'A flying tire ruins a race': Conor Daly feels like Indy 500 was his until bad luck

INDIANAPOLIS – Conor Daly was in the best position he’s ever been in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 — this being his eighth time racing in it.

Meanwhile, Graham Rahal was coming out of the pits on lap 118. The issue: By the time Rahal made it to the track, he only had three tires.

Rahal appeared to have left his pit before an all-clear signal while the left rear tire was still loose. Rahal spun into the wall while his loose tire bounced around the track.

Daly saw Rahal spinning toward the outside, so he took the inside path to avoid any contact. Daly thought he was safe until a tire came straight at him.

“This giant tire just flew out of the sky,” Daly said moments after finishing the race in 13th. “I had no idea.”

Luckily for Daly's physical well-being, his car's aeroscreen deflected the tire away. Unfortunately for his Indy 500 chances, it banged the nose of his car.

Daly believes if not for the incident, he had a strong chance at winning. Instead, the bad fortunes for the Noblesville native continued.

“Par for the course for me: a flying tire ruins a race,” Daly said.

Conor Daly, left, hits the tire that flew off of Graham Rahal's car as Rahal spins during the 105th Indianapolis 500.
Conor Daly, left, hits the tire that flew off of Graham Rahal's car as Rahal spins during the 105th Indianapolis 500.

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While it wasn’t Daly's best Indy 500 finish (10th in 2019), Daly treated this like it was his best chance to kiss the bricks.

He was emotional when he returned to his pit following the race as chants of “HE-LIO” filled Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

What he hadn’t known was earlier the 135,000 fans in attendance were cheering for him.

Daly’s 40 laps led were the most in the field after never leading an Indy 500 lap coming into the race. The crowd reacted appropriately for the hometown drivers, and when he saw the footage post-race he shared his thoughts on Twitter.

“I definitely just shed a tear watching this,” Daly said in the tweet. “I love this place. Love this crowd. Love my hometown. Thank you.”

Daly and his 20-year-old Ed Carpenter Racing teammate Rinus VeeKay spent much of the early-to-mid portion of the racing exchanging the lead. VeeKay finished eighth in the race, along with third in laps led.

Daly said exchanging first and second with his teammate is exactly how he dreamed of the race going while hoping Ed Carpenter (fifth place) would catch up to them.

“We were working together,” Daly said. “This race is so hard to do well in. Everyone is doing such a good job that you have to be perfect.”

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Daly, now 29, has made that transition from being the up-and-coming star to a veteran who continues to be winless in the Indy 500.

What he feels is different about this race is the time he spent at the front of the pack and what he learned from that. He hopes that knowledge will turn into a Victory Circle finish soon for the hometown fans

First, the pain of this finish needs to go away.

“It just sucks so bad,” Daly said.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Conor Daly finishes 13th in Indy 500 after tire hits car on 118th lap