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Conor Daly in action Friday at the Chili Bowl. (Brendan Bauman photo)

Daly Talks Dirt & Indy 500

TULSA, Okla. — No one else in the Tulsa Expo Center did what Conor Daly did on Friday.

Daly, a veteran NTT IndyCar Series competitor, began his day by announcing a multi-year sponsorship agreement with BitNile Holdings Inc. that will keep him at Ed Carpenter Racing. The deal, his first multi-year sponsorship agreement in the NTT IndyCar Series, means Daly will be secure for at least the next few years.

With that agreement in place, Daly’s Friday shifted to something considerably different as he prepared to climb aboard his DIAEDGE Racing midget to compete in the 36th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.

“I’ve been very lucky to race in a lot of different stuff and get into a lot of different cars,” Daly said. “To announce an IndyCar deal and be racing in the Chili Bowl at the same time…I really hope to reconnect these worlds a little bit more.”

Signature dirt-track events used to be an ideal place to find future competitors for the Indianapolis 500, when dirt drivers such as A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser and many more used their dirt racing skills to earn rides for one of the biggest motorsports events on the planet. 

These days that is much less common of an occurrence, though it occasionally still happens. The late Bryan Clauson is the best and most recent example, having competed in the Indianapolis 500 three times prior to his death on Aug. 7, 2016 from injuries sustained in a crash at Belleville (Kan.) High Banks. 

According to Daly, however, it goes both ways. He’d love to see more of his fellow IndyCar competitors join him at the Chili Bowl.

“I’d love to see a lot more open-wheel guys come and do this and try it out and I’d like to see a lot of these guys get a shot at doing the Indy 500,” Daly said. 

One competitor in particular that stands out to Daly as a perfect Indianapolis 500 candidate is Oklahoma’s own Jason McDougal.

“Just the other night I was watching Jason McDougal. I love his story,” Daly said. “Larry Foyt texted me about his third car at the Indy 500. I was like, ‘I’m going to text him and tell him he should put Jason McDougal in there.’ It would be such an awesome story.”

Daly is a firm believer that since he has begun racing on dirt, it has helped him become a better oval racer. He said drivers like Kyle Larson, who is among the most diverse competitors in the motorsports world, are so good because they aren’t afraid to race whatever they can get their hands on.

“I think Kyle Larson, when he gets his shot at the Indy 500, it’s not a matter of if, it’s when, I think he’s going to be incredible,” Daly said. “You’ve got to respect those guys like Stenhouse and Larson because they’re out here grinding out in the dirt and doing well. Same with Christopher Bell, the guy is unbelievably talented.”

But what about the other direction? Who does Daly think can go from the NTT IndyCar Series and jump in a midget and be successful?

“It’s so different than what we all grew up doing, but my first thought is Colton Herta,” Daly said. “Colton Herta can drive anything.”

In fact, Daly revealed that Herta will be in attendance at the Chili Bowl on Saturday. Daly and Herta will be joined by a few other IndyCar veterans, namely 100th Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe. 

“I’d love to see any of those guys get in (and try it), but I think Colton would be really good,” Daly said. “Realistically, I’d love to see any of the guys jump in and just see and see what they think.”

 

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