IndyCar’s Conor Daly Makes Daytona 500 Field For Floyd Mayweather – Orange County Register

BY JENNA FRYER Author of AP Auto Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — IndyCar driver Conor Daly sped Floyd Mayweather into the Daytona 500 for the second straight season by teetering and weaving through countless troubles for the ill-prepared team.

Daly’s attempt at making his first Daytona 500 was announced just last week as part of a deal with his IndyCar sponsor BitNile and The Money Team Racing, a junior NASCAR team owned by the retired boxer.

Daly becomes the 62nd driver in history to compete in both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500. In May he may become the 29th driver to compete in both races in the same year.

The #50 Chevrolet raced into the Daytona 500 last year and eventually competed in a total of four cup races, including last October’s Daly’s Cup debut at The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves held initial talks with Mayweather’s team about participating in Sunday’s Daytona 500, but backed out because he didn’t think the participation had time to be properly prepared.

Daly jumped at the opportunity, as did his sponsor, who wants him to race a handful of NASCAR races this year, to market the company and motorsport at large.

But Daly’s chances seemed to be on the line from the moment Daytona International Speedway opened.

An electrical problem burned a hole in the oil line, preventing him from making a qualifying attempt during Wednesday’s time trial. That meant the Native American had to carve his way into the Daytona 500 in one of Thursday night’s 150-mile qualifying races.

Even that seemed like Daly wouldn’t make the distance: TMT threw himself out just to get his car ready, his radio didn’t work and Daly complained in the garage that “it shouldn’t be that hard. ”

As he pulled away from the pit lane, the vibrations in his Chevy were so bad he was convinced something was wrong with the car.

“I’m not gonna lie man I don’t know how that can be right,” he radioed. “But I will try it.”

In the end it was Daniel Suarez, spinning Kyle Busch from the front, that got Daly into the race. Busch’s crash caught up with Austin Hill, the other rider, Daly, raced for a spot in the field, and with Hill retired from the qualifying race, Daly was there despite essentially riding a buck.

“Not in the way we wanted but (Hill) are like family but holy mackerel we built our second Daytona 500!!!!” TMT co-owner Willy Auchmoody tweeted before the end of the qualifying race.

Daly was stunned.

“We’ve been inherently unlucky in the last 36 hours, but we’ve been lucky,” said Daly. “I wish I could say I rode it at pure pace there. It was crazy. As we walked out, the car lurched around. I had no idea what was going on.”

Daly was so sure he wouldn’t make the Daytona 500 that he booked a flight to Los Angeles for Friday.

“This race, I’ve watched it for so many years and so many crazy things can happen,” Daly said. “Luckily we were on the right side of the crazies.”

Zane Smith raced into the Daytona 500 in the first qualifying race, and seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and action sports star Travis Pastrana both qualified for Speed. Chandler Smith and Hill were the two drivers who failed to claim any of the four open spots in the 40-car field on Sunday.

Reigning Truck Series Champion Zane Smith will make his Daytona 500 debut. Smith warmed up to the effort with a win at Daytona International Speedway in a sportscar race last month and will compete in Friday night’s season opener of the Truck Series. His cup crew is his Truck Series team.

“Crazy, I don’t even know what’s going on,” Smith said after earning his place in the 500. “I don’t even know what life is like right now. I had Jimmie Johnson parked behind me. I’ve watched him grow up all my life and he’s still my idol. Just amazing to be part of The Great American Race.”

The race ensured Smith would be the first Daytona 500 to feature the reigning champions of the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series. Ty Gibbs, the reigning Xfinity Series champion, is a rookie for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Joey Logano and Aric Almirola, meanwhile, won Thursday’s qualifying races in one fell swoop for Ford.

The wins put Logano and Almirola on the second row of the grid for Sunday’s race. The front row was set in Wednesday night’s time trial, with Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson claiming the top two spots. IndyCar’s Conor Daly Makes Daytona 500 Field For Floyd Mayweather – Orange County Register

Russell Falcon

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