Harding Racing made a surprise announcement Tuesday Morning. The team revealed that Conor Daly will drive their No. 88 Dallara-Chevrolet in Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. Daly takes over the ride from Gabby Chaves. Chaves has been the team’s driver since their debut at the Indianapolis 500 in 2017.
Daly drove for Dale Coyne Racing with Thom Burns Racing at Indianapolis and finished 21st. The race has been the only other 2018 start for Daly.
In 40 previous Verizon IndyCar series starts, Daly’s best finish is a second at Belle Isle’s first race in 2016.
Sunday’s race will be Daly’s fourth at Toronto. In three previous starts on the street course, his best finish is 12th in 2015.
That effort came with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports when he subbed for an injured James Hinchcliffe.
In 2016, Daly would qualify seventh and led a lap before finishing 17th with Dale Coyne Racing. Last year, Daly started 18th and finished 17th for A.J. Foyt Racing in the race.
As for Harding Racing’s full-time driver, Chaves is expected to return to the team at a later point in the 2018 season. In 11 starts this season, the 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year has a best finish of 14th (St. Petersburg and Indianapolis). St. Petersburg is also his best starting spot of the season (8th).
During the offseason, Harding had been rumored to be looking at expanding their operation with a second car in some capacity for 2018.
‘Barnhart and the team have been adamant that any move would be done with the primary goal of helping Chaves. In Tuesday’s press release on the announcement, Barnhart again spoke of the team’s desire to run a second car for 2019.
“At this point in the season, we are focusing all our attention on the 2019 season,” said Barnhart.
“If we can expand to a two-car team, all remaining races and testing will offer driver evaluation opportunities to determine who will become Gabby’s teammate in 2019. Gabby is still fully employed and still under contract with Harding for the remainder of this year and in 2019.”
Tuesday’s surprise announcement could become the unofficial start of the 2019 “Silly Season”. With Conor Daly looking to find a way back into the series on a full-time basis, his run with Harding Racing will be worth watching this weekend.
Practice for next Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto begins on Friday at 10:40 p.m. Eastern time. The race will be run next Sunday at 3:35 p.m. Eastern Time.
Header image by Chris Owens/INDYCAR.