DETROIT – The race wins may have gone to Sebastien Bourdais and Will Power at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans, but just as many accolades should go the way of Conor Daly.
The Verizon IndyCar Series rookie improved his position better from start to finish than any driver (plus-29 spots in the two races) and had the best average finish in the weekend doubleheader (fourth) of any of the 22 who competed.
CLICK HERE: Take a teeth-rattling ride around the Belle Isle circuit with Conor Daly via visor cam
Daly, driving the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, led four laps and finished a career-best second after starting 18th in Race 1 on Saturday around the 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit on Belle Isle Park. Starting 21st Sunday after being saddled with what he believed to be an unfair penalty in qualifying, charged through the field to finish sixth.
“Again, we charged from the back. It goes to show that we’ve got a great car and this Honda-powered Jonathan Byrd’s/Cancer Treatment Center of America machine is good for racing,” Daly said. “It’s just that I hate to be made to start so far back. Makes you think what could’ve been.”
Daly ran a lap in Sunday morning’s group qualifying that would have been good enough to start fifth in Race 2, but was penalized for bringing out a yellow flag on one portion of the course that impeded the qualifying attempt of another car (all cars must reduce their speed by at least 15 percent in the area of a “local yellow”). By rule, Daly forfeited his fastest lap, dropping him to the 21st starting position.
Frustrated but undeterred, Daly made a steady climb in the race, moving into ninth place by Lap 35 and holding down sixth over the final 10 laps.
The 24-year-old from Noblesville, Indiana, was the top-finishing rookie in both 70-lap races and advanced four spots to 15th in the season standings at the halfway point of 2016.
“All in all, a great weekend just for points, just to get back on the board after the disaster at Indy (when he finished 29th in the Indy 500 after crashing),” Daly said. “It’s a nice bit of momentum going to Texas.”
The Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway is next up for the Verizon IndyCar Series. Practice and qualifying take place Friday, with the 248-lap race taking place under the lights Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).
Belle Isle doubleheader will return in 2017
Bud Denker, chairman of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix that includes the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, announced after Sunday’s race that the event will return to the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule – again as a doubleheader. The event weekend is set for June 2-4, 2017.
Other race dates that have been confirmed for the 2017 schedule are St. Petersburg (March 10-12), Long Beach (April 7-9) and the 101st Indianapolis 500 (May 28).