INDIANAPOLIS – Conor Daly and Sage Karam understood the stakes of Sunday's Indianapolis 500.
If the two young Americans could perform well at IndyCar's biggest race of the season, their careers could take off.
Neither got a chance.
Daly pulled off the track before the race even started after an overheated exhaust system caused a fire in his car. Karam hit the first turn wall when Takuma Sato tried to make it three-wide on the opening lap, knocking the two twenty-somethings out of contention before either could complete a lap.
"It's very disappointing," said Karam, the 20-year-old from Pennsylvania. "We had a car that could win today. So, the rest of the day I'm just going to hang out."
And watch a race he desperately wanted to win.
Karam was making his fourth start in six races Sunday, all with Chip Ganassi Racing, but this one left a bitter taste in his mouth.
He didn't expect Sato to be on the outside when he went high through the first turn, making contact with Sato and the outside wall. He was checked and released from the infield medical center shortly after the crash and has been hired to drive for Ganassi's team for all but one more race this season. He will sit out at Sonoma.
But his day work day ended much sooner than he anticipated.
"I think he was just trying to be a little too ambitious the first lap of the 500, which is a shame because he ruined a lot of people's races, even his own," Karam said, referring to Sato. "Nothing I could do about it, it's just Sato being a bonehead."
Daly's exit was pure bad luck.
The 23-year-old Indy native finished 17th in his season debut at Long Beach,- good enough to get a second chance with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. He knew a solid showing on his hometown track could get him yet another shot at starting somewhere else this season.
"One shot, one opportunity. Have to maximize every lap," Daly wrote on Twitter on Saturday. "This is the greatest race in the world."
But the mechanical failure on his Honda-powered car forced Daly to pull back onto pit lane during the second parade lap. His crew quickly pushed the car back to Gasoline Alley, where it scrambled for more than 50 laps to get the car back in working condition before the end of the day.
Daly stood in his pit box, watching the race on television, wondering if his team could get the car repaired — or if he would drive in another IndyCar race this season.
"Everyone only looks at results so I don't know what's going to happen now," Daly said. "It certainly would have helped more than hurt. I don't where we go from here. We'll just have to see what happens."