The agonizing wait is finally near an end for Conor Daly.
Since the January announcement that he would drive a fifth Andretti Autosport Honda in May’s 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Daly has been counting the days, hours and seemingly minutes.
A major step closer was taken Tuesday when Daly’s No. 25 United States Air Force Honda was unveiled outside the Gate 1 entrance to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The car will be inside the track on Wednesday, when Daly joins most other drivers entered for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in an open test on the 2.5-mile oval.
Official Indianapolis 500 practice begins Tuesday, May 14. The 200-lap race is set for Sunday, May 26.
Daly has been working in a Honda racing simulator but is keen to be in the car, on track. Andretti Autosport and “The Amazing Race” teammate Alexander Rossi wants his friend to experience it for himself as well.
“Alex has been telling me, ‘Dude, I can’t wait to see what you think of this car when you get into it,’” Daly said. “And I’m like, ‘I can’t wait as well.’ It’s bound to be different, which is going to be a lot of fun.”
Daly has candidly conceded that his sixth attempt in the Indianapolis 500 will be his best chance at winning because he’s with Andretti Autosport, which has celebrated five victories in the race. His best previous Indy 500 result was last year, when he started 33rd and finished 21st for Dale Coyne Racing with Thom Burns Racing. He was proud to represent his primary sponsor, the U.S. Air Force, for the first time then and more so this year.
While Daly is hopeful that a strong showing can lead to more starts in the NTT IndyCar Series, he doesn’t get too ahead of himself. The ultimate goal is as it always has been for the 27-year-old Noblesville, Indiana, native: He wants to win what most consider the greatest race in the world.
“That’s what we strive for,” Daly said. “It’s what I go to bed thinking about every night, what it would be like to win. I don’t think of a good result. I think of winning. All that matters is winning at Indy. That’s all I think about.”
Daly hasn’t been in an Indy car since he completed a three-race stint for Harding Steinbrenner Racing at Pocono Raceway last August. Waiting for so long to race again has been “horrible,” he admitted. Now that he is on the verge of getting track time at IMS, he’s reminding himself of what he’s learned from previous experiences.
“It’s still the same process,” Daly said. “You’ve got to go out there and do the work. If you do the right work and you execute the goals you have each day, you end up with the best result possible. That’s the plan, I’m working with my engineer to get on the same level as quickly as possible. We’re already on a really good level after working in the simulator. It’s a process.
“Yes, it’s a great chance. We’ve got to focus on just taking it one day at a time. You can’t focus on the result. You’ve just got to focus on the result to get there.”
And in the back of his mind, he can’t help but wonder what could come from this opportunity.
“My season could take an entirely different route after how well the month of May goes,” Daly said. “There could be a lot going on there. That’s the plan. We have to do the best job we can and come out the other side and see what happens.”
Wednesday’s open test runs from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. ET. Fans are admitted free to watch from the Turn 2 viewing mounds adjacent to the IMS Museum inside the track. The test will also stream live on IndyCar.com, with full coverage from announcers Kevin Lee, Anders Krohn, Robin Miller and Katie Hargitt.
Racing activities in May at IMS begin with the INDYCAR Grand Prix weekend on May 10-11. The race on the 2.439-mile permanent road course airs live at 3 p.m. ET Saturday, May 11 on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Indianapolis 500 practice runs May 14-17, with qualifying to set the 33-car field May 18-19. The race airs live at 11 a.m. ET Sunday, May 26 on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.