What drivers said after Indy road course Cup race

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A look at what drivers said after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course…

AJ Allmendinger – WINNER: “I think (the 2014 win at) Watkins Glen was something that – I mean, it was amazing to go through all the ups and downs and win that race and for (team owners) Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) and Brad (Daugherty). But in a way, it was kind of almost like a relief, as well, like I don’t ever have to be asked about will you ever win a Cup race. So you enjoy it, but at the same point you’re kind of like, ‘Okay, thank goodness now, the relief is gone, I don’t have that hanging over me anymore.’ So it kind of takes a little bit of the enjoyment away. This is, I’m like, I don’t even know – we know showing up at the road course races, we have fast race cars, but like at Indy, the way that played out, I mean, this is just pure enjoyment that I don’t – I’m going to tell them I’m retiring now. Sorry, guys. I’m done, I’m out. I’m not going to Michigan next week. I’m kidding, by the way. I’m going to Michigan. We’ve got a (Xfinity Series) championship to win.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 2nd: “Our car looks better than most. That was a wild race, especially towards the end. I feel like we could have run 10th-12th all day and that is where we were. We just kind of got a couple good restarts and dodged some mess and we had a good shot to try to win the race. I just couldn’t put together a good enough lap and a half to get to A (Allmendinger) to try to pass. We survived all day and did a good job. The whole team did a good job sticking in there. The race got pretty crazy at the end. We almost made it a perfect weekend for Penske Racing, just missed it by one spot.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 3rd: “It was wild there at the end. My car was extremely good. Really proud of everybody on our HendrickCars.com team. We had the best car for sure throughout the second and third stage, and then just we had the caution there with like 10 to go or something and then we had to come down, put tires on, and some guys gambled and stayed out, and that kind of just got us in the mess a little bit. Was able to find my way to the front row and then just got shoved around and put in the grass. Kind of ended my shot to win there. But able to salvage a third, so happy about that, and a good points day.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 4th: “It was a wild day, but I finished fourth. It could have been worse.”

Matt DiBenedetto – Finished 5th: “There is nothing left of the car, I tell you that. We have no rad pan, no fenders, pretty much nothing left on the car. The toe was knocked out a mile and we finished fifth. All this credit goes to crew chief Jonathan Hassler for knowing the strategy and the spot we were in and throwing a ‘Hail Mary’ and running all the way until we were about out of fuel and knowing that if any caution came out we could stay out and get all the track position. This is all him. All I had to do was kind of hang on until the end, hang onto the position. Obviously, our car was missing some pieces on it so I just had to hang on for whatever we could get.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 6th: “I swear I saw a hole on the outside down the front straightaway to go to the outside of (Kyle) Larson, who blocked us a little bit. We rubbed the fence and got a little hole here but had a shot on the front row with old tires. We did all we could to battle. I put us in a hole by flat-spotting a right front early in the race with the Monster Energy Chevy. But the track has so many slow areas, there’s so much time for trouble. But all in all, we’ll take this. It’s a 6th place finish. We had a couple shots at winning but we were really just trying to navigate the day after we were one set of tires less after I made a mistake early on. But, thanks to my guys, we’ll keep digging and learn from this and find what we need to do better on some of these right-handers.”

Erik Jones – Finished 7th: “It was a major day of attrition for us in the Petty’s Garage Chevy. We didn’t really have the car we needed but kind of stuck with it all day and things played out for us, and guys were getting into wrecks and into trouble and making a lot of crazy moves. We just stuck through it and stayed on the straight and narrow and kept our car fairly clean and came home with a seventh. We’ll take a Top 10 any day and hopefully it’ll be a good stretch for us coming up with some good tracks for me and some good tracks for Richard Petty Motorsports and keep this string of good runs going.”

Austin Cindric – Finished 9th: “It is unfortunate. I felt like there were a lot of high expectations coming into today. Maybe not from my end, I just wanted to get to the end, which we did, just with a lot of damage and a lot of adversity. Then we got dumped by (Kurt Busch) at the worst time in the race. Right around the pit cycle and we lost 20 seconds. We came back from whatever it was, 26th to finish ninth. I probably could have gotten a few more spots but we stayed out of trouble on the restarts. We had a lot of close calls where I was in the middle of the pack. A lot of people I was racing around had to drop out of the race. It was a crazy day for our MoneyLion Ford Mustang. I am happy to end my Cup season with a top-10, it is what these guys deserve.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 19th: “Not the day we wanted for our Mobil 1 Ford team, but we certainly made the most of it. We got caught up there with nowhere to go and took on a lot of damage. The guys worked hard all day to keep us on the lead lap. We never gave up all day with a torn-up racecar to get ourselves a top-20. On to Michigan.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 21st: “We had a fast No. 8 BetMGM Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE this weekend, just ended up needing a little more luck. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course is a lot of fun, really flat and tricky at first. I really started to get the hang of it during the race and was able to attack more and more during the turns as the race went on. It’s great that we were able to capture two Stage wins during today’s race. That will help with our Playoff situation and hopefully gained us some points to close the gap on (Kevin Harvick). I’m disappointed we got that damage in the closing laps of the race, since killed the momentum we had after a great pit stop and cost us a shot at a top-10 finish. The positive is that we were one of the teams able to continue on to the end. Every single point matters, and I know this team will continue to fight as the Playoffs approach.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 23rd: “I’m not going to harp on it. You have to live with the result. You know why? Because you can’t change it. (Chase Briscoe) can’t change it. I can’t change it. I got crashed. He made a mistake. It happens. I think he was in desperation mode like he said and it came at my expense. Certainly, if the roles were reversed down the line – he’s certainly going to be here awhile – I’m probably not going to cut him any breaks at the end. It all comes back around one way or another. It doesn’t mean I’m wrecking him. It just means I won’t cut him any breaks from here on out.”

Cole Custer – Finished 25th: “We had a really good day in terms of execution and sticking to our plan. Unfortunately, that changed toward the end and we were involved in a wreck during overtime. Our Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang was a top-five car but luck wasn’t on our side, so we’ll head to Michigan and give it another shot.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 26th: “There at the restart, everybody is trying to out-brake each other getting into one and we all kind of missed it to a certain extent. I was getting ran wide and had nowhere else to go. I knew I was going to go through the grass. It was just a matter of do you go through it slow or gas it wide-open and hope you get through it. I don’t know if there would have been a penalty if I had gone through it slow but that was my only chance to win the race at that point. I went for that and stayed on him tight and knew (A.J. Allmendinger) was right behind me. He was on newer tires. A lot of guys were getting lazy through that turn and would just swing it out wide and leave the bottom wide open. So I was kind of all over him (Denny Hamlin) in the esses and when I went to go underneath him I just clipped him in the right rear. He was already trying to get back to the left so it just turned him right around. It is unfortunate for them. They were probably going to win the race if (Allmendinger) didn’t get to him. For us we got a penalty and I don’t even know where we finished. It is frustrating to be that close. You can taste it and imagine what it would be like and then it gets taken away. I have a lot to be proud of. I feel like I showed that I belong here and I will get another chance next year.”

Ross Chastain – Finished 29th: “I have no words. That’s one of the craziest races I’ve been in. It ripped the paint off one of those times the curbs came up and started losing oil at the end, so I pulled off. I don’t know. But we were okay. We were pretty fast. The Clover Chevy was okay. We were probably a 10th place car and yeah, on to Michigan.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 31st: “We knew strategy would be important today so our RCR team worked hard on a plan and adjusted throughout the race, and our hard work and preparation paid off. The Dow MobilityScience Chevy was tight on the lefts and loose on the rights to start the race, but by Stage 2 handling was pretty good and we were able to finish the stage second to grab some valuable Stage Points. Stage 3 was nothing short of wild. I had nowhere to go and ended up with too much damage to finish the race. Honestly, it was frustrating and disappointing. We took a historic race like the Brickyard and turned it into a demo derby. Truthfully it’s not the track’s fault. It’s the drivers’ fault. Everyone wants to just run over curbs. I do hope the fans loved it though. With only two races remaining in the regular season, we’ll be bringing our A-game to try and get wins at Michigan and Daytona to lock ourselves into the NASCAR Playoffs.”

William Byron – Finished 33rd: “It was so weird. I’ve never had that experience. Like, I come through that corner the same every single lap. We were running fourth there behind (Kyle) Larson, and he gets over the curb in the same spot and something, like after he hit with his right rear, it like peeled up. And as soon as I got there I hit something and it just threw me completely off line. It tore the front end right off of it. Yeah, I wasn’t offline at all. I was actually safe because I saw what happened to him and it looked like he jumped in the air with his right rear. And so I was like, man, let me try to get a little bit further left and I obviously nailed something that came up off the track. Just a bummer. This Axalta Chevrolet was really fast. We weren’t as fast as the No. 5 car (Kyle Larson), but we were a second-place car and made a couple of mistakes early that cost me some track position that we got back. I think we were poised to finish in the Top 5 there. It’s definitely a bummer.”

Joey Logano – Finished 34th: “Thank God those tire packs were there. The hit wasn’t that hard at all. The tires absorbed a lot of it. I don’t believe in luck but that time I feel like it was just bad luck. Wrong place at the wrong time and unfortunately it ended our day. We had a decent run coming to us and maybe a top-five finish for our Shell Pennzoil Mustang and the next thing I knew I was airborne and headed to the wall. I had a lot of time to think about it. I was just along for the ride as a passenger knowing what the end result was going to be. All the fans were cheering right there. They were happy to see me get out which was good do see. It will be an exciting finish to watch on TV I guess.”

Christopher Bell – Finished 36th: “Just a bunch of carnage, that’s for sure. Whenever you are packed up like that racing, you are just kind of following the guy in front of you. I didn’t really see much, just a bunch of crashing.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 37th: “Somebody wrecked the lap before. I didn’t know who it was. But the lap before, I went through fine. I was on my line. I was making sure I was on the right line because I wanted to keep that car on the right side. I was on the regular race track and I hit something almost like the curb was on the race track. I have no idea. I haven’t seen the replay really, I just know that the curb came apart.”

Surveying key race dates for the 2023 Cup season

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NASCAR Cup Series cars will fire up again Feb. 5 as the 2023 season begins with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Two weeks later, the regular season opens with the Feb. 19 Daytona 500, for decades the curtain-raiser for the Cup Series’ 10-month cross-country marathon.

With only a single week break in mid-June, the Cup schedule visits familiar stops like Darlington, Bristol, Martinsville, Talladega and Dover but adds two new locations that should be highlights of the year — North Wilkesboro and Chicago.

Here’s a look at key races for each month of the season:

February — With all due respect to the unique posture of the Clash at the Coliseum (Feb. 5) and the apparent final race on the 2-mile track at Auto Club Speedway (Feb. 26) before it’s converted to a half-mile track, the Daytona 500 won’t be surpassed as a February highlight. Since the winter of 1959, the best stock car racers in the land have gathered on the Atlantic shore to brighten the winter, and the results often are memorable. Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Jeff Gordon and so many others have starred on Daytona’s high ground, and sometimes even rookies shine (see Austin Cindric’s victory last year).

MORE: Friday 5: Legacy aiming for breakout season

March — The newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway saw its racing radically changed last year with higher banks and straights that are tighter. The track now is considered more in the Daytona/Talladega superspeedway “family” than an intermediate speedway, generating a bit of the unknown for close pack racing. William Byron and Chase Elliott won at AMS last year.

April — Ah, the return to Martinsville (April 16). Despite the rumors, Ross Chastain’s wild last-lap charge in last October’s Martinsville race did not destroy the speedway. Will somebody try to duplicate Chastain’s move this time? Not likely, but no one expected what he did, either.

May — North Wilkesboro Speedway is back. Abandoned by NASCAR in 1996, the track’s revival reaches its peak May 21 when the Cup All-Star Race comes to town, putting Cup cars on one of stock car racing’s oldest tracks for the first time in a quarter century.

June — The June 11 Sonoma road course race will end 17 consecutive weeks of racing for the Cup Series. The schedule’s only break is the following weekend, with racing resuming June 25 at Nashville Superspeedway. Sonoma last year opened the door for the first Cup win by Daniel Suarez.

July — The July holiday weekend will offer one of the biggest experiments in the history of NASCAR. For the first time, Cup cars will race through the streets of a major city, in this case Chicago on July 2. If the race is a success, similar events could follow on future schedules.

August — The Aug. 26 race at Daytona is the final chance for drivers to qualify for the playoffs, ratcheting up the tension of the late-summer race considerably.

September — The Cup playoffs open with the Southern 500, making Darlington Raceway a key element in determining which drivers have easier roads in advancing to the next round.

October — The Oct. 29 Martinsville race is the last chance to earn a spot in the Championship Four with a race victory. Christopher Bell did it last year in a zany finish.

November — Phoenix. The desert. Four drivers, four cars and four teams for the championship.

 

Trackhouse Racing picks up additional sponsorship from Kubota

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Trackhouse Racing announced Friday that it has picked up additional sponsorship for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez from Kubota Tractor Corp. for the 2023 season.

Kubota sponsored Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet last October at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It is expanding its sponsorship to six races for the new season.

Chastain will race with Kubota sponsorship at Auto Club Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Homestead-Miami. Suarez’s Chevrolet will carry Kubota livery at Texas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Friday 5: Legacy seeks breakout year in 2023

The team also announced that a $10,000 donation will be made to Farmer Veteran Coalition for each Kubota-sponsored race in which Chastain finishes in the top 10. The FVC assists military veterans and current armed services members who have an interest in farming.

“The sponsorship from Kubota is especially meaningful to me because it allows me to use my platform to shine a bright light on agriculture and on the men and women who work so hard to feed all of us,” said Chastain, whose family owns a Florida watermelon farm.

 

Friday 5: Legacy MC seeks to stand out as Trackhouse did in ’22

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While the celebration continued after Erik Jones’ Southern 500 victory last September, executives of what is now Legacy MC already were looking ahead.

“(September) and October, decisions we make on people are going to affect how we race next (February), March and April,” Mike Beam, team president, told NBC Sports that night.

Noah Gragson had been announced as the team’s second driver for 2023 less than a month before Jones’ win. 

But bigger news was to come. 

The team announced Nov. 4 that Jimmie Johnson would become a co-owner, lifting the profile of a team that carries Richard Petty’s No. 43 on Jones’ cars.

As February approaches and racing resumes, a question this season is how far can Legacy MC climb. Can this team mimic the breakout season Trackhouse Racing had last year?

“I think everybody looks for Trackhouse for … maybe the way of doing things a bit different,” Jones told NBC Sports. “Obviously, starting with the name. We’ve kind of gone that same direction with Legacy MC and then on down from there, kind of how a program can be built and run in a short amount of time.

“There’s some growth in the back end that we still have to do to probably be totally to that level, but our goal is definitely to be on that same trajectory that Trackhouse was over the last two seasons.”

Trackhouse Racing debuted in 2021 with Daniel Suarez. He finished 25th in the points. The organization added Ross Chastain and several team members from Chip Ganassi Racing to form a two-car team last year. Chastain won two races and finished second in the points, while Suarez won once and was 10th in the standings. 

Legacy MC co-owner Maury Gallagher purchased a majority interest in Richard Petty Motorsports in December 2021 and merged the two teams. Jones won one race and placed 18th in points last year. Ty Dillon was winless, finishing 29th in points and was replaced by Gragson after the season. 

“Legitimately, we were a pretty new team last year coming in,” Jones said. “There were a handful of Richard Petty Motorsports guys who came over, but, for the most part, it was a brand new team.

“I think what we built in one year and done is similar to Trackhouse in their first year. I think maybe even we were a step ahead of where they were in their first year.”

Legacy MC looks for more with Jones, Gragson and Johnson, who will run a limited schedule this year. Johnson will seek to make the Daytona 500 field.

Jones said Johnson has infused the team with energy. Gragson has been trying to soak up as much as he can from Johnson.

Gragson told NBC Sports that having Johnson as a teammate is “going to be an incredible opportunity for a young guy like myself, first year in the Cup series, a rookie, to be able to lean on a seven-time champion.

“Incredible person, friend, mentor that Jimmie has become for myself. He’s probably going to be pretty over me by the time we get to the Daytona 500 because I just keep wearing him out with questions and trying … pick his brain.”

2. Kyle Busch’s impact

Car owner Richard Childress says that Kyle Busch already is making an impact at RCR.

Busch joins the organization after having spent the past 15 seasons driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet for RCR this year.

He took part in a World Racing League endurance race at Circuit of the Americas in December with Austin Dillon and Sheldon Creed. The trio won one of those races.

“I was down there for that, just watching how (Busch) gets in there and works with everybody,” Childress said. “He’s a racer. He wants to win. That’s what I love about him.”

Childress sees the influence Busch can have on an organization that has won six Cup titles — but none since Dale Earnhardt’s last crown in 1994 — and 113 series races.

“He brings a lot of experience and knowledge,” Childress said of Busch. “I think he’ll help Austin a lot in his career. I think he can help our whole organization from a standpoint of what do we need … to go faster.

Dillon told NBC Sports that the team has changed some things it does in its meetings based on feedback from Busch. Dillon also said that he and Busch have similar driving styles — more similar than Dillon has had with past teammates. 

“I think as we go throughout the year and he gets to drive our race cars, he’ll have some new thoughts that he’ll bring,” Dillon said of Busch. “I think we’re already bringing some new thoughts to him, too.”

3. New role for Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick, entering his final Cup season, has joined the Drivers Advisory Council, a move Joey Logano said is important for the group.

“Kevin is necessary to the sport, even post-driving career,” Logano told NBC Sports. “He’s necessary for our sport’s success. Kevin sees it and does something about it. 

“He’s always been vocal, right? He’s always been very brash, and like, boom in your face. That’s what people love about Kevin Harvick. Something I like about him as well is that you know where you stand. You know where the weaknesses are. 

“He’s going to push until something happens. That’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that. Having him on the Advisory Council now for the drivers, his experience, but also his willingness to push, is important.”

Jeff Burton again will lead the group as Director of the Council. The Board of Directors is: Harvick, Logano, Kyle Petty, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Corey LaJoie, Kurt Busch and Tom Buis.

Logano, Petty, Dillon, Suarez, LaJoie and Busch all return. Buis, a board member of Growth Energy after having previously been the company’s CEO, joins the drivers group and provides a business background. 

4. Finding one’s voice

Chase Briscoe’s contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing means he could be the longest tenured driver there in the near future.

The 28-year Briscoe enters his third Cup season at SHR, but the landscape is changing. This will be Kevin Harvick’s final season in Cup. Ryan Preece is in his first season driving in Cup for the team. Aric Almirola was supposed to have retired last year but came back. How long he remains is to be determined.

Those changes could soon leave Briscoe as the team’s senior driver.

“It’s a role that is crazy, truthfully, to think about because that could be me in the next year or two, being I wouldn’t say that flagship guy, but being a leader as far as the drivers go in an organization,” Briscoe said.

“Truthfully, I feel like that’s something I want to be. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of leader, team building type of stuff. So, yeah, if that role is kind of placed on me naturally, then that’s one that I would love to have and try to do it to the best of my ability. I feel like that’s a role that you don’t choose, it kind of chooses you.”

Briscoe, who won the spring Phoenix race and made the playoffs last year, said that he’s becoming more comfortable speaking up in team meetings. 

“I look back, especially on my rookie year, we’d go into our competition meeting on Tuesday and, truthfully, I wouldn’t really talk much,” he said. “I would say kind of what we thought for the weekend, but outside of that I would just kind of sit there and listen.  

“This past year, I definitely talked a lot more, and I’d bring up ideas and kind of say things I wanted to get off my chest, where in the past I wouldn’t have done that. I feel like as I’ve gotten more confident in myself and my position, I’ve gotten to the point where I speak my mind a little bit more and, I guess, be a little bit more of a leader.”

5. Busch Clash field

NASCAR released the preliminary entry list for the Feb. 5 Busch Clash. No surprise, the entry list features only the 36 charter teams. Those teams are required to be entered.

With 27 cars in the feature — which is expanded by four cars from last year’s race — there’s no guarantee a non-charter car could make the field. That’s a lot of money to go across country and face the chance of missing the main event.

The Daytona 500 field has four spots for non-charter cars. With that race’s payoff significantly more, it will attract at least five cars for those spots: Jimmie Johnson (Legacy MC), Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports), Chandler Smith (Kaulig Racing), Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports) and Travis Pastrana (23XI Racing). Helio Castroneves confirmed Thursday that he will not enter the 500. He had been in talks with the team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.