as well as most drivers in the paddock. I think he is very good for the series and serves as a good ambassador for the sport.

The problem is, I’m not sure he is looked upon favorably by most of the owners. The feeling I get from talking to several people I trust, is that Daly is perceived by team-owners as a sort of class clown or comedian. That’s fine when you have a resume to back it up like a Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon or even a James Hinchcliffe – all noted pranksters over the years. But when you have zero career IndyCar wins, one career podium finish and one IndyCar pole on your resume – it can come across to those who matter as not being fully devoted to one’s craft, or not taking things as seriously as they should. From what I’m told, that is the feeling among most car-owners.

I get it, but I also think they may be wrong. I think you can maintain a sense of humor and be serious about your job at the same time. But I don’t sit in on any of the team meetings with Daly, so I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. But if Marshall Pruett is reporting that the interpersonal relationships had more to do with his termination than the lackluster results did – maybe there is some truth to that perception.

I’m not sure Daly will be able to land another fulltime ride. He has had fulltime seasons with Dale Coyne Racing, AJ Foyt Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing, as well as part-time or fill-in duty with Andretti Autosport, Schmidt Peterson Racing, Carlin and Harding Racing. Except for Andretti, those are all second and third tier teams, where you go to prove yourself in the hopes of landing a top-tier ride. All Daly has ultimately proven is that he can keep a car out of the fence and bring a car home around mid-pack. While owners like to keep their car out of the fence, they don’t enter into this sport to finish mid-pack or lower. He has enough IndyCar starts (104) to give a pretty good sample-size to give us a fair evaluation. We all know what he is as a driver by now.

After crashing out in the Indianapolis 500 and the following week at Detroit, some have been questioning whether or not Pato O’Ward is too aggressive. They said the same thing to an even greater extent about Paul Tracy thirty years ago. While car owners aren’t real happy to pay for crash damage, I think most owners would prefer to have a driver they have to hold back and restrain their aggression; instead of having a driver they constantly need to light a fire under to keep him motivated. I have not seen the unbridled passion to win in Conor Daly in a while. When things don’t go his way, he seldom seems despondent – almost giving the impression that he no longer cares deeply about winning. It happens in all walks of life. Daly is an evergreen – he never blossoms, but the needles never fall off either. Many industries need evergreens in their workforce. There is no room for them in racing.

Going forward, I see Daly as a one-off Indianapolis 500 driver and/or a substitute in case of an injury or other emergency. His age (31) and his established subpar track record will work against him going forward. That’s a shame, because I think Daly is really more talented than his results have shown. Unfortunately, this is very much a results-oriented business. Those who seldom threaten to win, usually find themselves on the sidelines looking for another opportunity. That’s where Conor Daly is now.

I don’t blame Ed Carpenter for making this move. His team was moving in the wrong direction, and he had to do something to shake things up. VeeKay has more potential and was showing more promise than Daly. Something had to give. Unfortunately, Conor Daly was the one most expendable. VeeKay has been regressing also. He would be smart to take note of what happens when you don’t perform. Next time, it may be him that is shown the door.

George Phillips

A Local Problem on a National Level

Posted in IndyCar on June 7, 2023 by Oilpressure

For the first time since 2016, an American driver has won the Indianapolis 500. This is not a post about Xenophobia. Instead it is an observation of some much needed work to be done.

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Random Thoughts on Detroit

Posted in IndyCar on June 5, 2023 by Oilpressure

I will admit, I went into this weekend wanting to be kind to the new downtown circuit. I had my reservations over the layout, but I had been so unkind to the Belle Isle circuit over the years – I was cautious about coming across as a hater of the Motor City.

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Detroit Preview

Posted in IndyCar on June 2, 2023 by Oilpressure

One rule that’s always been wise to live by is to be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Such may end up being the case for this weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

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One Last Look at the Month of May

Posted in Indianapolis 500 on May 31, 2023 by Oilpressure

Before the calendar turns to June, I’d like to take one last look at the Month of May. I had planned for this to be just a few more photos from the month; but I do feel the need to address something that has popped up since Josef Newgarden took the checkered flag Sunday.

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Random Thoughts on the Indianapolis 500

Posted in Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 2023 by Oilpressure

Sometimes history dims some memories of an Indianapolis 500. I attended the 2010 Indianapolis 500, but if you were to ask me about what all happened – about the only two thing I could tell you about it is that Dario Franchitti won, and Mike Conway crashed into the catch fence in the north end near the end of the race. Other than that, it’s just a blur. The 107th Indianapolis 500 does not fit that category. Whether you agreed with the three red flags in the last fifteen laps or not – those last fifteen laps were unforgettable, and we will be talking about them for a long time.

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A Wild Finish in the Indianapolis 500

Posted in Indianapolis 500 on May 28, 2023 by Oilpressure

The 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is now in the books, but not without some controversy. While I’m thrilled that Nashville’s Josef Newgarden finally won the Indianapolis 500 in his twelfth try – I’m not exactly crazy about how it unfolded.

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