INDIANAPOLIS – One year ago, Conor Daly struggled on Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and struggled to get into the starting lineup for the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
Fast forward one year and Daly couldn’t be happier.
In an Andretti Autosport Honda, he turned the fastest lap of the day with a speed of 231.704 mph in the No. 25 Air Force Honda in the final 30 minutes of action at the 2.5-mile speedway.
“Honestly, I almost shed a little tear in my helmet at the end there just because my dad and my mom were there, and I love this place,” said Daly, the son of former Formula One and Indianapolis 500 starter Derek Daly and the stepson of IMS President Doug Boles. “It’s just – heck, I took pictures with Gil (De Ferran, McLaren Sporting Director) when he won when I was an infant it felt like, a very small boy, little pudgy, pre-diabetes, all that stuff, and I took picture with him here, too.
“But yeah, yeah, I just love it here, and I’ve always worked so hard to try and have the best chance that we’ve had with what I’ve been driving, and definitely have made mistakes here, definitely have had a lot of bad luck here.
“But I still love it. I love driving every lap, and this week has gone a lot better, I think, than we’ve shown on the time sheets, and so today was definitely a reward for the guys really. I think they work so hard — I’ve done more laps in these last few days than I think I’ve ever done on practice days, just getting ready.
“I mean, that helps. Every lap here helps. We’re going to keep at it.”
Daly’s fastest lap knocked teammate Marco Andretti off the top of the charts after he put up a speed of 230.851 mph earlier in the day. Both of those speeds came in traffic and had the benefit of a tow.
“I’m just super thankful to be here, honestly,” Daly said. “It’s incredible to be a part of this team. Obviously super successful here. The U.S. Air Force, that’s the group that made it happen for me, and that’s awesome. We’ve just been working away at it. It’s certainly interesting tomorrow to see what’s going to happen.
“I think no-tow wise, everyone is closer than we expected really manufacturer wise. I think there’s a little bit of a difference there for sure, but the Honda guys are working super hard, and I’ve been super happy with my group and our engine and our car. We’re just step by step, one change at a time, trying to make this thing go as fast as possible, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow, obviously.”
Now, the not-so-good news for Daly. He drew the No. 1 starting position when qualifications begin at 11 a.m. E.T. Although the weather conditions will be decent and it won’t be in the heat of the day, the first car out in a seven-hour qualification session usually doesn’t stay on top for long.
“Temperature is literally controlling almost half- to a mile-an-hour worth of speed, depending on when you go out,” Daly said. “Either way, we’re just super happy. I’m super happy. I think the team is, too.”
Ed Jones was the fastest driver on the no tow list at 230.106 mph. His team owner and teammate, Ed Carpenter, was next at 229.879 mph. Both drivers are in Chevrolets.
Alexander Rossi, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016, was third at 229.878 mph, followed by defending Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power’s Chevrolet at 229.751 mph. Power’s teammate, Simon Pagenaud, rounded out the top five at 229.548 mph.
Saturday’s qualifications begin at 11 a.m. and run through 5:50 p.m. Eastern Time. Positions 10-30 will be locked in to the starting lineup for the 103rd Indianapolis 500.
Saturday’s qualifications will also determine the Fast Nine that will battle for the pole on Sunday and the cars in the Last Row Shootout on Sunday.