On the coldest day in a quarter-century, some news came out on the Indianapolis 500 front that definitely helped give us warm thoughts of May. It was announced on Wednesday that Conor Daly will drive Andretti Autosport’s No. 25 car in the 103rd running of the 500, carrying sponsorship from the United States Air Force. Daly’s addition to the team means that once again AA will attempt to put five cars in the field, and the team will carry an All-American lineup of drivers, with Daly joining, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach on the squad.

Daly will be looking to qualify for the 500 for the sixth time. Last year he made a heroic final run to bump his way into the field late on Saturday afternoon, ultimately starting in the 33rd position, then completing 199 laps in the race and finishing a career-best 21st.

There is no doubt that this will be the best ride that Daly has ever had at Indy. Andretti Autosport finished fourth (Rossi), fifth (Hunter-Reay) and seventh (Carlos Munoz) a year ago, and had Stefan Wilson leading the race with four laps to go before he had to pit for fuel, eventually finishing 15th. They know how to put together fast cars for the 500, and they know how to win, having won the race three of the last five years.

While it will be the best ride of his career, this year’s race might also be the biggest race of his life. Despite all of the potential Daly has shown over the years, his performances in the 500 have been less than stellar. No doubt some of that wasn’t his fault. Hes never had the greatest of equipment, as Robin Miller explains in this RACER piece, but at the same time, he’s crashed out on his own twice in five races and has never started better than 22nd.

Pro sports are results-driven, especially in racing, and “yeah, buts” only carry you so far. You know, yeah, but he hasn’t had great equipment. Or, yeah, but he got a raw deal in 2017. Those things did happen, true, but as is the case with any driver, when you are behind the wheel you have to deliver.

This is a great situation for him, though, as Michael Andretti has wanted to bring him into the fold for a while, and it looks like he has found a good partner in the USAF, which may lead to Daly driving for AA beyond the 500. You can’t help but root for Daly, he’s a good dude and has had to do a lot of this the hard way, and it’s good to see his efforts being rewarded. But the stakes are a lot higher now too. A good run may just breathe some life into his career, a bad one

He’s had his share of bad breaks over the years, but he may have just gotten the biggest break of his life.

Indy 500 Gets a New Presenting Sponsor

Thursday brought even better news as IMS announced Gainbridge has signed a four-year deal to become the race’s presenting sponsor, replacing PennGrade. The IndyStar’s Jim Ayello has the scoop here.

I’m not a financial whiz, so instead of explaining it myself, I’ll let the IndyCar.com story explain what Gainbridge does.

Gainbridge is a digital-first annuity and life insurance agency on a mission to equip people for action. It puts power directly into clients’ hands with intuitive tools and an offering of high-yield products designed to grow their money for goals big and small, not just retirement. Products Gainbridge offers provide three key benefits: steady growth, simplicity and transparency.

As Gainbridge expands nationally, its association with the Indy 500 as presenting sponsor will provide a key platform for brand recognition and customer acquisition. The products Gainbridge offers are currently available to residents of Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey, with service expanding to many more states in the coming weeks. For more information on Gainbridge, visit www.gainbridge.life.

Gainbridge’s parent company is Group 1001, who has been an active sponsor of Zach Veach and has sponsored the Indy Women in Tech Championship LPGA tournament.

So, the momentum continues to grow. So far this year we have seen a major sponsor come on board in NTT Data, and two sponsors in Group 1001 and Arrow who have made significantly deeper commitments to the IndyCar series. And, a worldwide brand in McLaren is entering the season as a standalone team.

So much excitement, and we still have four weeks to go until the start of the season.

Will Power Ticket Unveil

We know the Indy 500 is in sight when IMS releases the ticket that will be used for this year’s race. As is tradition, the previous year’s champion’s image is on the ticket, and Will Power finally got his ticket at the reveal last week.

I think a lot of people wanted to see the image of his pure jubilation as soon as he took his helmet off, but I think this is a much better choice. He’s wearing his wreath and holding the tradition bottle of milk while his crew celebrates around him. It actually looks like his crew is holding up and supporting him, which is a nice tip of the hat to the people who did support him during the 15 Days in May and the 500 miles on race day.

Getting pumped for the start of the season and the 500? I am.