Conor Daly had one of the scariest moments of this year’s Indianapolis 500 when a wheel bounced off the front of his car while he was at speed.
The wheel had come loose from Graham Rahal’s car just as he was getting back up to speed after a pit stop halfway through the race. Replays showed that the crew member never got the wheel tightened before Rahal drove away.
Since it was not secured to the axle, the mandatory wheel tethers were not able to keep the approximately 37-pound (17 kilogram) wheel and tire assembly attached to Rahal’s car as it crashed.
Daly was unfortunate enough to drive directly into the wheel’s path, and it careened off the nose of the US Air Force Chevy and into the infield.
He was lucky that the he was able to continue after the collision, but his chances of winning were ruined as a result of the damage he suffered.
“The only reason we weren’t [up front at the end] was that right there,” Daly said after the race, pointing at his damaged race car.
“Graham Rahal crashed, then this giant tire flew out of the sky. I had no idea. About par for the course for me – a flying tire ruins our race.
“We just had to work with what we had. The car started understeering quite a lot. It was nice to be up front, and I think we proved that we can up there racing with those guys.
“Everything has to go perfect, and if you hit a flying tire that you’ve never seen until it is right in front of your face, it’s tough.”
Daly had led 40 laps before that point, the first time he had led the Indy 500 in his eighth attempt, and was running in the top 10 when he was struck by the wheel.
His Ed Carpenter Racing crew confirmed with him multiple times that the car felt good enough to keep driving, but the loss of balance meant that he slid back to 13th by time the checkered flag flew.
Daly will look to turn his luck around at the Detroit Grand Prix double header from the streets of Belle Isle on June 12-13.