MADISON, Illinois – As post-race celebrations go, this one was enthusiastically subdued.
Conor Daly’s crew high-fived, hugged and otherwise modestly enjoyed his fifth-place finish Saturday night in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park. Proud as they were of Daly’s best finish of the season in the No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet – and the team’s best finish of the season for either of its cars – the crew members quickly switched from celebration mode to tear-down mode.
“It’s just been such a hard year, such a difficult year,” Daly said on pit road after the race. “I know we can do it. We’re learning. We’re getting there. This was such a big step for us.”
As crew members in red, white and blue shirts began the transition from celebration to clean-up, their boss praised their perseverance.
“Starting at Mid-Ohio, we starting to show something,” said Larry Foyt, the team’s president and Daly’s strategist. “The last few races, everything has started to come together. It’s just taken awhile to get there.”
The finish was the third best of Daly’s Verizon IndyCar Series career, which spans just 37 races. The 25-year-old from Noblesville, Indiana, finished second last year in the first race of the Detroit doubleheader for Dale Coyne Racing, then finished fourth at Watkins Glen.
“Track position was so important for us,” Daly said of Saturday's race. “We had too short of a sixth gear, to be honest. Every time I’d pull out to make a pass, I’d hit the rev limiter. It was difficult, but we still had a good enough car to stay there once we got there. Once we made the moves on the restart, that was the key to the whole race.”
Daly had more than one run-in with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball during the 248-lap race. Stewards reviewed one of their incidents, but didn’t issue a penalty.
“The guy hit me twice,” Daly said. “And he hit (Foyt teammate) Carlos (Munoz), too. He knocked Carlos down into the wall. He drove into my wing. It was a shame to see that. Normally I race well with him. That was just kind of silly.”
With the crew finished celebrating and back to work, Foyt praised the effort.
“It’s a long season when you’re doing well, but when you’re struggling, it’s a super-long season,” he said. “It’s a lot of time on the road and away from family. It’s hard on the guys. These three races in a row (Pocono last week, Gateway and Watkins Glen next week), we’re on the road basically the whole time. It’s just nice to get a result.”
Next step? Perhaps a victory.
“Honestly, I really wanted a trophy (for a podium finish),” Daly said with a laugh.
He’ll have another chance at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen. The race from Watkins Glen airs live at 1 p.m. ET Sept. 3 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
For more information about Team Chevy, visit https://www.facebook.com/TeamChevy/.