On May 13, Daly was zipping around the 2.5-mile oval in the No. 41 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing. His mother and Foyt watched with great interest (she considerably more animated than the four-time "500" champion) as the 21-year-old from nearby Noblesville, Ind., began the three-phase Rookie Orientation Program.
Seeing his wide smile upon returning to pit lane following the first stint allayed concerns.
"That's what living the dream feels like. It was really cool," Daly said. "First of all, I haven't been on an oval in three years. The first run was kind of difficult to get familiar with it because the car turns in really, really well. Once I got rid of that first run, we were able to get on it.
"With the Rookie Orientation Program, you just have to keep yourself from going flat out. It already feels good, and you want to go flat on the straight. But when you see yourself going 215 (mph) 216, 217 down the straight, you're like, 'Wait, they won't like this.' You have to hold yourself back a little bit. I wanted to feel what it is like going flat through Turn 4 and Turn 3 and I'm not quite turning in flat yet. That's a little too fast for INDYCAR, but it's so stable.
"It's really nice right now. I just need to keep learning and try to learn from (teammate Takuma Sato) and the great guys on the team."
The Rookie Orientation Program is designed to provide first-year Indianapolis 500 drivers an opportunity to get acquainted with the racetrack. The three speed phases, set by INDYCAR based on the weather and track conditions, include 10 laps at 200-205 mph, 15 laps at 205-209 mph and 15 laps at 210 mph-plus.
INDYCAR driver stewards Arie Luyendyk and Johnny Unser also monitor car control, placement and a consistent driving pattern. AJ Allmendinger, Tristan Vautier and Carlos Munoz completed the program May 11 and were cleared to join in practice and qualifications.
Daly's GP3 race commitments in Barcelona, Spain, where he finished third and fifth, prevented his attendance on Opening Day. Still, he'll get ample track time before Pole Day qualifying May 18. Race Day is May 26. IndyCar.com