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INDIANAPOLIS -- There might not be anything more opposite for a driver on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule than the two races this month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The GMR Grand Prix runs clockwise on the 14-turn road course, and Saturday it started and finished in rain with some of the track wet and some of it dry during one period in the race.

Tuesday, they pulled an about-face when practice began for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29, an event where drivers only turn left on the 2 ½-mile oval and won’t dare race if there’s a sprinkle or two because you don’t take that kind of chance at 230 mph.

If there’s one thing that doesn’t relate to the other, it’s those two races.

Except when you put together a strong finish in the road race that, frankly, can begin the turnaround after a difficult start to the season.

Momentum is a wonderful thing, and Conor Daly has it going into the first week of practice for the 500.

Daly drove to a fifth-place finish Saturday in his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, his best showing of the season after running 20th, 16th, 17th and 22nd in the first four races. Now he shifts to superspeedway trim with a team that has consistently been among the fastest on the IMS oval.

“I love this place. I really want a trophy from here,” Daly told following Saturday's race. “We wanted to rebound here. We knew we had a fast car and we were great in qualifying (starting fourth).

"We executed all weekend, which is exactly what we wanted. I’m confident every race, but these are the two biggest ones for me. We know we have a great car (for the 500) and we’re going to come out swinging and be ready for it.”

Conor Daly finished fifth in Saturday's GMR GP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. IndyCar photo by Matt Fraver.

Conor Daly finished fifth in Saturday's GMR GP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. IndyCar photo by Matt Fraver.

Like his season, Daly’s strong drive Saturday didn’t happen without a maddening start.

All cars started on rain tires as IndyCar officials declared it a wet race because of pre-race rain, but the track dried quickly and within five laps everyone had pitted for red-sidewall alternate slick tires.

Daly then fell to 14th by lap 14, and the bewildering thing is he couldn’t figure out why. Was it the set of tires? Was he down on power? Or both? All he knew is this wasn’t how he wanted to start the month of May.

“The car was a handful and we went straight backward,” he said.

Then he pitted for another set of tires, and problem solved.

“For some reason we were losing grip on that first set of reds,” he said. “I don’t know what happened, but it was like we got something on the tire or maybe it was the way we used (the tire) in qualifying.

"It was like a set of tires that had already gone off. As soon as we put on the next set of reds, we were flying again.

"It was very strange. I didn’t forget how to drive in the first stint and then remembered in the second half.”

Daly’s charge back into the top five still was a huge challenge. The weather messed with everyone in the field, with rain falling as the race neared the halfway point. The problem is that the track wasn’t fully soaked; the main straight was plenty wet but the back side stayed relatively dry.

Teams were making last-second decisions on whether to pit for rain tires or stay out on slicks, Daly included.

“I was in the grass on pit entry at one point because we made a late call to stay out,” he said. “It was crazy.”

He’d never experienced a race in his career like this one.

“There was one Rolex 24 when it was like 3 in the morning and it was raining and it was 40 degrees and it was very strange,” he said. “But this, I mean it was raining, it was sunny and then it was raining again. And then you couldn’t see anything. It was a really, really interesting day.”

The best part is there won’t be anything like it the rest of the month. Practice began  Tuesday on the oval, where they only turn left on a dry track and definitely don’t drive on a wet track. Driving for a Carpenter team that is traditionally strong on the oval,

He did very well in Tuesday's first practice session, recording the fourth-fastest speed, but had difficulty matching that performance in the afternoon session, doing no better than 28th.

Even so, Daly can’t wait to buckle up for this coming weekend's qualifying, as well as next Sunday's Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

“I’m ready,” he said. “(Saturday's GP) was a day that helps us for sure. There’s a lot of momentum. We’ve got the right horses underneath us and we’ve got a great team.”

Follow Kirby Arnold on Twitter @KirbyArnold