Daly Fills The Gaps In His Schedule

After a solid 2019 as a fill-in driver for three different NTT IndyCar Series teams, Conor Daly was rewarded with a 13-race deal with Ed Carpenter Racing that covered all of the road courses and the Indianapolis 500.

That still left a couple of openings, as Daly would be stepping out of his machine in favor of boss Ed Carpenter on the remaining four ovals on the schedule: Texas, Richmond, Iowa and Gateway. Those weekends were filled in today as Daly agreed to return to Carlin Racing for those four races.

In a “reversal of fortune” type of thing, Daly will be driving the oval races for Max Chilton, who will only run at Indy on the ovals.

Hard to believe that a little over a year ago, Daly’s career was at a crossroads. Without a ride heading into 2019, he caught a lifeline from Andretti Autosport when he was tabbed to run one of their additional cars in the 500. After finishing 10th there, he hooked up with Carlin for the four ovals after Chilton opted out, then came back and ran Portland for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports before closing the season at Laguna Seca with Andretti.

After his P10 at Indy, he finished P11 at Texas and Pocono, and P13 at Iowa. Honestly, those are pretty good finishes for a fill-in driver, who of course runs at a disadvantage to the rest of the full-time drivers in the series.

Having the consistency of 13 races at ECR should help with Daly’s results in 2020, and given his past collaboration with Carlin should help in that situation as well. He has certainly earned the opportunity to run all 17 races this year, so it will be interesting to see how he fares.

Though it isn’t an ideal situation, I wonder if this sets a bit of a blueprint for drivers struggling to find full-time rides in the series. It would be interesting to see if a driver and teams hook up like this in the future. Like I said, not ideal, but if it gets a driver into more races, that’s the end goal.

Daly will be with ECR this weekend at St. Pete, but Chilton will have a new teammate in Florida as Brazilian Felipe Nasr got the call for the No. 31 Carlin entry after a couple of very impressive tests.

The 27-year-old Nasr made 39 Formula 1 starts in 2015-16 and has been competing in sports cars since, and last year won the 12 Hours of Sebring. He is a solid driver who is familiar with Carlin after driving for them in junior series in Europe early in his career.

Since I will be in Cleveland covering the Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team at the Mid-American Conference tournament until Saturday, I’m going to drop my predictions here. The rest of the season they will be part of my race weekend coverage whether I’m at the track or at home.

Winner: Will Power. Because Power’s bar for success is so high, I saw his 2019 season as a bit of a disappointment. Well, at least through the first 13 races. He recovered well and picked up two wins and a second in the last four races to finish the year on a high note. I have the feeling he will bring that success to the start of the season.

Pole: Power. Why not? He’s won the pole at St. Pete seven times in his career, including last year. It’s gonna happen.

Highest-finishing rookie: Oliver Askew. Four drivers will be making their first IndyCar starts on Sunday: Askew, Rinus VeeKay, Alex Palou and Nasr. Askew did well in pre-season testing and comes in on an established — yet redone — team. The Indy Lights champion will get his career off to a good start.

It’s finally time to go racing!

Photo credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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