“One in a million,” Daly makes the Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Conor Daly called his chance of making the 65th annual Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN) one-in-a-million. He was so sure he wasn’t going to make the Great American Race that he had already bought a plane ticket back to Los Angeles on Friday.

A busted oil line knocked him out of having a chance of qualifying on Wednesday night. The amount of laps that he’s turned on this Daytona International Speedway oval heading into his Thursday night qualifying race was the same amount as you and I.

While getting the car ready to race on Thursday, the radio cords were chewed on by what Daly says was a “rodent” overnight. When they did get the car to pit road and Daly drove off for the first time, the car hobbled around the track. It was bouncing around like a Mercedes F1 car. At that moment, Helio Castroneves had to be counting his lucky stars that he didn’t risk driving for this team, in this race.

By doing so, Daly said he’d do it. He had to be wondering at that time why.

7 laps into the race, he had lost the draft. Luckily, a debris caution flew and allowed the team to make some repairs under caution. Still, his No. 50 Chevrolet wasn’t fast enough. He lost the draft again. He fell a lap down.

Despite all of that, Daly will race in Sunday’s Great American Race.

It looked like typical Conor Daly luck and turned into typical Conor Daly luck. A lap down and still makes the big show.

“Well, we were inherently unlucky for the last 36 hours, but we got lucky,” Daly admitted on Thursday night in the shadows of the Daytona International Speedway tri-oval. “I wish I could have said that I drove it in on pure pace, but it was just crazy.

“When we went out there, the car was bouncing around. I had no idea what was going on. I thought the drivetrain was broken, and Tony just made it better every time. We got lucky with the yellows to try to get some experience, but it is pretty crazy.

“This race, I’ve watched it for so many years and so much crazy stuff can happen, and thankfully we were on the right side of the craziness. It’s pretty amazing.”

He got a lifeline when Daniel Suarez pushed Kyle Busch too hard on the backstretch on Lap 42. Busch, the leader at the time, spun across the field and made hard contact with the outside SAFER barrier. Travis Pastrana couldn’t get his No. 67 Toyota slowed up in time and got into Austin Hill.

In the midst of the mess, Riley Herbst was also in that fracas which caused enough damage to both Pastrana and Hill to force each to an early retirement.

Daly, by default, was the top open car finisher and will race now on Sunday.

Luckily for him, there’s two practice sessions over the next two days for Daly to finally be able to settle in and become more comfortable with this car.

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