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April 02, 2013 | By INDYCAR.com - Dave Lewandowski
Conor Daly has often listened to his father, Derek, describe what it’s like to compete in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. The buzz of hundreds of thousands of spectators on Race Day. The mix of excitement and reverence of the pre-race ceremonies. The adrenaline of the charge to the green flag.
For most of his 21 years, Daly has watched the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” play out in front of him while seated in the grandstands, harboring a passion to one day drive in -- and win -- the historic event.
He’ll have a much better view of the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26 and realize one of his dreams as A.J. Foyt Racing announced that Daly will drive the Honda-powered No. 41 ABC Supply car at the Speedway as a teammate to Takuma Sato in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car.
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“I almost can't describe what it means to have the opportunity to race in the Indianapolis 500,” said Daly, of nearby Noblesville, Ind. “I am so thankful that A.J. and (team director) Larry (Foyt) have given me my first shot at the greatest race in the world. I know this will sound cheesy but I've never been happier in my life; this race means so much to me.”
Daly tested with the team in mid-December (two days before his 21st birthday) at Sebring International Raceway. He competed the past two seasons in the European-based GP3 series, and has won in every formula -- Firestone Indy Lights, GP3, Star Mazda and Skip Barber -- he's competed. He won national titles in the Star Mazda and Skip Barber series.
Daly made his GP2 debut March 22-24 at Sepang International circuit in Malaysia with seventh- and 13th-place finishes.
“He ran well at Sebring when we needed someone to do some testing in the offseason,” said A.J. Foyt, the first four-time Indianapolis 500 champion. “He was fast, smooth, and didn’t get in trouble. When we made a change on the car he felt it. I found him to be very savvy on the chassis setups. In fact, when we made a minor change which was really nothing, he thought about it and said it felt no different. I told him that was the right answer because we didn’t do anything he’d be able to feel, so that impressed me, too.
“I’ve run a lot of rookies at Indy and I think Conor will do a good job for us.”
Wade Cunningham, the 2005 Firestone Indy Lights champion, was the most recent Indy 500 rookie with Foyt's team (starting 26th and finishing 31st because of an electrical issue in 2012). A.J. Foyt Racing last won the Indianapolis 500 in 1999 with Kenny Brack behind the wheel.
Daly will be the fourth driver scheduled to participate in the Rookie Orientation Program on April 11 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Candidates must complete two of the three phases of car control on the 2.5-mile oval (10 laps at 200-205 mph, another 10 laps at 205-209 mph and 15 laps at 210-plus mph) during the day. Drivers may complete the third phase during the first week of practice.
A.J. Allmendinger (Team Penske), Tristan Vautier (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) and Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport) also are scheduled to participate in the program led by IZOD IndyCar Series driver stewards Arie Luyendyk and Johnny Unser.
Opening Day is May 11, Pole Day is May 18 and Race Day is May 26.
“I'm excited about bringing Conor to Indy for his first race at the 500,” Larry Foyt said. “I've been watching him come up through the open-wheel ranks, and when we met at the F-1 race in Austin, Texas, last year, we hit it off immediately. Doing the test at Sebring confirmed he could make the step up to an IndyCar. With my dad's guidance, the potential is there for a great month of May.”