New Yorker Andy Lally Gaining Experience As Sunoco Rookie Contender
Veteran Tire Specialist Mike Harrold Lends Expertise To TRG Motorsports
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 30, 2011) — Andy Lally, unless something unforeseen occurs, will be the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year. Lally, a three-time GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series champion, is the only freshman left competing for the award since Brian Keselowski and T.J. Bell failed to meet the minimum competition requirements.
Lally, a native of Northport, N.Y. on Long Island, has been able to expand his expertise in oval track racing without the additional pressure of a multiple driver rookie competition. He finished 25th in Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, his fifth consecutive run in the top 30. More importantly, the 36-year-old Lally has been able to finish 20 of his 21 starts to keep Kevin Buckler’s TRG Motorsports organization among the top 35 in the owners championship standings, and currently guarantee the team a starting position.
Crew chief Doug Richert would be hard-pressed to find a more experienced tire specialist than Mike Harrold to keep Lally in the game – and the single-car team moving forward in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Harrold, a 48-year-old from York, Pa., has been in the series for nearly two decades after growing up working with his father and grandfather on the Pennsylvania sprint car circuit. He broke into NASCAR with the former Jasper Motorsports outfit and driver Robert Pressley with later stints at Hendrick Motorsports and Ray Evernham Motorsports. He’s been a Goodyear tire specialist since 1997.
What does a tire specialist do besides select tires from the Goodyear compound and make sure they meet Richert’s specifications? Just about everything according to Harrold, whose job might better be described as the team’s logistics chief. What goes to the track, how it gets there and when the equipment returns is Harrold’s responsibility.
“I’m one of those versatile people, said Harrold. “If it means changing a motor or gears or making pieces and parts; whatever it takes. They come to me and say, ‘can you do this?’ and I say, ‘done.’ I’m a little high strung and a morning person but that’s half the battle, to get up and do the job you enjoy.”
Harrold previously worked with teams that had near unlimited resources, Hendrick for instance. Looking back on his earlier years, he admits “selecting tires and keeping notes was simple: you could buy all the tires you wanted. You always had a helper, the truck driver, to fetch.”
Such is not the case in 2011. “Obviously, (less) money is the No. 1 concern. We don’t have the budget so we only get 70, 80% of the tires the larger teams purchase,” said Harrold. “You have to make things last and you don’t waste products. You just don’t waste stuff.”
At TRG, he said, having the right personnel – just not a large staff – keeps the wheels turning. “We do have good, seasoned people and we accomplish a lot with very little,” said Harrold. “You do it because you’re a racer. Sure, you want to win. TRG is a good company and potential is there. We just need to show that to (potential sponsors) out there.
“It just takes time because it’s a tough business.”
Next on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, with two races remaining before the 12 qualifiers for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup are determined in Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Official winners of this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Prize Money & Decal Program special awards include:
AMERICAN ETHANOL GREEN FLAG RESTART: Brad Keselowski
COORS LIGHT POLE AWARD: Ryan Newman (122.811 mph, 15.624 secs,)
DIRECTV CREW CHIEF OF THE RACE AWARD: Jimmy Fennig (crew chief for Matt Kenseth)
GOODYEAR GATORBACK BELTS FASTEST LAP AWARD: Ryan Newman (118.789 mph, Lap 2)
MAHLE CLEVITE ENGINE BUILDER OF THE RACE AWARD: Hendrick Motorsports, No. 24
MOBIL 1 OIL DRIVER OF THE RACE AWARD: Martin Truex Jr.
MOOG CHASSIS PARTS PROBLEM SOLVER OF THE RACE AWARD: Chad Johnston, 0.049 seconds (crew chief for Martin Truex Jr.)
O’REILLY AUTO PARTS POSITION IMPROVEMENT AWARD: Tony Stewart (14 places)
SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD: Andy Lally