SEBRING, Fla. – Sporting an A.J. Foyt Racing polo and cap, Conor Daly watches the crew finish preparing the Honda-powered No. 14 ABC Supply car for some of the biggest laps in his young and developing motorsports career.
Daly, who turns 21 on Dec. 15, tested Dec. 13 with the team – his first seat time in an IZOD IndyCar Series car – at Sebring International Raceway. It was an audition actually, one that the Noblesville, Ind., resident hopes to develop into a long-running role.
“As an American, I would love to be in a red, white and blue car and I think ABC Supply would like to see an American as well, so I think that would be a good fit not maybe just next year but in the future,” said Daly, who recorded the ninth-quickest lap time of 15 car-driver combinations on the 1.65-mile circuit. “They have (an unnamed) driver for next year in their main car so for me I’d like to help them as much as possible and learn because hopefully they would want to run a second car and honestly I would love to be in that second car.
“I’ve grown up around Indy cars; I love Indy cars with a passion. (A.J. Foyt Racing) really wants to get back to winning races, and that’s a huge thing to be a part of and I would love to be on that road with them.”
He was on the road to productivity straight away.
"We had a great day, though it was much too short," Daly said. "It was interesting to get into the car for the first time. I thought it would be really different and would take most of the morning to really get in a competitive range, but honestly we were quite competitive early.
"That was pretty cool in itself. One time I was catching Helio (Castroneves) and thought, ‘What is this; what am I doing?’ These are guys I’ve looked up to and seen for years. The car is very balanced and fun to drive. When you get in a car that is stable you can immediately start pushing it and figuring out where the time differences are (on the track).
"This was my birthday present."
Daly, who won a Firestone Indy Lights race at Long Beach in 2011, competed in GP3 the past two seasons after winning the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear (seven victories in the 12 races). The 19-race 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season begins March 24 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., where Daly won in Star Mazda in 2010.
Daly’s immediate future isn’t laid out, but he knows sponsorship is necessary to make his next move.
“We don’t really know yet what we can do (for 2013),” he said. “We have had some great sponsors and supporters around us, but it will take more if we want to move up in Europe and also if we can do IndyCar. Europe has been awesome; I’ve learned a lot. But the financial backing is something that we don’t have to move to the next level.”