Lally Is 'Mr. Mid-Ohio' with a Hat Trick in Qualifying And Back-to-Back Victories in Two Different Series LEXINGTON, Ohio, June 4 - Andy Lally of Northport, N.Y., had a weekend that racers usually only dream...
Lally Is 'Mr. Mid-Ohio' with a Hat Trick in Qualifying And Back-to-Back Victories in Two Different Series
LEXINGTON, Ohio, June 4 - Andy Lally of Northport, N.Y., had a weekend that racers usually only dream of, as he won three pole positions, establishing one new track record, and also won one race on Saturday and another one on Sunday in a totally different division at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
He would have won a third race on Sunday too, as he led every lap and had a huge advantage on the field just a few laps from the checkered when that car suffered mechanical difficulties and he was forced to drop out.
When Team Duke Racing's Duke Johnson injured his neck last week, he decided not to risk further injuries to it and invited Lally to substitute for him behind the wheel of his Team St. Louis Carbir CS98 #4 American City Racing League (ACRL) car.
Although Lally had never before driven this type of car, he promptly went out and won both pole positions Saturday morning for the ACRL doubleheader here this weekend. A few hours later he took his first checkered of 2000 by beating John Fergus, the 1999 Sports 2000 national champion, in the first 22-lap ACRL race, with David Downey, the 1998 Sports 20000 national champion, third.
Lally originally came to Mid-Ohio this weekend to compete in the Motorola Cup race as Howie Liebengood's teammate in the Pennzoil/National Campaign to Stop Violence '97 BMW 328 #49. On Saturday morning he won the pole position for the Sports Touring class for Sunday's three-hour Motorola Cup race to grid 22nd overall, and on Sunday he and Liebengood finished first in class in that event.
The RaceWeld team in USAC Silver Bullet competition has made a career of promoting the fact that Mario Andretti won three races in one day with one of its cars. No one will probably take Lally's three poles in one morning quite that far, but the track announcer was so busy talking about the young driver's hat trick that "my friends said they were sick of hearing my name on the loudspeaker," the young driver admitted.
When the green flag dropped for the first ACRL race Saturday afternoon, Lally got off to what he termed, "an OK start" against Fergus.
"I got the lead, but he pulled up alongside of me in turn seven, but then I pulled out and led the first lap," Lally recalled. "But on the second lap he got a good shot on me to the outside going into seven and he passed me.
"I tucked in behind him and watched him for awhile," Lally related. "I had about 10-15 laps to think about where I could pass him. His front tires looked like they were going. I saw an opening going into turn eight and passed him back but he raced me clean; it was a good show. It feels good to have my first win of the new millennium in the books."
Having another race on the very next day puts a different spin on pre-race strategy, but the post-race press conference for Lally's first victory wasn't over before he knew what he had to do for Sunday's race.
"He was flying, so I have to open very fast and have a bigger lead at the start," Lally said. "I was full tilt today at the start, but tomorrow I have to be wicked at the start."
That's just what he did, and he led every lap of the second ACRL race on Sunday until he pulled off on the grass on the frontstretch just a few laps from the end with mechanical problems.
"It was a half shaft," Lally said.
The chances for a second victory in a totally different race car looked bleak for most of Sunday's three-hour Motorola Cup race. Liebengood started the event and drove conservatively, saving the tires, gearbox and brakes. He drove for a little more than an hour and then Lally got in for his stint with two hours to go, and the car was in fifth place in class 20 minutes from the end.
That's when Lally put his foot down. Somehow he started to reel his fellow competitors in, and with eight minutes to go he was third in class. He made a daring four-wide pass for the class victory a few minutes later, transforming what looked like just a top-five finish into a victory in the Sports Touring class and just about giving everyone who was watching a heart attack from all the excitement.
Although Liebengood and Lally have teamed up several times in the past for Motorola Cup events in Liebengood's BMW, and have several podium finishes to their credit, what was it like to step into an ACRL car for the first time and win the first time out?
"It was cool, and I have to thank Duke Johnson for the opportunity," Lally said. "Although I've never been in one of these cars before, they have the same motor and gearing of the Formula 2000 cars I'm used to, and they're very close to having the same handling and weight without the downforce too," he noted.
Lally gave the Carbir Formula 2000 car its first F2000 victory and the Team Duke ACRL car is a Carbir, but he said the common manufacturer didn't really figure into the equation.
"It's a totally different type of chassis and most things don't really apply between the two cars, except for the basic race car engineering," he explained.
"As a racer I really wish I could have won that third race too, but two out of three in two different types of cars is pretty good," Lally noted. "It was definitely a weekend to remember!"
Memorial Day weekend Lally scored this third podium finish in as many races with a second-place finish in the Barber Dodge Pro Series at Lime Rock, Conn. He heads to Detroit for the next Barber Dodge race in two weeks tied for third in that championship with his sights set on Rookie of the Year honors for that series.