NA-F2000: Lally Makes Team U.S.A.

NORTHPORT, N.Y., Oct. 26 - Andy Lally of Northport, N.Y., has been chosen as one of the top-three young American formula car drivers for 1999 with the announcement Saturday that he is one of the recipients of the tenth annual Valvoline...

NORTHPORT, N.Y., Oct. 26 - Andy Lally of Northport, N.Y., has been chosen as one of the top-three young American formula car drivers for 1999 with the announcement Saturday that he is one of the recipients of the tenth annual Valvoline Team U.S.A. Scholarship. Along with the honor goes the opportunity to represent America on Team U.S.A. in the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series in England next month. The series will consist of four races; two at Snetterton, England on Nov. 14 and two at Brands Hatch, England on Nov. 21. "It's a huge honor to be added to the list of drivers who have previously won this scholarship," said Lally, 24. "On top of that, having the chance to compete overseas in the Formula Palmer Winter Series means a great deal. It will be valuable experience, and it's an honor to represent my country overseas. I also hope that it will be an honor that will impress team owners and potential sponsors, because I have nothing in place yet for the 2000 season." Originally the scholarship was just going to have two recipients, but it was expanded to three this year. Lally's teammates will be Paul Edwards of Santa Maria, Calif., and Jeff Simmons of East Granby, Conn. Lally has made a name for himself primarily through the U.S. Formula 2000 series, where he was instrumental in the development of two new chassis: Highcroft Racing's Bowman in 1998 and the Carbir in 1999. Edwards has raced in Europe for the last three years, finishing third this year in the EFDA Euroseries. Simmons won his second-consecutive Barber Dodge Pro Series title this season. Lally was originally one of 14 nominees for the scholarship, which strives to help top young American formula-car drivers. The scholarship committee, a roster of distinguished racers, car owners and racing journalists, reviewed each candidate's resume and an essay he wrote and conducted one-on-one interviews with the nominees to whittle the list down to six. Those six were flown to England and tested in the Formula Palmer Audi cars at the series' test track near Bedford, England on Oct. 6. The scholarship winners were the fastest three. The top three were within two-tenths of a second of each other, and on the second track configuration that was used almost all six were under the track record. The final decision on the scholarship recipients was made by former Grand Prix driver Jonathan Palmer, who established the Formula Palmer Audi series prior to the 1998 season, and John Bright, a former driver turned champ car race engineer and team owner who runs Redman Bright Racing in conjunction with legendary driver Brian Redman. In a press release announcing the names of the three recipients, the scholarship's coordinator, journalist Jeremy Shaw, wrote: "The original intention was to select two winners, but the overall quality was so good we have decided to stretch it to three." Palmer was quoted in the release as saying, "I just feel so motivated about this program because I really feel we're unlocking something here. I was blown away with the standard of driving and the overall level of professionalism when the guys came over and tested. I honestly believe any one of them would be capable of challenging for a podium finish." When he was asked to predict what competing in this series will be like, Lally said, "I know it will be pretty intense. The races are fairly short sprint races; they're usually under 30 minutes. They start 22 cars. It'll be the first time I've ever done a standing start, and it'll be the first time I've ever even seen these tracks. There is a lot of prestige and history surrounding these tracks, so just having the opportunity to run on them is something I'll always remember. "I think it'll be really cold, too," he added with a smile. Lally said that he believes there will be one engineer assigned to every four cars and one mechanic per car. The three Americans' cars will be painted red, white and blue and will carry sponsorship from the following companies that sponsor the scholarship: Valvoline, CART, Tasman Motorsports, PacWest Racing, Mercedes-Benz USA, Road Racing Drivers Club, Skip Barber Racing School and Mitel Semiconductor. The cars that will be raced are the same type of cars that were used for the test, and Lally was very impressed with them. "Formula Palmer Audi cars are awesome," he said. "The day that we tested them it was a big learning curve for me, because they have almost double the horsepower of the cars that we drive in the U.S. Formula 2000 series. Some of the other guys had driven cars that were more powerful, but I hadn't. I had to change my driving style over the course of the day to suit the car. I had to get used to the additional horsepower, but once I did I was very comfortable with it." Lally is scheduled to leave for England on Nov. 8, "about seven or eight hours after I get home from Daytona." He will be going for the championship in the Sports division in the Motorola Cup season finale at Daytona International Speedway in Florida on Nov. 7, as he's currently only one point away from leader Lance Stewart.

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