The 2023 edition of Speedweeks will feature two unique additions in NTT IndyCar Series veteran Conor Daly and motorsports icon Travis Pastrana. Neither driver has a guaranteed spot in the Daytona 500, but they will both embrace a “crazy” opportunity ahead of them.
Daly met with media members at Daytona International Speedway prior to qualifying, and he discussed his unique path to the NASCAR Cup Series, as well as his preparation over at TMT Racing. Daly also revealed that he and Pastrana have been talking about competing in the Daytona 500 for a considerable amount of time.
“Yes, Travis and I sat across the street from this racetrack just yesterday at BJs [Restaurant and Brewhouse] having some lunch, discussing what we were about to do,” Daly told media members. “And it is pretty crazy. I actually… I found out he was doing it in like, October of last year, like November.
“We were doing this [24 Hours of Lemons] race in Houston, and we were sitting there and I was like — we had talked about doing the Daytona 500 right after the Roval last year. We were like, ‘Oh, let’s do it for sure.’ And I told him about it, and he was like, ‘No way. I think I’m gonna do it too.’ And I was like, ‘This is gonna be crazy.'”
“Conor and I have been talking about the Daytona 500 for years,” Pastrana said. “…It was kind of like off and on, and both of us were like, ‘Maybe, maybe not.’ And I finally got the green light, and I was like, ‘Dude, I’m going to do it!’ He said, ‘That’s real cool.’
“He called me just a couple of weeks ago, and was like, ‘I’m in!’ And I wanted to punch him through the phone. ‘What are you doing?’ Hopefully, we won’t be two of us qualifying in the same Duel because he’s a good friend.”
Daly & Pastrana Have a Unique History Competing Together in NASCAR
The two veteran drivers did not come from the world of NASCAR. Daly focused on the NTT IndyCar Series while Pastrana focused on motocross, rallycross, and many other motorsports series.
Daly and Pastrana have had their paths cross over the years. This includes the 2020 Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when they both drove for Niece Motorsports. Daly finished 18th while Pastrana finished 21st.
The duo will now try to qualify for the biggest race on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. If Daly and Pastrana can both achieve this goal, it will only mark another unique moment for their respective careers.
“So we had this hilarious conversation that night that, boy, would it be wild if we both ended up… if we started racing trucks and then we ended up in the Daytona 500 eventually,” Daly continued. “So it would be really cool to see that happen for him because I think doing that Truck race honestly, back in 2020, I think it kind of reignited a few things for him.
“He wanted to do more of [NASCAR racing], and it’s pretty cool to see. So it’s gonna be fun. I hope he makes it on speed tonight. So then he can help me if he’s in my Duel to make the races. Well, that would also be hysterical.”
The 2 Drivers Could Help Each Other
Pastrana and Daly will drive for different manufacturers during Speedweeks. The creator of Nitro Rallycross will suit up for Toyota Racing as he joins 23XI Racing while Daly will return to TMT Racing and Team Chevy.
Having different manufacturer allegiances doesn’t mean that the two drivers will necessarily try to limit each other on the track. Though there is no telling what will happen if they are the two last drivers battling for the final open spot in the starting lineup.
For now, however, Daly expects that there will be some teamwork on the track. If Pastrana can qualify for the Daytona 500 on speed, there is a scenario where he could actually attempt to push Daly ahead of another driver so that he can also make the big show.