LEXINGTON, Ohio—When Conor Daly arrived at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, he was nine lbs. leaner thanks to a change in his diet, which he credits to “going vegan” two weeks ago. When he left, he had posted his best overall performance of the season in his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Starting 11th, he finished a strong, hard-earned 10th in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Although he qualified 10th in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix and finished seventh in the crash-filled Texas 600, his performance at Mid-Ohio was solid. It was the first time this season that he transferred out of the first round of qualifying and had a shot at the Firestone Fast 6.
In the race, his patience paid off. Running primary tires when others were running the softer compound alternate (red) tires, he lost a bit of track position and slipped back to 15th in the middle stint. On the final pit stop on lap 65, he took on new red tires and new speed.
A full course yellow on lap 67 for Ed Jones’ spin brought the field together. When the race went green four laps later, Daly set sail. He passed Charlie Kimball on lap 71 and overtook Marco Andretti the next. He set his sights on Scott Dixon but Dixie slipped past James Hinchcliffe before Daly could overtake him.
Over the next five laps, Daly and his close friend (and former housemate) ‘Hinch’
battled hard with Daly overtaking him with six laps left in the 90-lap race. Although strategist Larry Foyt told him to bring it home, Daly cut Dixon’s five-second advantage in half and posted his fastest lap of the race on lap 87.
“You know obviously it’s great to come away in the top 10 – a huge step for us – and just to be able to fight with those guys all day and be catching Dixon,” Daly said. “Really, challenging the 9 car any time is good, so it’s fun to be able to fight with those guys, especially James too, because Hinch has had a really good year and he’s been really fast, so I think we made great steps forward. My guys gave me great pit stops and we came through with a solid race today. No issues, didn’t get hit, didn’t get knocked off or anything, nothing broke, so that’s nice.”
Team President Larry Foyt seconded that opinion, saying, “It was a solid day. I mean it feels good to get a top 10, obviously not what we want in the long run – we want to get top-fives – but everything was good from our side. Pit stops were good all day, the guys did a good job, Conor drove a really good race. He made some good moves on track, so it was definitely a positive weekend all around. We had a decent qualifying, a decent race and that’s some momentum going into these last four races.”
Unfortunately, it was a struggle for Carlos Munoz in the No. 14. Running 13th in the morning warm-up gave him some hope but the race didn’t go as well as hoped. Starting 20th, the team opted for an alternate fuel strategy which needed strategically-placed yellows to work. Unfortunately with just one yellow late in the race, the alternate fuel strategy didn’t work.
“Another long race,” Munoz said afterwards. “We went aggressive on strategy to get up front. We needed several yellows in the race to help us, but when we took a chance it didn't work. This year it seems taking a chance doesn't work for us in any of the races."
Josef Newgarden won his second straight race of the season which put him in the lead for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Second through fifth were Will Power, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato.
Daly heads to Gateway Motorsports Park to test on Thursday. Teams are allowed to send one driver each to the test on the newly repaved track and since Daly topped both sessions of the Open Test held May 2nd, he was the choice for the Foyt team.
The next race is the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, Aug. 20. It will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network, starting at 2 p.m. EDT.