IndyCar driver Conor Daly enjoys Detroit

David Goricki
The Detroit News

This is the second in a series of driver profiles leading into the June 2-4 race weekend at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle.

Conor Daly has waited his entire life to get an opportunity to drive full-time in the IndyCar series, and he’s planning on taking advantage of the situation this season while driving for the legendary A.J. Foyt.

Daly, 25, is one of just a handful of American-born drivers in the series, growing up in Indiana and taking the sport to the next level in high school when he won the Skip Barber series national championship in 2008 while competing against current IndyCar rival and Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden.

Motor sports was in Daly’s blood at a young age, and for good reason since he is the son of former Formula One and Champ Car driver Derek Daly.

Daly is learning the life of a full-timer in the series, competing in the race at Long Beach, Calif., last Sunday, then promoting the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader while throwing out the first pitch at a Tigers game Tuesday, before moving on for a test session at Texas Motor Speedway the following day.

“A.J. gave me my first chance in 2013 and that meant a lot to me to do the (Indianapolis) 500 for the first time since,” said Daly, who is in his first year driving the No. 4 Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Racing. “I think he saw something in me which is pretty cool, and it’s great to be back with the team in a full-time role. We have a lot to learn. We have a lot to evolve as we go, but I’m excited about it.”

Daly made his IndyCar debut when Foyt put him in one of his cars for the 2013 Indianapolis 500, where he finished 22nd.

In 2015, Daly subbed for an injured James Hinchcliffe for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and finished sixth on Belle Isle, then received his first full-time opportunity last year while driving for Dale Coyne Racing, earning his first podium finish (second) on Belle Isle.

“I’m super excited about it because Detroit’s always been really good to me,” Daly said. “It’s right near the mid-point of the season and you really want to be hitting your stride by then and I’m really excited to get here because the two races provides such a great opportunity to score points and get in the game so I can’t wait.

“The track is super bumpy, you have a lot of different surfaces so how we gain mechanical grip is very important so we’re going to give it a good shot and see what happens.”

Foyt made multiple changes during the offseason, bringing in a pair of new drivers to his team in Daly and Carlos Munoz, who competed for Michael Andretti in past years, and also departing Honda for Chevrolet power.

“The No. 14 car (Munoz) is based out of Texas and my car (No. 4) is based out of Indianapolis now,” Daly said. “We have a shop in Indianapolis and all of my guys are based out of Indy, which is really nice because that’s my hometown. I was in a position to where I needed a new opportunity, needed a job and that was the right situation and it worked out really well and it’s really cool to be a part of it.”

Daly has gotten off to a bumpy start, finishing 15th in the season opener, then 16th last Sunday. The next race is April 23 in Alabama.

“We’re only two races in and we’ve had a lot of technical issues so far,” Daly said. “In IndyCar, everything has to be right and we had some issues at St. Pete with just electronics and sort of the same thing at Long Beach so a few things holding us back so far, but the car’s been good, been getting better for sure. We just have a long road of development.”

Daly didn’t let being a Type-1 diabetic get in the way of being active, getting involved in basketball, football, lacrosse, soccer and snowboarding and skateboarding before getting involved in racing full-time at age 15.

“It’s just another challenge to life, that’s all,” he said of being diabetic. “It’s not that difficult as long as you pay attention, as long as you do your job and do your work on taking care of yourself. It’s added some complications, added some difficulties to my life, but it’s never stopped me from doing anything.

“It’s one of those things that it takes a lot of work, but you can do the things you really want to do still. If there’s a sport that’s really difficult to be a diabetic in, it’s got to be racing. We’re in a car for two hours without insulin. You just have to be prepared and be ready to go and just stay hydrated and do your job a little bit better than normal.”

Detroit Grand Prix

When: June 3-4, Belle Isle

TV: Both races on ABC

Tickets: detroitgp.com

2016 winners: Sebastien Bourdais and Will Power