TOTONTO – For Conor Daly, the premise is simple: “Driving around tracks is better than sitting around them.”
Which is why the 26-year-old American jumped at the chance to drive for Harding Racing this weekend at the Honda Indy Toronto. As the fledgling team works through the growing pains of its first full-time Verizon IndyCar Series season, team leaders decided to bring Daly in to drive the No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet on the Canadian temporary street course in place of Gabby Chaves.
Team president Brian Barnhart emphasized that Chaves remains with the team and under contract through 2019, but that Harding is seeking fresh driver input and evaluating talent in the hope of expanding to a two-car program next season. Enter Daly, a veteran of 40 series starts dating to 2013, for the Toronto weekend.
“I'm trying to do the best I can to put some building blocks in place for the race on Sunday and then just see what happens,” Daly said on Friday. “I think it's very much a fact-finding mission for us both, and (I’m) very thankful to just be here in general.”
Daly – who grew up around the sport with his father, Derek, a former Indy car and Formula One driver and stepfather, Doug Boles, the president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway – said he’s felt comfortable since stepping into the substitute driver role earlier this week. He added that he’s known some of the people at Harding Racing “since I was an infant,” making the transition easier.
He also appreciated the approach that the team took in practice on Friday, looking to learn as much as possible as opposed to just looking to go fast.
“I really like the fact that the team is open to doing a wide variety of setup changes immediately,” said Daly, who finished 17th on the overall speed chart Friday with a best lap of 1 minute, 0.4114 seconds (106.430 mph). “We made a lot of different changes already, which is what we are trying to do is find a good direction for the balance, and I'm pretty happy with that so far.
“I really like the outlook on what we're trying to do here.”
Daly is no stranger to the substitute role. He stepped in for Dale Coyne Racing in the middle of the 2015 Long Beach weekend and finished a respectable 17th. Later that season, he filled in for the injured James Hinchcliffe for five races, including Toronto. After having full-season rides the past two seasons with Coyne (2016) and AJ Foyt Racing (2017), Daly’s only race this season was the 102nd Indianapolis 500 driving for Dale Coyne Racing with Thom Burns Racing, where he finished 21st.
“I've been in these situations before. I've jumped into multiple different cars last minute, and I'm used to getting into these things pretty quickly,” he said.
“I like the place that we're in because I think everyone is just trying to enjoy the weekend and accept everything that we're going to throw at the crew, whether it's a lot of setup changes or whether it's a lot of different things we can do with the gears, different things we can do with the car just to try and make it go as fast as it can possibly go, and that's in the end what we all want to have happen.”
County board to vote on 2019 Laguna Seca race; Detroit submits extension proposal
INDYCAR announced Friday that it has reached an agreement with WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to bring the Verizon IndyCar Series to the permanent road course near Monterey, California, in 2019 at a date to be announced.
The agreement is subject to approval by Monterey County’s Board of Supervisors, which is set to vote on the agenda item on Tuesday. Indy cars raced at Laguna Seca annually from 1983-2004.
In other venue news, organizers of the Detroit Grand Prix announced that they have submitted a proposal to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to continue hosting races on Belle Isle Park for three more years with a two-year extension option.
Key elements of the Detroit GP proposal include a 50 percent increase in the annual fee to host the race on the island to $300,000, along with yearly contributions of $50,000 to the Michigan DNR for targeted island improvement initiatives and $35,000 for projects and programming in the paddock area. Grand prix officials will also reduce total time on the island to 62 days starting in 2019, a decrease of 12 days from 2017.
There have been 25 Indy car races on Belle Isle, starting in 1992 and most recently every year since 2012. The Verizon IndyCar Series has conducted doubleheader race weekends on the temporary street course annually since 2013.
Borg-Warner Trophy visiting famous Goodwood Festival of Speed
The Borg-Warner Trophy, the iconic prize featuring the likeness of every Indianapolis 500 winner has made its second overseas trip in less than a year. It is in England this weekend to help commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Goodwood Festival of Speed at Goodwood House in West Sussex.
Goodwood is an annual hill climb featuring historic motor racing vehicles and attended by crowds of more than 100,000 spectators on each of its four days. It was founded in 1993 by Charles Gordon-Lennox, who at the time was Lord March but is now The Duke of Richmond.
“When we started the Goodwood Festival of Speed, we certainly hoped we'd do something people would really love,” The Duke of Richmond said. “We had no idea it would be such a success. I never guessed that people would feel so strongly about the event and keep coming back – I can't believe this is our 25th anniversary, our silver jubilee year, which is an extraordinary thing.”
The Borg-Warner Trophy is a “special guest” at the celebration. The 82-year-old trophy had never traveled outside the United States until November 2017, when it was flown to Japan to help Takuma Sato commemorate his historic Indy 500 victory.
The Duke of Richmond was photographed with the trophy this week at the Goodwood starting line, which consists of original bricks from Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I've obviously seen the fabulous Borg-Warner Trophy in the United States,” The Duke of Richmond said. “I was at Indianapolis in 1993, a very important year for us, the first year we had the Festival of Speed, and it inspired me with lots of great ideas, actually. I can't believe it is actually here on the starting line with some of the bricks from the Brickyard, which makes it even more special.”
Franchitti honored by Motorsports Hall of Fame of America induction
Dario Franchitti, the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, is among an elite group of motorsports greats in the Class of 2019 to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Among others in the new group of inductees are former Indy car and stock car driver Tony Stewart, racing and automotive pioneer Augie Duesenberg and racing promotions legend Linda Vaughn. The MSHFA, located in Daytona Beach, Florida, honors all forms of motorsports, including open-wheel, stock cars, dragsters, motorcycles, airplane racing and more.
Franchitti was flattered to be among the current class that will be inducted in March 2019.
“It’s really cool, isn’t it?” said Franchitti, now a driving coach for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series. “It’s one of those things that, when you retire, you think about that a little bit more, but that one was unexpected. It’s a real honor. You look at the people that are in it, look at the people in the 2019 class, it’s just something I didn’t expect and something I’m really proud and happy about.”
“The scope of what (the MSHFA) covers, and as a huge fan of racing of all types, it’s very, very special.”
Mazda Road to Indy drivers make Racing For Kids hospital visit
Six Mazda Road to Indy drivers made a popular stop on Thursday, visiting with 35 patients at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. It was the third annual stop organized by Racing For Kids at the highly regarded facility that treats children living with disability, medically complex illnesses and injury.
The aspiring INDYCAR drivers helped take the young patients’ minds off their medical issues by talking with each child, assisting them in a specialty license plate drawing contest, coaching them in a remote-control car race talking about their racing careers. The drivers also signed autographs and posed for photos with their newest fans.
Toronto native and Indy Lights driver Dalton Kellett of Andretti Autosport led the visit. Others on hand included Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing Indy Lights driver Colton Herta and Pro Mazda drivers Oliver Askew and Nikita Lastochkin (Cape Motorsports), Sting Ray Robb (Team Pelfrey) and Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing).
“These kids really enjoy having us spend some time with them,” VeeKay said. “Look at their smiles and the excitement. I am so glad we could be here. I want to do this again.”