Lally Posts Second Podium Finish for Himself and the Bowman Chassis In F2000 Race at Glen Friday

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., May 29 - Highcroft Racing's Andy Lally of Northport, N.Y., took third with one lap to go from Robby McGehee and then held off Ryan Hampton for that spot in a photo finish in the U.S. Formula 2000 race at Watkins Glen International Friday afternoon. It was the second podium finish for both Lally and the car he was driving, the brand-new Bowman BC5 chassis.

Lally's Red Line Oil/Highcroft Racing/Maida Bowman BC5 started sixth in the 35-car field for the 20-lapper on the Glen's 2.45-mile short course. Despite a case of the flu, Lally, the Rookie of the Year last season, got off to a great start. He was already fourth by lap two, and he passed Hampton for third on lap three.

Hampton got him back on the very next lap and that was the story of the race, as Lally and Hampton battled repeatedly with a supporting role played by McGehee, who pushed Lally back to fifth on lap six enroute to moving into the third-place spot on lap seven.

The drivers who ended up finishing first and second - David Besnard and Marc Antoine Camirand, respectively - pulled ahead of the fight for third at that point, but the action behind them got even hotter. Lally passed Hampton for fourth on lap eight but Hampton got him back on the next circuit. At the half-way point third through fifth - McGehee, Hampton and Lally - were nose to tail, but McGehee moved ahead a bit on lap 13 while Hampton and Lally continued to duke it out behind him. Lally passed Hampton for fourth with five laps to go, right before a full-course yellow waved for Dana LaLiberte, who hit the outside curb under the NASCAR Winston Cup bridge and crashed into the inside wall at the beginning of pit road at that point.

Three laps later the green waved again for a two-lap shootout to the checkered, with Lally passing McGehee for third with one lap go and then holding off Hampton at the checkered.

The top five were Besnard, Camirand, Lally, Hampton and McGehee.

"It was awesome racing," Lally said afterwards. "Ryan Hampton and I had the best race of our lives there. Our cars were perfectly mis-matched. I bet we passed each other more than 10 times during the race. One lap I know we passed each other three times. He had super straightaway speed, but I was able to get him in the turns. We traded places back and forth so many times I lost count. One lap we went side-by-side through the loop and in the esses. We gave each other room the whole time; it was great racing."

When asked to describe his move for third, Lally said, "When I got Robby [McGehee] I went inside coming down the straightaway by the start/finish line and I got pushed up near the wall by a lapped car. It was so close I thought I hit the wall; I got off the brakes and waited for the impact, but I got through OK. I finally got Robby going into the chicane under braking."

Brakes were a concern at the end. "The first three-quarters of the race my brakes were OK, but they went away at the end," Lally said. "One time there when I was inside of Robby I nearly lost it in the chicane because I pressed the brake pedal to the floor and there was nothing there.

"The throttle cable linkage broke rolling up to the grid before the start of the race too," Lally disclosed. "But the Highcroft Racing crew came to the rescue and fixed it.

"All in all it was a great race," he summarized. "I have the flu, but after a race like that I feel a whole lot better."

The day had been sunny prior to the race, but during the race clouds moved in and a thunderstorm kicked up during the post-race press conference.

"I don't care if it rains or not. I actually wish it would have rained late in this race," Lally said. "I love to race in the rain, and I love to race at Watkins Glen."

Lally's teammate, Duncan Dayton of North Salem, N.Y., loves to race at Watkins Glen too - usually. His car has been suffering ignition problems, and despite changing the motor and just about everything else electrical that the team has on hand here this weekend, the culprit hasn't been found yet. He ended up 30th in the final rundown.

Qualifying for tomorrow's F2000 race will be held later this afternoon. Saturday's race is scheduled to get the green flag at 10:30 a.m.