Conor Daly has left Ed Carpenter Racing after a disappointing start to the NTT IndyCar Series season.
Daly was ranked 20th in the points standings with a season-best eighth in the 107th Indianapolis 500 last month. He was in the final year of a multiyear deal with ECR, which he had been driving for since 2020.
After a schedule of road and street courses in 2020-21, Daly moved full time in 2022 at ECR with sponsorship from BitNile (which also has backed his three starts in the NASCAR Cup Series).
BitNile.com became the primary sponsor this year of ECR’s three cars -- the two full-time entries of Daly and Rinus VeeKay (in the No. 21) and an ovals-only No. 33 entry driven by Ed Carpenter.
Ed Carpenter Racing said in a release that BitNile will remain with the team, and that a replacement driver will be announced “in due course” for Daly’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet. Linus Lundqvist, the 2022 Indy NXT champion, will be testing next week with ECR at Sebring International Raceway.
“This is the most difficult decision I have made as a team owner because I respect Conor and know what he means to IndyCar and its fans,” Carpenter said in a release. “Our team has not been performing at the level we are capable of this year, and despite making technical changes and investments in the offseason, 2023 has been extremely challenging.
“I have put a great deal of consideration into the current state of our team and realize it is my obligation to our employees, partners, and supporters to do whatever is necessary to elevate our team’s competitiveness. We sincerely wish Conor continued success and will cheer him on wherever he goes next.”
In the same release, Daly, 31, said, “Although we’ve mutually decided that it’s in our best interests to take different paths, I’d like to thank ECR for the past three and a half seasons. I’m grateful to everyone who has supported me – past, present and into the future. I look forward to taking on the next opportunities that await, and I want to thank the fans for being with me on this ride.”
Thankful for all the support today. It means more than you know. I am NOT done yet.— Conor Daly (@ConorDaly22) June 7, 2023
During a preseason media availability Feb. 1, Carpenter said though Daly had helped broker bringing the sponsor to ECR, BitNile.com chairman Milton “Todd” Ault had been a fan of IndyCar and the team.
“All major partners that work like this, at some level they share a passion for the sport,” Carpenter said. “Todd’s wife is from Indiana. They had been attending the 500 as fans for a long time. He happened to be fans of all of us. Before we all met, he was actually in negotiations with another IndyCar team. It kind of fell apart. We all met. It was pretty interesting, the whole process.
“Last year I think Todd always envisioned something looking like what we will look like in 2023. I think last year was a learning experience for everyone. Now we’re launching into a bigger project with BitNile.com.”
Carpenter then was asked whether the 2023 expansion of BitNile.com’s sponsorship meant anything for Daly’s future with the team.
“It’s a good question,” Carpenter said. “Rinus, he’s on a multi-year agreement. Conor is in the last year of a multi-year agreement. We’ll see where it goes. There’s those conversations, an element to that, that is team and driver. There’s obviously an element that the partner and sponsor is connected with. We’re fortunate we all have a great relationship, we all work really well together. We’ll just see what happens.”
Daly finished ahead of VeeKay in four races this season, including the Indy 500. But Daly was frustrated after qualifying 16th on the 2.5-mile Brickyard oval while VeeKay qualified second and Carpenter was 13th.
“We’re not fast enough,” Daly said May 19 after his qualifying run. “The car was great. The problem is you look at Rinus, and he was out of control almost the whole run. You’ve got to be out of control to be fast. He’s just way better at doing that than I am here for sure over the years, but this is the closest I’ve been to (VeeKay and Carpenter) ever since I’ve driven for this team in (Indy 500) qualifying.”
Daly made his IndyCar debut in 2013 and has run five full seasons (2016-17, 2020-22) on the circuit. He has one podium (a second at Detroit in 2016), and his career-best finish in the points standings is 17th twice (2020, ’22).
The American has made three NASCAR Cup Series starts, including a career-best 29th at the 2023 Daytona 500, but he recently indicated he had no confirmed upcoming starts in stock cars.