By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Though it wasn’t his best finish in eight Indianapolis 500 starts, Sunday was his best shot at taking the victory for Conor Daly.
Leading a race-high 40 laps in the 105th Indianapolis 500 from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daly was a common contender throughout the first half of the 200-lapper.
Driving his No. 47 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Daly crossed one item off his Indy checklist: Lead the race. It was the first time in eight starts he did so.
“It was the greatest feeling in the world, honestly,” Daly said post-race. “You try to compartmentalize that. Clean air is the best and the race becomes much easier then. You’re just driving. And that’s what you want to do, control the race.
“It was an incredible experience.”
Taking the lead first on lap 50, the Indiana native returned to the top spot on lap 84, to the high praise of the fans in attendance.
“You know what, all I know is that this team is preparing incredible cars,” he said. “We are fast and we are constantly up front.”
The pace got derailed on lap 119 when Graham Rahal lost a left-rear wheel exiting the pit lane in Turn 2. Following his crash, the tire struck Daly’s front nose cone, causing damage that changed the car’s aerodynamics thereafter.
“Straight on the nose cone, right on the dead center,” he said of the tire’s impact. “So the front of [the wing] was hanging off. I didn’t even see it so I was like, ‘woah!’ It was wild.
“Obviously, the aeroscreen is great for protection. I just wish we were four feet left [laughs].”
We led the most laps at the #Indy500. What a unbelievable feeling. Ultimately a tire fell out of the sky ruining our day. Didnt even see it until it was too late. We have a lot to be proud of today. @USAFRecruiting @ECRIndy P13 at the end with this wing barely hangin on #Indy500 pic.twitter.com/ROHx1Ocvmn
— Conor Daly (@ConorDaly22) May 30, 2021
While strategy came into play in the closing stages, Daly was unable to retain his front-running position and had to settle for 13th place.
His best Indy finish outside a 10th in 2019, the result also stands as his best through six races in 2021.
“You have the dwell on the positives for sure,” he said. “There is no sense at looking at what happened.
“If you wanted to, I could make a pass. But after our wing got badly damaged, it was a little more difficult. I still think there was a good bit of raciness if you were in the first three positions.”
Despite the result and the positive outlook exiting the race, Daly knows it will take some time to get over Sunday’s downturn.
“It is really going to eat at me,” he said. “Because I don’t know when that stops. I feel like we come out of here, we executed, we did a good job, we’re having a great race… and a tire falls out of the sky. How does that even happen?
“We did a lot of great things today so I think this team can be proud.”