Conor Daly’s Long Awaited NASCAR Debut

Earlier this morning, Indycar series Most Popular Driver Conor Daly announced that he will make his stock car debut later this summer at Road America. This deal comes a year or so after Daly, along with a handful of his Indycar compadres, came right out and expressed their interest in strapping into an Xfinity car. It’s totally sensible for a lot of reasons: the Indycar season ends like 9 months before the NASCAR season concludes, all but about 10 of the Xfinity rides end up being a revolving door on road course weekends, and on top of all of this James Davison jumped in a solid Xfinity ride last year and contended for wins in both of his starts.

Conor Daly has been a mainstay around the Indycar series since 2013 when he made his debut in the race formerly known as the 500 Mile International Sweepstakes. To say he’s had an unconventional run at making a name for himself in racing would be a massive understatement. From an outsider’s perspective, Conor has fought tooth and nail to get behind the wheel of every type of race car that he can. Without even hitting up RacingReference, I remember him competing in the following series since 2010: GP3, GP2, Indy Lights, Indycar, IMSA (Rolex 24), and now NASCAR.

Multidisciplinary racing is something that I have grown to really appreciate in a racing driver. I think it’s a way of making the most of your sponsorship opportunities and Daly is a perfect example of that. Although a former Lotus development driver and Force India Formula 1 test driver, Conor has fought for and gained experience in both America and Europe. Through this he has been able to become one of the most recognizable Indianapolis sports names. Seriously, if you polled random 18-30 year olds around Indianapolis I could almost guarantee they would know who Conor is and that he is a racing driver.

While Daly hasn’t had the best run of luck that race fans have ever seen, he’s been able to make the stars align on multiple occasions. A  winner in Star Mazda (which I would compare to K&N East/West level of competition), GP3, and Indy Lights, he also took a Dale Coyne Indycar to a podium at Detroit and led laps for both Coyne and Sam Schmidt’s teams in 2015 and 2016. I think from an engineering perceptive, his well-rounded experience will help ease the learning curve when he jumps into a stock car for the first time this summer.

Shifting focus to Daly’s career outlook, I really think this Xfinity ride is going to open up doors for him within the stock car world. In terms of American racing, there is literally one option for open wheel racing, which is obviously the Verizon Indycar Series, with 23-24 rides available and an extra 10 spots for the Indy 500. On the other hand, over in the stock car racing galaxy there are roughly 180 rides available spanning across the K&N East/West series, ARCA, and NASCAR’s top 3 series. Not only do a big chunk of these change drivers year over year, but sometimes mid-season and (unfortunately) mid-weekend. With all of that being said, I think it opens up his “inventory” of available rides if he decides to work towards the full-bodied stock car world.

As with any occasion where a driver is exploring unique opportunities, I genuinely hope that they can create an opportunity that they genuinely want. Conor Daly’s situation is no exception to that mentality, because he and I share a mutual friend and through that I got to know him a bit and I think he is as down-to-earth and pleasant guy that you can possibly meet in the racing world.

This is sneakily great news for the stock car world and for Daly’s career. Another little nugget that could help his Indy 500 efforts is that Lilly signed on as a supporter for the month of May which should help him run as competitively as ever. If Conor’s track record tells us anything, it’s that he will make the most of all of this and he’ll do it with a damn smile on his face.

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