NA-F2000: Charlotte Friday Highcroft Racing report

Lally Almost Wins U.S. F2000 Race Friday at CMS HARRISBURG, N.C., July 24 - Highcroft Racing's Andy Lally of Northport, N.Y. led the most laps, set the fastest lap of the race and if it wasn't for a late-race yellow he...

Lally Almost Wins U.S. F2000 Race Friday at CMS

HARRISBURG, N.C., July 24 - Highcroft Racing's Andy Lally of Northport, N.Y. led the most laps, set the fastest lap of the race and if it wasn't for a late-race yellow he might have won Friday's U.S. Formula 2000 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. As it was he still posted his personal best finish and the best finish ever for the new Bowman BC5 chassis in U.S. F2000 competition by finishing second to Ryan Hampton. The 30-lap race ended under yellow after Larry Foyt and Robby McGehee crashed in the chicane with two laps to go, destroying Lally's chance for a final slingshot by the leader.

Lally started third in the Highcroft Racing/Red Line Oil/Maida Bowman BC5 and he held that spot for the first five laps. He was never worse than fourth, and he see-sawed between fourth and third for the next five laps as the top cars ran three and four wide in a draft around the modified 1.6-mile superspeedway.

With a third of the race gone Lally really shined. He vaulted from third on lap 10 and into the lead on lap 11 by charging under point leader David Besnard in turn three and then powering under Hampton on the frontstretch by the start/finish line. The yellow lights came out almost immediately, however, as Rolando Quintanilla hit the wall.

Lally withstood the onslaught for one restart but Hampton retook the lead on the next lap. The top three of Hampton, Lally and Besnard were three abreast on the frontstretch on lap 22 but the nose of Lally's Bowman was back into the lead going into the chicane on lap 23 when he passed Hampton on the outside.

The yellow lights came out again at that point for the fourth time and unfortunately the other Bowman in the field was in that fracas. Jonathan Bottoms got sideways in turn one and the car of Christian Coggins climbed onto the back of the Bowman driven by Highcroft Racing head Duncan Dayton of North Salem, N.Y. Luckily Dayton, like all the other drivers involved in the five yellows, was unhurt.

"I was braking for the chicane and I felt a bump from behind," Dayton related later. "Then I was looking at the underside of Coggins' car and his wheels were by my head, so I figured we were done for the day. I don't think the car is as bad as it looks though."

Lally withstood the entire field's assault of his lead on the restart on lap 27 but on the next lap Hampton dipped under him in turn three for the top spot. Foyt and McGehee tangled at that point and the race ended under yellow with Lally second and Dayton 21st in the final standings.

Following Hampton and Lally at the checkered were Besnard, Sam Hornish Jr., Steve Rikert, Bobby Oergel, Mike Johnson, Marc-Antoine Camirand, Ric Rushton and Bottoms.

Lally led 13 of the 30 laps. He ran the fastest lap of anyone in the race, running one circuit at 132.764 mph, which was substantially faster than Hampton's 130.78 mph circuit that earned him the pole. His stellar finish also moved him from fourth to third in the overall point standings and second in the series' oval crown standings.

"The Bowman was great," Lally said. "The draft was so important. We went from third to first there in one lap. The car was awesome from the start. It's the first time we have led an entire lap with this new chassis, let alone leading the most laps of the race. I got hit in the back once in the chicane, but it wasn't enough to slow me down. It hurts to miss my first F2000 win, but it was still a good day."

An afternoon storm forced a delay in the day's activities; the race started in the light of day and ended under the lights. The track got cooler when dusk fell, which allowed the speeds to go up.

"When the weather changed, the car got really fast. It was pretty exciting right from the start," Lally explained.

"The weather getting cooler and the draft really made a huge difference," Dayton agreed. "You're running so fast in the draft; you're getting another 10-12 mph. It's a good 400 to 500 revs more, which in these cars is huge.

"When you're drafting two or three cars there's a big difference," Dayton continued, "but when you have 10 or 12 cars running together in a draft like we had tonight, it's like a big vacuum cleaner sucking you the whole way around the track."

Lally and Dayton and the other U.S. F2000 competitors will get a chance to do it all again tomorrow in the second half of the doubleheader here at CMS this weekend, which is a companion event to the Indy Racing League Visionaire 500k headliner.

Friday's race will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Qualifying story (Friday):

Lally to Start Third Friday; Dayton 11th

HARRISBURG, N.C., July 24 - Andy Lally duplicated the Bowman BC5's best starting spot ever when he qualified third for the U.S. Formula 2000 race Friday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The race, the first half of a doubleheader during the VisionAire 500k Indy Racing League weekend, will be held tonight.

His Highcroft Racing teammate, Duncan Dayton, who qualified his Bowman BC5 third in the season opener in January at Walt Disney World Speedway in Florida, will start 11th in tonight's 30-lap, 48-mile race. A similar event on CMS's 1.6-mile modified oval superspeedway will be held tomorrow (Saturday).

Lally was one of four drivers to qualify faster than the existing track record. Ryan Hampton won his first U.S. F2000 pole with a speed of 132.00 mph. Steve Rikert was second at 131.76 mph. They're both in Tatuuses.

Lally's fastest lap for third spot was at an average speed of 131.26 mph in his Bowman BC5. Point leader David Besnard was fourth in a Van Diemen at 131.21 mph, while Robby McGehee was fifth in another Tatuus at 130.52 mph.

"We were quick right out of the trailer here," noted Lally. "This is no-holes-barred racing, and we just have to stay out of trouble while still racing as hard as we can. Drafting is so important here. The two Tatuuses ahead of me will probably work together, so we'll just have to see how things develop."

There was a half-hour practice session Friday at noon which concluded a half-hour before time trials. When the Highcroft crew was tightening the lug nuts on the left-front of Dayton's car it discovered a problem, and they changed that upright as the car sat in line waiting its turn to go out for time trials.

"They did a great job," said Dayton. "I'm glad we discovered the problem then, and not when I was at speed. This event is always wild. We'll just give it our best shot, hope for the best and see what develops."

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series OPENWHEEL