INDIANAPOLIS – This weekend, Conor Daly will treat Long Beach like he has the first two race weekends of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Normalcy.
But, normalcy wasn’t something Daly was able to have in 2015, as it all started exactly one year ago in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Daly, showed up to the Long Beach race weekend as a spectator, as his only duties during the 2015 race weekend was just to give rides in the two-seater.
But, when Carlos Huertas was ruled out prior to the opening practice session of the weekend, Rocky Moran Jr. was there to step into the Dale Coyne Racing seat. That made Daly “upset” as he wasn’t happy he was looked over.
Unfortunately for Moran though, he made contact with the wall during the opening practice session fracturing his wrist.
That’s when Daly’s world was turned into pure mayhem, but that bizarre situation ended up being the reason he’s in the situation of normalcy that he’s in now.
Coyne called upon Daly to save the day as he may have been the “third string” option then, but a strong race weekend gave him the opportunity to have that ride full-time in his first trip back since.
Daly was “buttering a bagel” 45 minutes before the lone practice session of the day on Saturday of last year, and Coyne called offering him the seat.
Daly had zero seat time in the new Honda aero kit and hasn’t raced in an IndyCar race in nearly two years as his last and only Verizon IndyCar Series start came in the 2013 Indy 500 and here he was 45 minutes to prepare to get in the car once again.
Long Beach was his first opportunity since 2013 as a lot had changed since his last IndyCar race.
Furthermore, Coyne had struggled in the opening two races of the 2015 season, as Huertas had finishes of 24th and 16th respectively while Francesco Dracone finished 23rd in both races at the start of last year himself.
No seat time in two years, new areo kits since and a struggling team at the start of last year, made a difficult situation for Daly.
But, he took it in stride and drove his entry to a 17th place finish as it was an unbelievably strong result barring the circumstances.
Yes, Daly drove to a 17th place finish as he only had 45 minutes in total to prepare to practice the car, 50 minutes actually in the seat before qualifying and just one 10-minute round of qualifying before a street course race, the first race in 23 months.
That’s why Coyne wanted him back, but funding never came around last year. Luckily, it did in the offseason, which is why he’s now the lead driver of the team in 2016.
Now, he doesn’t have to worry about a bizarre situation this year in Long Beach as this ride is his and his alone.
He can enjoy buttering his bagels this weekend as he has all the time in the world to prepare.