INDIANAPOLIS – You would completely forgive Conor Daly if he wanted no part of the Verizon IndyCar Series anymore. The talented American has given everything he’s got just to earn a ride in either Formula One or here stateside in INDYCAR. Here he is without a ride. After two very successful seasons in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, where Daly won eight races in 26 Star Mazda starts including the 2010 championship, he headed overseas to work on gaining an F1 seat. For two years he worked his rear end off showing off his natural abilities, winning a GP3 race in 2012 to go along with a Formula2000 championship a year later. In May of 2012, he had a test with Force India.
I wrote back then that INDYCAR was missing out on him. This kid was a rising star.
Unfortunately for him, but selfishly fortunate for his fans here stateside, Daly came back in 2013. He started 31st and finished 22nd with a limited resources car with AJ Foyt Racing. It was a solid debut in a what many considered a not so good car. He made one Indy Lights start later in the year, but until the start of 2015, he had no takers.
I was appalled that no one came calling.
Dale Coyne finally did at Long Beach and Daly finished 17th. He did so with just one full day in a car with a new aero kit. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports called for a Month of May opportunity where Smithfield sponsored a No. 43 entry. Again, bad luck struck on the pace lap where his car had a mechanical failure. He’d finish 33rd. He didn’t even get to turn a single lap in the race.
His good friend James Hinchcliffe was injured in a frightening practice crash the week of the ‘500 and SPM called Daly to sub in the Duels at Detroit and again in July of that year at Toronto for him. Daly, finished an impressive sixth in the second Duel at Detroit and showed his skill. After Toronto, no one still came calling.
Coyne did again though for 2016, and he finally had that coveted full time seat that he’s been seeking. He’d impress, finishing sixth three times that season and fourth at Watkins Glen. He was even among the top lap leaders for the Honda camp that season. Then, the funding slipped and the team went elsewhere for 2017. Another old friend came calling, AJ Foyt Racing.
He was set up to fail again though.
The team waited until late in the offseason to switch from Honda to Chevrolet, which left the team, engineers and drivers very little time to not just gel, but to get used to a new aerokit and engine package. It would take time to grow. They never got that time. When they finally got to test at Mid-Ohio in July, everything clicked. Daly, would four top 11 finishes over his final five starts to the season, including a fifth place run at Gateway and a 10th in the season finale at Sonoma. While it was rumored the team may be signing Tony Kanaan in the offseason, Daly and others felt great about this chances of remaining with the team.
He competed in the Amazing Race with Alexander Rossi and left to go overseas for a show that would help promote INDYCAR. Unfortunately, while he was gone, Foyt decided to go in a different direction and signed Matheus Leist to replace Daly. See, while Daly was overseas, he had no communication back here in the United States. So, he’s over there competing on a show while helping promote the series thinking he has a ride back home only to get back in the states and find out he was unemployed.
So, you can see where the resentment would be, if he had any. Instead, he’s got his head high and still doing his best to promote the series and has made an even bigger fan out of someone that already holds him to the highest regard – his stepdad.
For those that aren’t aware, Doug Boles is married to Daly’s mom Beth. Derek Daly may be his father, but Doug Boles is his stepdad. Boles, loves Conor as if he was his own flesh. The term may be “stepson” or “stepdad” but to them, it’s father and son. Boles, isn’t just the perfect fit for his occupation, but he’s an even better family man. I honestly don’t know when the man sleeps. He’s the perfect man for any role, whether it be President, husband, father, you name it, Boles is the definition of the greatest at each.
Well, you have to think this situation would put Boles in an awkward position right? Leader of IMS. Dealing with these teams and here one spurred his son and others aren’t calling. Does he let the personal side of him try to get him a ride? Does he hold grudges? Boles opened up about that and again, showed his class and opened up on how great Daly is dealing with this situation.
“It’s really difficult and I try to be really transparent about it,” Boles said on Thursday after debuting the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 ticket from the Indiana Statehouse. “When I’m the President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I’m that. At some level, it’s probably a disadvantage to Conor because I’m so black and white making sure that everything I’m doing doesn’t look like I’m trying to do something to benefit Conor. So, I probably go to the extreme in that sense. In fact, it creates tensions at home with mom who wants me to do x, y and z. But at the same time Conor and I talk everyday just trying to help him to work through things.
Boles, went on to speak on how much of a man and how great character Daly truly is and how this situation he was put in, allowed his true character to shine. He said he’s truly proud of the way that Daly has handled the situation he’s been in as this is basically as valuable to Boles’ eye of a father as any race win that Daly could earn.
“I’ve just been really proud of him over the last four or five months because he’s gone through some really tough times on getting back from 30 days of what was not the most fun experience in the world in terms of the Amazing Race,” Boles said of Daly. “What you saw on TV was fun, but the stuff they did on what they didn’t show was tough. To come home from promoting IndyCar, IndyCar, IndyCar and then get home and not get an IndyCar ride and to still keep his head up and continue to promote the series and know it’s the best thing for the series, may not be the best thing for Conor right, he’s just proving what a great person he is where his heart is, his character and it’s going to pay off.
“I think as parents we love accomplishments and when we get to see our kids be successful. But what’s more important is when you see that their true character and what good people they are. On while I want him to have an IndyCar ride and I’d love for him to win some races and maybe the Indy 500, I’d rather that he have the character he has. If we had to choose one of the two, I know it’s a tough road but that’s the thing that makes me the most proud. There’s the parent side of you that you want to help and you want to fix and then there’s a point of time where we can’t help and we can’t fix. You just have to sit back and have faith that it’s all going to work out.”
One thing that Boles is holding out on, is a special moment between he, Beth, Conor and their other kids. Boles, shed some light on a special thing that he’s never done that is a historic moment for those at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“One of the things I’ve never done is kissed the bricks at the Speedway. I have said I will not until Conor Daly wins the Indianapolis 500. That will be the day that I do that.”
I have no doubt in my mind that Mr. Boles will be able to one day kiss the famed yard of bricks. Daly, will be a ‘500 winner. He has the talent. But, if that day never comes, I hope when Daly calls it quits that they still kiss the bricks together. Daly has already won a race bigger than the Indy 500, he’s won at life. From a caring brother, to a great son, to an all out great racer and how he’s handled this situation, this will take him further in his life than any win in any race.