Less than a week after scoring a season-best finish of 11th on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix, Conor Daly is back at the Racing Capital of the World to compete in the Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink USAC Midget National Championship race.
Daly is driving the No. 47D in the two-night event, Wednesday and Thursday, on The Dirt Track at IMS located inside Turn 3 of the famed 2.5-mile oval. Daly is not a regular on the USAC Midget tour, but he is a regular at IMS. NTT INDYCAR SERIES veteran Daly said any time he has a chance to compete at the Speedway, he leaps at the opportunity. He has competed in all three BC39 events since it debuted in 2018 at IMS.
“I think any race at IMS, you’re going to look back in life and think, ‘I’m glad I did that,’” Daly said. “If there’s one thing Travis Pastrana has taught me in my life, in my short time of doing it, it’s always say yes to things. So, I love doing this. I love racing stuff.”
Daly said he’s enjoying getting to continue to mingle with NASCAR drivers after the INDYCAR-NASCAR tripleheader this past weekend at IMS, which featured the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Four days ago, Daly was sharing a racetrack with his stock car racing counterparts but not a garage. Now, it’s different. Daly is parked alongside defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott and NASCAR Cup Series rookie and fellow Hoosier Chase Briscoe in the pits.
“It’s a really cool opportunity to be here with these NASCAR guys and guys that I’ve watched on TV before,” he said. “It’s awesome.”
The black car Daly is driving Wednesday and Thursday night at IMS is vastly different compared to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES car he drives week in and week out, and Daly said the simple fact of it being a different race car is one of the biggest challenges of competing in the Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink.
Daly also must adjust his driving style based more on the racetrack than the small, powerful race cars in which he’s competing. Dirt track racing is notoriously challenging due to the ever-changing conditions of a racetrack. He knows the groove he takes for hot laps will be drastically different that the groove he feels during heat races, and only the best will be able to adjust.
“I just want to be better than I was last time,” he said. “I don’t know where I was, but if we can at least have a decent heat and see where we end up when it comes down to the main races. To make the main event is going to be tough. There’s a lot of really good guys here, but who knows?”
Daly may not blaze the field this week on the dirt, but he suspects he’ll be strong when the NTT INDYCAR SERIES heads to World Wide Technology Raceway for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 this Saturday (8 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN).
It’s the final oval race of the season, and Daly will drive the No. 59 Carlin Chevrolet as his regular seat for road and street courses, the No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet, will be driven by team boss Ed Carpenter.
Daly already feels confident about this weekend’s race on the 1.25-mile oval just outside St. Louis because he believes oval racing suits him best right now.
He also believes that competing on the dirt in the Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink could give him an edge. NASCAR drivers are known for running dirt races to help them prep for their stock car races. Normally, one wouldn’t think that the dirt would transfer to the high-speed open-wheel series featuring cars with far more downforce than USAC Midgets, but Daly begs to differ.
“I’d say ever since I started racing midgets I’ve been better and better on ovals,” Daly said. “I think ovals are my strength right now, and I’m going to keep trying to learn as much as I can.”
Daly has reason to be optimistic for the one-day show Saturday. He has never finished outside the top 10 in four starts at World Wide Technology Raceway, with a best finish of fifth in 2017 and a worst finish of 10th in 2020’s Race 1. Plus, his only career pole came last year on the short oval at Iowa in the No. 59 car.