INDIANAPOLIS — For Munoz, this May could not have gone any better.
He passed his rookie test on opening day. A little more than 24 hours later, he posted the fastest lap in Indy practice. He spent the rest of the week near the top of the speed charts and when qualifying began Saturday, Munoz and his four better-known teammates — Marco Andretti, Canada’s James Hinchcliffe, defending series champ Ryan Hunter-Reay and Venezuela’s E.J. Viso — were all considered front-runners in the battle to win the pole. Somehow, Munoz wound up the top qualifier of the Andretti five after the nine-car pole shootout.
Daly’s month couldn’t have gone much worse.
The problems began after Daly missed the first two days of Indy practice so he could race in Spain, then returned to Indy late Sunday only to learn that someone had lost his luggage — a bag that included his protective HANS device. Fortunately, Marco Andretti gave his to Daly so he could pass rookie orientation.
Last Thursday, Daly got into real trouble when he sensed something with the No. 41 car. Suddenly, the car spun coming out of the first turn, sending him into the wall and skidding down the track between turns one and two with the No. 41 car on its side.
It was the only practice crash of the month and it sent A.J. Foyt’s team scrambling to rebuild the car in time for qualifying.
The hard knocks still weren’t over for Daly, the son of a former Formula One driver, Indy starter and television racing analyst.
On Pole Day, Daly’s first lap was clocked at 221.528 mph, then dropped to 214.210 and then came puffs of smoke out of the rear end of his car. Again, Foyt’s team was scrambling, this time installing a new engine overnight to give Daly a chance to make the 33-car starting grid on Bump Day. Daly did just that with a four-lap average of 223.582, putting him on the inside of Row 11.