NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Andy Lally August 4, 2009 An Interview with: ANDY LALLY THE MODERATOR: Welcome to this week's NASCAR Grand-Am teleconference as we look forward to the next race on the Grand-Am Rolex Series...
NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Andy Lally
August 4, 2009
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to this week's NASCAR Grand-Am teleconference as we look forward to the next race on the Grand-Am Rolex Series schedule, Friday's Crown Royal 200, which joins the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series at Watkins Glen International. Joining us today is Andy Lally, winner of the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona and a driver set for double duty this weekend.
In addition to sharing TRG's No. 67, Construct Corp. No Fear Porsche in Friday's race, Andy is going to be making his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut Sunday at the Glen.
Andy, you're a native New Yorker with many miles of racing at Watkins Glen International. How big lit be for you and your career to get your first chance at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at your home track?
ANDY LALLY: Well, J.J., big really wouldn't be even the word. It's massive. It's as huge as it could possibly be. This would be a dream come true, something I've wanted to do ever since I was a little kid.
And we're not in the game yet. I'm going to get an opportunity to qualify and we're one of the go or go-homers and I just can't wait to get on track on Friday and can't wait to give it a shot to qualify and try to make it in the field Friday afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q: Andy, I remarked to you a few races ago that there have been times this season when it looked like you had been kind of laboring in your love of motorsports. Does this chance here at the Glen and Sprint Cup car, the TRG Motorsports Sprint Cup car make up for some of that?
ANDY LALLY: This is without a doubt probably -- this is without a doubt hands down the biggest motor sport day I've ever looked forward to in my life. I've got to thank Kevin Buckler and all the guys from TRG Motorsports that put their faith in me. And all the partners that got behind me and wanted to give me a shot to come here. And Adobe Road Winery for sponsoring the car this weekend.
It's a massive deal. And it's really hard to put into words the amount of time and the years and the nights and the days that I've thought about trying to get this opportunity. And so when we roll off Friday afternoon to qualify and try and put the 71 car in the show, it will be probably one of the most exciting anticipated moments of my whole life.
Q: Well, this is a one-off deal at least as it stands as present. How much faith do you have that the equipment underneath you will be up to the task as you surely are?
ANDY LALLY: I know I'm up for the task. I know our crew is up for the task. As far as the car goes, I really don't have a lot to compare to. But I know these guys are extremely meticulous. I just came from the shop a few minutes ago where the guys are going over every nut and bolt and getting that thing lined up just perfect.
I've got a lot of faith in our engine program and a lot of faith in our chassis program. Slugger and the guys have been doing a really good job with me bringing me up along with testing. I've probably done a total of maybe 50 or 60 laps in a couple of tests that we've done so far.
But in those days, compared to the guys that were on track that were also in Cup cars, we were doing pretty good.
So I'm not planning on going out and setting the world on fire and taking pole position or anything like that. Although, that's every racer's goal as soon as they hit the track, but I've got reasonable expectations, I think, of trying to put her in the field and seeing what we've got with these guys.
There's a ton of things that will be on my mind as far as priorities. I want to make the right impression here coming into my first-ever Cup race if I get -- if we're fast enough to qualify. And at the same time I don't want to get in anybody's way.
There's a chase coming up and we're getting really close to that point. So the guys in the top 12, handful of guys that are just outside the top 12, I want to be real respectful of what they're doing and their goals and just try to make that impression without messing up anybody's day.
Q: Andy, you know, guys like Ron Fellows and Boris Said have come in from road racing, from the Trans-Am originally and they did really well on the race circuits and NASCAR and they made it look easy, I guess, from an outside perspective. But I guess from your perspective, with the seat time you've got, it's probably not as easy as it looks.
ANDY LALLY: It's definitely not as easy as it looks for a handful of reasons. Especially going to Watkins Glen. If it was something like Sonoma which is more technical I'd probably have more of an advantage going in there. Although I'm from New York and I've been to Watkins Glen for the past 15 years plus, actually, these guys have been coming to the Glen for a long time. And with the exception of a handful of rookies and relative new guys to the field, they've got a ton of laps here. When you do those laps at that track in the same car, that will be a little bit of an advantage.
I'll have an advantage probably having done more laps here than most guys in the field, but they'll have an advantage having done those laps that they've done in that same equipment.
The difference between the COT and the old style car isn't massive. But it will be enough that maybe that will kind of level out the playing field here.
I think guys like Boris and Ron, those are guys I've looked up to that have multi-tasks, that are great sports car drivers and at the same time great stock car drivers and that's my goal in life.
I want to race every single thing I can. And I look up to those guys. They've made it look easy in the past, but I think now, I mean I'm sure if you ask Ron and Boris, they'll agree. A lot of these guys and a lot of these teams have put a lot more focus into the road course stuff, especially as we get near chase time here.
This is a real big event. I've noticed when we've been testing -- Reutimann, for example, has been at a road course a lot more than he had been in the past. And a lot of these guys know this is the same 185 points at Watkins Glen as it will be at Pocono last week or Michigan. And it counts, and it can make or break your year when you're coming down trying to get into that final 12 there.
Plus, the talent of these guys. The stock car talent is, I think, sold short a little bit when it comes to these road courses. There's some tremendous drivers in this series that it doesn't matter whether they're on a road course or an oval, their talent is going to come through and they're going to be fast.
Q: To follow up, I think they will be fast, as they usually are. And they have good equipment. I'm wondering if David Gilliland had a minor incident on pit road that meant that Kevin Buckler had to replace the car built for Sonoma and purchase another road racing car in short order earlier this year. Is that why he has two cars for this race? And which one are you going to drive?
ANDY LALLY: I'm going to be in the No. 71 car. That is the chassis that had the incident on pit lane there. David will be in the one that he raced. And was that the reason that we did that? I'm not really sure.
I know that from the very beginning of this program when we started this, Kevin had spoken to me about possibly doing the Cup races on the road courses, not on the ovals. And so I think possibly if that hadn't have happened, we probably would still have gone and found ourselves a second road course car.
I had a real good time with David. We tested together one day at VIR on the north course there, and he was great with giving me some positive feedback and we worked together well and I think we both advanced the car. And it will be a pleasure running with him again this weekend and bouncing ideas off of each other and what I can relate to him with the track and what he can relate back to me with his experiences with the car and hopefully we'll be able to both make each other strong.
Q: Am I correct you've raced in one of Kevin's entries in the Truck Series, or is that not right?
ANDY LALLY: Yes, sir. The first time I did was right when we had bought out Michael Waltrip Racing's truck team. Kevin purchased all the assets from that and we ran three races at the end of '07; and then I ran seven races, I think, at the beginning of '08.
And Kevin just didn't have the budget to do it anymore at that point. And I got shuffled back to the sports car side. My dream has always been to be in these stock cars, whether it's road courses or ovals, I love the racing and I love the car itself. It's a lot of fun. It's super challenging to drive.
I like the high horsepower, and I love the side-by-side racing. I'm more a racer than a car guy. So appreciating the lines of an exotic marker or whatever is something I do but it's not priority.
For me, side-by-side door-banging racing is where it's at and that's what I love about the NASCAR stuff and that's why I've been itching and trying for so long to get a foot in the door and hopefully make a good quality attempt this weekend at making that dream come true.
Q: Just one more follow-up. You mentioned 50 to 60 laps of testing. I'm assuming or guessing that was at Watkins Glen but you mentioned the VIR scenario with David Gilliland. Has there been other opportunities for you to get in a sprint Cup car on a road circuit or on an oval?
ANDY LALLY: Unfortunately, we were not at Watkins Glen. That would have been great. But the testing that we did, I shared a test day with David at VIR, and then we did about a half a day again later at VIR, and then I did most of a day at the New Jersey Motorsports Park a week ago. It's been technically two and a half days and I was guessing at 50 or 60 laps. Could be 45. Could be 75. It's plus or minus. It was good quality laps, though.
I got relatively comfortable in the car. I know that's not a lot of laps compared to what the guys at the front of this series and actually not just the front but all of the series have probably thousands and thousands of miles under their belts, but hopefully knowing the track, Watkins Glen really well, will help me reduce the steepness of that learning curve.
I'm not sure if you're aware, in 2007 I did the Nationwide race here and I finished 10th. There were 18 Cup guys in that event and we finished 10th and I was ahead of the other road course ringers that day. There was one other Busch regular that was ahead of us and after that the rest of the top 10 was all Cup guys.
I had a good scrap with a bunch of real good guys that I respect and admire and it was a blast. And that was something that I think gave me the confidence. I always had the confidence, but just kind of reinforced the confidence that I'd like to be able to come back and try to make my mark positively in the Cup series.
Q: You'll be racing in both races this week, correct?
ANDY LALLY: I'm racing in the Rolex Series race on Friday night, Friday evening. And then if we make the show on Friday, I'll be racing in the Cup race. We're one of the go or go-home cars.
So there's 11 guys going for eight spots. 46 cars trying to make the field. So if we can make it, then, yeah, I'll be doing both. I was actually trying to pull triple duty, calling a handful of Nationwide teams, seeing if I could do a Friday/Saturday/Sunday deal. But nothing's come about yet.
Q: The question I had was: I understand the schedule that there will be extensive Rolex practice on Thursday. And you look to that, can that be of any help to get that feel, and could you talk a little bit about that and also are these cars basically apples and tennis balls or how would you describe the difference in how you would approach each race?
ANDY LALLY: They are. They're as far apart as you can get. You've got a lightweight rear engine, slightly underpowered relative to the Cup car. But great on the brakes sports car. To give you an example, we go to just almost to the 300 marker going into the bus stop, which is there's markers on the back straightaway, one to 600. And in the Cup car we're not even going to get close to the 600 marker.
So the thing that will help on Thursday, our schedule, just to go back, our schedule is an hour and a half of testing on Thursday in the Rolex car and then Friday morning we have 95 minutes of practice in the Cup series. And then we go right into one lap of qualifying for the Cup Series and then our Rolex race that evening.
The Thursday practice should help me get acclimated just seeing different points in the track. There's times every time you go back to the track it will be a little different. Whether they change the curbing a little bit or whether there's additional bumps here or there, whether they've put some sealer down, some things that I'll hopefully be able to take away from that test day and be a little bit more aware of when I first go out in a Cup car that might help us out a little bit.
Q: Brakes in particular, ever since NASCAR has been coming to Watkins Glen, the braking issue, there's always been a concern. Because of the way you brake in the Grand-Am cars versus the taxicabs, you have to watch -- do you in particular have to watch very carefully that you don't use up your brakes too soon?
ANDY LALLY: Yeah, you do. The Montreal race that I did in 2007, the Watkins Glen race that I did both in the Nationwide and I also did an ARCA race at the New Jersey Motorsports Park, so I've got a few of them under my belt right there.
You're exactly right, where in the Rolex cars you can be 100 percent braking for the entire stint. With the Cup car, you've got to be mindful. Watkins Glen is not as bad as New Jersey. Not as bad as Sonoma. But you've got three points on the track where you're threshold braking really hard. You need to be smart and back that up a tiny bit so you run at 95 percent instead of 101 percent, so you don't burn up those brakes. You need to have a good, hard pedal halfway through your fuel run to be able to still fight.
You don't want to be tentative on being offensive. If your brakes are going it's going to be hard for you to commit and really get inside a guy and really be aggressive. It's going to either lead to a crash or lead to you being tentative and just backing up through the field. So you've got to be smart on that. In the longer 24-hour races I've done before I've had to do that. So it's something I'm mindful of.
It's something that's always on my mind. So it's not going to be too new to me but it's definitely something I need to keep up with.
Q: I've had the pleasure of watching you being most of my last 10 years up in New York watching you over the last 10 years and following your career. And just simply if given the right opportunity there's no question you've got what it takes to make this work. And we're excited for you for this opportunity. You've said several times to me and again today that you've always had that dream of going to do NASCAR and do stock cars. Your route to NASCAR, though, is not what anyone would consider the traditional route. Talk to me a little bit about -- we could talk for hours on this, but briefly talk a little bit about your route to NASCAR and how maybe doing things the way you've done through sports cars gives you an advantage or disadvantage trying to make yourself a full time NASCAR stock car driver?
ANDY LALLY: Well, as a young kid growing up I didn't have a lot of family -- I didn't have family involved in motorsports. My family was athletic, but definitely not into the motorsports side of things.
So I played a lot of stick and ball sports growing up and found a go kart one day. Had a neighbor with a go kart. Everything I had with wheels I was riding down hills, and I wanted to be a race car driver from a young age but didn't have a lot of direction.
I also had a concerned mother that wasn't too sure about the sport and really wasn't interested in having her son flying around on a track at 200 miles an hour.
So when I got into go karting and was very serious into racing, my family was extremely supportive of me. But not being involved in racing, we didn't have a lot of direction or idea where this thing was going to go.
But I was very fortunate that my soccer coach, Pete Madsen, had introduced me to a gentleman by the name of Walter Siminger. He took me from go karts and put me in sports cars. It was something that he was doing at the time recreationally in the SCCA. And he took me under his wing and was my mentor and took me through my first three years of auto racing.
And it took me up a different path than I had ever envisioned. I learned about sports car racing and what it was all about. And as the years went on, my opportunities became available, more and more opportunities became available to me in sports cars.
And when you're a young kid at that young age you're never going to say: No, I'm going to go NASCAR.
I'm having a blast. And I'm thrilled with the path that I took. I'm one in a million as far as young drivers that didn't have millions of dollars to put into something that have actually made a career out of it. And I'm really lucky. There's not a bent bone in me that says man I wish I went late model racing at 17 instead of SCCA racing. I love it and I love what I do.
So the path I took, again, to shorten it up, to NASCAR is definitely not your typical path. I'm glad I'm here. I'm thrilled I get this opportunity. I tried to get every single one of the team owners I've ever worked with convinced we should give this a try and really didn't hear a whole lot about it in return as far as positive things or guys willing to make the financial jump.
But Kevin was one of the first ones to listen to me. And we took that jump together in '07 and kind of made the plan, set it assail and it's been working pretty well. Unfortunately, we couldn't finish the whole truck season last year. But Kevin's been loyal to me and trying to help me out to put me in for this race.
If it goes well, who knows. I'd love to talk to Brett Bodine and other guys at licensing to get my licensed bumped up to be able to do more and more tracks. If there's other opportunities, if I can make myself desirable to sponsors or team owners or anybody else out there, I'd love to be able to have a shot, especially with TRG Motorsports and expand their program and be able to do more races with them.
Continued in part 2