Will Conor Daly Be An IndyCar Driver In 2018?

As far as we know, there are 1.67 full-time rides left on the Verizon IndyCar Series for the 2018 season. That would be the full-time seat in the second car at Dale Coyne Racing that was intended for Ed Jones before he opted for the No.10 car at Chip Ganassi Racing. The two-thirds ride is the non-oval portion for the No.20 car at Ed Carpenter Racing (ECR) that Ed himself drives on the ovals.

Conor Daly is one driver that many fans, myself included, want to see back in the series next season. I’ve seen online where some have debated which ride would be better for Daly, if he had the luxury of choosing between them. It seems that many think that the ride with Ed Carpenter would be the better ride. I don’t agree.

Most point to the Chevy engine that powers the ECR entry. A year ago, I may have agreed that the Chevy was the preferred package – especially on non-ovals. But now that all cars will be running the same aero kit, I feel that is no longer an advantage for Chevy. I’m not an engineer, but I feel like the Honda aero kit was the liability on non-ovals – not the Honda engine itself.

Others point to the beefed-up engineering staff at ECR, now that Allen McDonald has moved from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to Ed Carpenter Racing. No disrespect meant towards Mr. McDonald, but the engineering staff at Dale Coyne Racing is nothing to laugh at. I would put Dale Coyne Racing’s Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson up against practically anyone in the paddock – especially when it comes to doing a lot with very little.

Keep in mind, Conor Daly is still young (he turned twenty-six this past Friday) and only has two full IndyCar seasons under his belt – one at Coyne and this past season at AJ Foyt Enterprises.

I’m still upset that Larry and AJ Foyt gave Daly the boot after just one season, when their drivers were clearly not the only reason for poor performance. I know that Matheus Leist brings some much needed cash, but dumping both Daly and Carlos Muñoz after just one season was bush-league – especially after Daly’s surge in the latter part of the 2017 season. I’m glad Tony Kanaan has a home, but the fact that neither Daly nor Muñoz has a ride for 2018 helps to confirm what I’ve always said – AJ Foyt’s team is where driving careers go to die. And that comes from a huge fan of AJ Foyt (the man and the driver).

Anyway, back to the topic of Daly’s career – he needs to go where he can continue to learn, gain experience and grow. He has a much better chance of doing all three at dale Coyne Racing.

If Daly goes to ECR, he will not be driving on any ovals – an area of his resume that is already lacking. At best, ECR might run a third car at the Indianapolis 500, but they might not. They didn’t this past May. He would also have Spencer Pigot as a teammate – a driver that is far less experienced than Daly.

At Coyne, Daly would drive in each and every race and would be guaranteed a shot in the Indianapolis 500. He would be the beneficiary of a great engineering staff and would gain more experience on ovals. Most of all, he could benefit greatly from having a four-time series champion in Sébastien Bourdais as a teammate. Granted, Bourdais does not care for ovals and is probably even less fond of them after his frightening crash during his qualifying run at Indianapolis last May. But he has won on ovals and could be a very steadying influence on the young Daly.

At Coyne, Daly would also have Honda power. I will reiterate that I don’t think the Honda engine was the issue. With equal body kits next season, we’ll soon find out.

I realize that not everyone is a fan of Conor Daly. I’ve seen the comments that he is over-hyped and would not have had the opportunities he’s been afforded if not for his father (former Formula One and IndyCar driver Derek Daly) and step-father (IMS President Doug Boles). It’s obvious that Daly’s relation to those two has not hurt his career, but if they were so powerful – don’t you think Daly would have a ride right now?

I’ve also seen comments that some (including some car owners) perceive Daly to be somewhat of a likeable goofball that doesn’t take his craft seriously and isn’t fully committed to being a professional. I can’t attest to that. I’ve never met Daly and have not seen any of those quotes directly from owners – it’s just hearsay.

But I know that Daly’s ability is respected by his fellow drivers. Comments from his peers go a lot further with me than some comment I might see on some obscure message board. And don’t let that easy-going façade fool you. I hear that deep down, he is as competitive and tenacious as any driver in the paddock.Plus, I know he’s good for the series.

Most of us know by now that he and fellow driver Alexander Rossi will be competing on The Amazing Race next season, which debuts on CBS on Wednesday Jan 3. I’ve never watched a single moment of that show, but I know a lot of people do – and I’ll be tuning in to see what it’s all about. It will not be ideal if one of the two IndyCar drivers is a recent Indianapolis 500 winner, while the other one is an unemployed driver.

For the Daly detractors out there – he may not be the most talented driver in the paddock, not yet anyway. But he is very likeable and is a good ambassador for IndyCar. Some say that the paddock should only be made up of winning drivers that are robotic and have no personality. Well, Daly may have a likeable personality, but he’s no clown. Given the right opportunity, I think he can excel.

It probably didn’t hurt Daly’s chances for landing the vacant seat at Coyne, when the tentative race in Mexico was shelved for at least a year. Had that race made the 2018 schedule, I would have put my money on Esteban Gutiérrez snagging the second seat at Coyne. Now that it is on hold for 2018, Daly’s chances may have improved.

So in that mythical and hypothetical world where Conor Daly is offered the full-time ride at Dale Coyne Racing and the part-time ride at Ed Carpenter Racing – I believe Daly would be better served to take the Coyne ride.

Daly’s tenure at Dale Coyne two years ago did not go well. But he was a rookie and there were other factors involved. His car fared a lot better than the other Coyne car, which was a revolving door of drivers. Things have stabilized there a lot, and I think the conditions are right to bring Daly back to Dale Coyne Racing.

George Phillips

7 Responses to “Will Conor Daly Be An IndyCar Driver In 2018?”

  1. Bruce Waine Says:

    With no insight to the team situation as a fly on the wall, so to speak, or not being in their ‘shoes,’ decisions often come with the outcome, “Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

    This may have been the scenario developing over the years (racing seasons) at Foyt Racing.

    Foyt, as a team, has long suffered the “Damned if you don’t” label by many couch critics over the years.

    Some are now labeling Foyt, as a team, with the “Damned if you do” moniker.

    So where is the appeasing happy medium which would satisfy all?

    There is not.

    Basic goal in motorsports ……. Races are to win.

  2. I watched Conor in the Canadian FF1600 series.
    He was unbelievably skillful and undeniably brave. He’d do Mosport corner 8 with his foot mashed to the floor (you can’t do that) and again at the dreaded corner 2 (you can’t do that either). To me his driving abilities are beyond reproach.

    So now we’re just talking money. On both sides of the Atlantic incredibly skilled drivers have fallen by the wayside because they either didn’t come from money or bring sponsorship with them…. and that’s a travesty …….. and that’s also reality.

    I wish Connor well, I really do but …….well …….

  3. I agree that Conor driving for Dale Coyne would be his best bet this year for a full time drive. At least Carlos Munoz now has a ride with Andretti for the 500 in May. I wish he could replace Marco for the season, but I know that won’t be happening.

  4. I agree that the #19 of Dale Coyne Racing is currently the better ride of the two. It is very likely that Dale Coyne is interested in Daly after Ed Jones jumped ship to Chip Ganassi but such a deal would have to work financially. It remains to be seen what Dale Coyne’s priorities are for the upcoming season.
    To be honest, if Carlos Munoz had enough of a budget for a full season, I’d say he’d be an even better fit for the Coyne team than Daly due to his oval prowess. But it appears as if Munoz is off to sports cars. What about Tristan Vautier? He could be on Coyne’s list, too, given his recent performance for the team. A revolving door of some kind is also still a possibility for the #19, as always. What has RC Enerson been doing this past season?

    Things are quite different at ECR which needs a road course specialist. Conor Daly certainly could help the team win another race on a “twisty” circuit again. Yet, it does not make sense for Conor to “retire from oval racing” at this stage in his career, as Mike Conway would have called this move to the #20.
    It remains to be seen how good Spencer Pigot can actually be on the ovals this year, having not had the chance yet to run many of them recently. Depending on that, ECR might have to re-think their strategy for hiring the 2md driver of the #20.
    Who is the most Conway-ish driver available at this point? Oriol Servia? Ryan Briscoe? Scott Speed?
    Carpenter would probably think twice about such a move because of how JR Hildebrand’s comeback after several seasons of merely occasional starts turned out this year. Still, it was tough luck for Hildebrand that he broke his hand at Long Beach. Yet, he is still a force on the ovals, so it’s not unlikely he will race in this series again, no matter how he chooses to wear his facial hair, George.

    I’d dare say Daly might be higher on ECR’s wish list than on Coyne’s. But both teams will find a driver that suits them.

  5. If wishes were horses, Daly would ride. Since they are not it all comes down to money. Twas ever thus.

  6. This is where we can’t have it all as fans. I would much rather see Daly out there than Kanaan finishing 14th every week in the car. He and Helio held up good rides for a long time past their prime and now Tony is holding a bad ride hostage while Helio’s ride went away. Tony Kanaan at Foyt is not growing this sport one bit.

  7. @lotsofbricks Says:

    As much as a ride with Coyne makes sense, I see Daly at ECR. He can use part-time success gained from that seat to springboard him back into something bigger. I say Team America. Maybe ECR puts him in an extra car for the 500? Look at what it did for Pigot.

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