A jam-packed weekend of on-track action at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway came to an exciting end as Conor Daly and the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet charged through the field for a sixth-place finish at the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 after a frustrating qualifying session resulted in Daly and teammate Charlie Kimball starting in the back of the field in 18th and 19th.
The weekend began on Friday with a practice session followed by qualifying. Less than ideal track conditions caused by an earlier series’ oil spill were the main culprit for a tough qualifying session for Daly and Kimball as they were the first two out on-track after oil dry was laid to clean the spill resulting in a slippery turn one. The two Carlin drivers were able to salvage what they could and qualify in front of three drivers to secure their 18th and 19th starting positions. After qualifying, the final practice of the weekend took place under the lights where Daly showed strong pace topping the speed charts heading into the race on Saturday. Kimball made contact with the wall at the end of the final practice, but the team worked into the night to get the No. 23 ripKurrent Carlin Chevrolet race-ready for Saturday.
The 248-lap race went green on Saturday night with Daly and Kimball rolling off 18th and 19th, but the green was short-lived with the yellow flag coming out on Lap 2 with the No. 7 car spinning and continuing. Kimball came in during the short three-lap caution for a quick splash of fuel rejoining the field in 21st. Daly was able to make up two spots on the start to 16th where he would take the restart. On the first restart, Daly jumped two spots to 14th. Kimball pitted on Lap 54 for fuel, tires, and a front wing adjustment just as the No. 12 car made contact with the wall causing the second yellow of the night. Daly had cycled up to second and was able to make his first pit stop of the night under yellow for fuel, tires, and a front wing adjustment rejoining the field and taking the restart in 10th with Kimball in 18th.
80 laps in Daly was still holding down 10th with Kimball not far behind in 18th. As the pit cycle began, Kimball moved his way up to ninth before pitting on Lap 115 for fuel, tires, and a front wing adjustment and Daly pitted from the lead on Lap 120 for full service a few laps before the third yellow flag of the night came out on Lap 121 for the No. 7 car into the wall. The field was back to green eight laps later with Daly taking the restart in seventh and quickly making a great pass around Pagenaud for sixth along with Kimball in 18th. A few laps later, the yellow flag was out again for Pigot making contact with the wall in Turn 4. Kimball was close to the No. 21 when the contact was made and reported back that there was possible damage to the car, so the team called him in under yellow for a full service stop and a quick check for damage. The team found no damage to the car and sent Kimball back out to rejoin the field.
The field was back to green with Daly holding down sixth and Kimball in 18th. Daly lost a position on the restart but was able to quickly make up the spot and move back into sixth. With only one more stop to go, Daly had moved into third before being called in on Lap 185 for his last stop for fuel, tires, and a final front wing adjustment. The final yellow flag came out for Bourdais making contact with the wall on Lap 192 and Kimball was called in from 15th under yellow for his final stop of the race. INDYCAR ruled that Kimball was in pit lane before pit lane had officially opened and he received a drive-through penalty that he served immediately.
The final restart came with 43 laps to go with Daly in seventh and Kimball in 14th. With 10 laps to go, Daly was still holding down seventh and Kimball 15th until the final lap when Newgarden spun and Daly was able to make up another spot to sixth where he would take the checkered flag with teammate Kimball crossing the finish line in 15th.
“I’m super happy with our result tonight,” said Daly. “The No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet was so strong and consistent the entire night. We just kept finetuning it and making it even better every time we came into pit lane. Anytime we got in clean air we made progress and we were able to run people down. I really thought we were going to be on the podium tonight and that’s really hard to take. The strategy game of INDYCAR is just crazy and we just got a little bit unlucky, but to be unlucky and finish sixth is pretty awesome. I’m thankful to close out this oval run with Carlin on such a high note and thankful to Gallagher for giving me a chance to show what I could do for their program with Carlin.”
Kimball praised the entire team for a strong weekend, “Firstly a huge congratulations to the entire Carlin team and the 59 team especially – Conor drove an awesome race. Every time I saw him during the race he was going by guys on starts and restarts. I can’t give the 23 crew enough credit for the work they did on the No. 23 ripKurrent Carlin Chevrolet last night to get it ready to race tonight. We fought really hard all night and we were able to finally get our lead lap back. We had a little bit of a miscommunication in pit lane that put us a lap down mid-pack, but overall a really fighting night for the ripKurrent car for Carlin.”
The Carlin INDYCAR team will be back on track next weekend at Portland International Raceway for the Portland Grand Prix on Sunday, September 1st for the 16th round of the NTT IndyCar Series.