In 2020, at the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Doubleheader, Conor Daly won his first career NTT P1 Award for pole.
Two years later, he’s returning to Iowa for this year’s Hy-Vee INDYCAR Doubleheader Race Weekend, which consists of two races: the Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 presented by DoorDash at 4 p.m. ET Saturday and the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google at 3 p.m. ET Sunday (both races live, NBC and INDYCAR Radio Network).
This time, Daly is hoping for a top-three finish.
Daly, driver of the No. 20 BitNile Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing, has been fast during his career on short ovals. So, it’s no surprise that he’s more than happy to race this weekend at Iowa.
“Yes, more oval racing, please,” Daly said. “Anytime, anyplace, anywhere. I love it. To be back at Iowa is awesome.”
And oval racing loves Daly, as well. In the most recent oval race in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Daly finished sixth and led seven laps.
But Daly’s list of success this season doesn’t end on just oval tracks. Daly finished a season-best fifth in the 2022 GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Daly is eager to follow up with a win at Iowa.
“I've been looking forward to this all year and especially since the test,” Daly said. “The test we were really strong. We want to have two podiums. We want to win.
“It's going to be tough, but honestly, just getting on the podium for us is big just to start, but we want to win. We don't come here to the racetracks to lose.”
Thanks to such a strong test June 20 at Iowa, Daly is more certain he will enjoy a strong doubleheader this weekend on the .894-mile oval. He had a fast start Friday, turning the second-best overall lap in practice, 173.239 mph.
“If we tested there two weeks ago and it was awful, I would have been like, ‘Oh, I don't know,’” Daly said. “But we were fast. It's a track that we've been to in the last couple weeks. It's a track where we did almost 300 laps testing and did more long runs than I've ever done there in a test and kind of just felt like we were in control all day. That is what gives me confidence more so than anything I did in 2020.”
Daly is also confident because he’s learned what mindset is best for racing on the Iowa track, which is labeled the “World’s Fastest Short Track.”
“It's just a matter of being super, super committed at Iowa, certainly in qualifying, because it's so fast that like physically it's literally pulling at your face and your entire body,” Daly said. “You've just kind of got to get through it and know that the car is going to catch you when you get to the center, even if you're hopping over all the bumps that there is on the track.
“I think I've just learned to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Two strong results could help Daly move close toward his goal of finishing 10th in the final season standings. He is 14th in the standings with 198 points, 45 points behind 10th-place Simon Pagenaud.
“These races are so interesting,” Daly said. “You see guys that are in the top 10 in points, all of a sudden in the back, and then at the front. One podium or one top-five finish vaults you forward in the points.
“We have two races in front of us. We finish in the top five in both, you might be in the top 10 right then in the points, depending on what everyone else is doing. It's definitely what we want to be doing. We want to be in the top 10 in points. That’s the goal, for sure.”