INDIANAPOLIS — Depart from your seat in front of the podium in the deadline room at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, take a right turn past the wall with four clocks and blue sound-proofing fabric, exit through the first door down the hall, go down four flights of stairs until you reach the ground, go straight for about 50 feet, and around the corner are two cars covered with tarps. Wait a few minutes and both Verizon IndyCar Series driver Conor Daly and NASCAR XFINITY Grand National Series driver Ryan Reed will uncover the cars to reveal a Lilly Diabetes-sponsored No. 17 Dale Coyne Racing Honda and a Lilly-Diabetes-sponsored Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang that Daly will drive at Road America.
Okay it didn’t play out like a scavenger hunt, but Daly did announce that he would pilot the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford in the NASCAR XFINITY Grand National Series Johnsonville 180 at Road America, as a teammate to Reed, currently driving the No. 16 Ford, fielded by Roush.
“Yeah, it’s obviously really cool to be a part of this team, first of all, with us in the Indy 500 this year. We got to work together in 2016, which I thought was a really cool first step into a relationship, and it was a late deal. We got it done after qualifying, but now we’ve got this whole month of May to work with it and kind of just grow together as a team, and then obviously I’m going to go into the NASCAR realm of life, so I’m excited for that,” Daly said.
“Obviously Ryan (Reed) and the Roush Fenway guys have done an incredible job in the five-year program that they’ve had, winning races, being competitive all the time, so it’s cool to be able to take that first step into that side of the racing world but also with a very strong organization. I’m obviously super excited not only to be here at Indy again and to continue to just strengthen our program for this month of May, but also to have something else to do in the next couple months. So that’ll be really exciting, and I just can’t wait. It’s an incredible opportunity, and I’m just obviously really thankful for it because this has been an interesting last few months, and to have now this opportunity come about, I think it’s going to be really exciting to kind of grow with the NASCAR fan base and maybe combine them a little bit, IndyCar/NASCAR world. We’re all racing cars, so I think everybody loves that in general, so I’m excited to go check it out.”
Why did Daly choose to run Road America?
“Well, I think we sort of just looked at all the road course races, and obviously we had to work with Roush and what worked best for them,” he said. “Road America certainly fit me. I mean, I won there in Skip Barber, won there in Pro Mazda, had a great race going there in 2016 in the IndyCar before we had a suspension failure, and I love that place. It’s an incredible track, incredible environment. The Midwest is so — they love racing, so it worked well for everyone, I think, and that’s how it all came about.”
While Daly’s day job is racing for Dale Coyne Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, rumors of him running an XFINITY Grand National Series race had circulated for months, with him possibly racing for Roush or JR Motorsports. And what made him want to do it?
“I mean, I’m a racing driver, and growing up, when you look back at sort of what I did from like, I guess, 2012 to 2015, I almost drove every single car you could drive except for a NASCAR, and I drove sports cars, I drove tin tops, I drove all kinds of different things, and as a driver, I think you’re always driven to want more and want to try more, and I think if you ask a lot of us here in this paddock in IndyCar, there’s a lot of guys who want to get out there at Road America, mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, stuff like that, because it is a very entertaining product,” he said. “They’re really good drivers, the series is really competitive, and it just looks like a really good racing environment, like a good, proper race. We have an incredible product in the IndyCar Series, obviously, but so do they, certainly, on the road course side. So I was just excited to have that opportunity. I mean, road courses are my cup of tea, and that’s what I’d love to at least check out first before anything else.”
Before that, however, he’ll pilot the No. 17 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, carrying Lilly Diabetes as primary sponsor, for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500, which will be his first start in the 2018 IndyCar Series season.