Friday, April 16, 2010

Andy Lally

Andrew Lally was born February 11th of 1975, in Northport, New York. He grew up on Long Island driving everything he could. When asked about what he was like before he got into racing he said, “I’ve been into racing all my life. From a very young age I had an interest in racing anything with wheels that I could get my hands on. Even some things without wheels.”

Before he even had time to think, Andy was hooked into racing as he says here, “I’ve just always had the bug [for racing], before I knew what a race car was I was flying down hills on my big wheel pushing it back up the hill to do all over. I remember the day I saw my first go kart, I was 4 years old and it changed my life. My neighbor flew down the hill that I normally rode my big wheel down but instead of having to get off and push it back up the hill he just turned the wheel and drove back up!! At four years old this light bulb went off in my head as I had just witnessed the coolest toy in the world! That was it, I was sold.”

Andy first got into sports cars in 1993 running Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) regional events with his first sponsor Tyrolean Motors and car owner Walter Simondinger.

Lally began his career in karting, in which he won two World Karting Associations (WKA) National Gold Cup Championships, in 1994.

In 1997 Lally won the US F2000 Rookie of the Year in his first full year in a professional series.

Lally finished 2nd in Grand Am Championship Points in 1999 with two wins, and two poles. In one of those wins he became the first driver in the world to win a professional race in the BMW Z3. Andy became one of three drivers picked by an Indy car panel of judges to represent the best up and coming drivers in the USA to compete in a European "winter series", that honor was very memorable to Andy as he says “It is such a hugely sort after prize that being picked for it really is a career changer. The experience itself was also excellent and it lead to opening doors for me today and meeting many people that I still stay in touch with.”

In 2000 Andy raced 8 races in the Barber Dodge Pro Series, with success of 4 podium finishes. He also raced a partial schedule in the SPEED World Challenge in both the GT and Touring divisions. His Grand Am team won the Cup Team Championship, while he finished 2nd in points because of missing a race early, but while he supported his teammate to the Championship that car won the championship. That same year he won three races, and three poles.

Andy won the 24 Hours of Daytona in the SRP2 class for the first time in 2001; as he went on to win the Rolex Grand Am SRP2 Championship that same year.

Lally not only is interested in car racing, but also luge. As he finished second in the 2003 International Gravity Sports Association street luge championship.

2004 was the year of Andy’s 2nd Rolex Grand Am SGS Championship.

In 2005 Andy finished 2nd in the Rolex GT Championships’ points by only 1 point. He won a total of 2 Grand Am Cup races, and became the first driver to win in the new Chevrolet Cobalt.

The year before Andy made his NASCAR debut, in 2006, he won his 3rd, and final to date, Rolex Grand Am GT Championship driving the Pontiac GTO.R. With that win he became the first driver to ever win three championships.

In 2007, Lally made his NASCAR debut in the Busch (Nationwide) Series in the #47 Wood Brothers/ JTG Racing Ford and in his second start he had a strong top ten finish. He also made his Craftsman (Camping World) Truck Series debut with two other starts with TRG Motorsports, driving the #00 Toyota Tundra. Andy also made his ARCA debut, plus two more races; out of the three races he had two top 10’s and a twelfth place finish.

In 2008 Lally had the great honor of racing in the Inaugural ARCA New Jersey 150 at New Jersey Motorsports Park in September. Lally was fastest in every practice session, and he started on the pole. Andy led the most laps, but lost the race on pit strategy when the race was called due to weather with eventual series champion Justin Allgaier winning the race with Lally finishing 4th.

Lally finished 2nd overall and 2nd in the Prototype class at the 2008 12 Hours of Sebring in the Rolex Sports Car Division. Andy also became the first driver in Grand Am history to win two continuous races with two different manufactures, as he did at Iowa Speedway in a Porsche and Three Rivers in a BMW. After his Sports Car run that year, Lally again raced 9 times in the Craftsman (Camping World) Truck Series.

In January of 2009 Andy won the 24 Hours of Daytona in the GT class, which was his sixth season in a row in which he had won at least one race, which is a Rolex Series record. Andy also won the Watkins Glen Koni Challenge Grand Am Rolex Series race. Total that year Lally had 7 top 5’s and 11 top 10’s in the Grand Am Rolex Series Race. Andy also raced in a 4 man, 24 hour Mountain Bike race, and two solo Mountain Bike 6 hour races in a sport that he highly respects.

Andy’s first Sprint Cup Series Start was in 2009, when he started 15th driving the #71 Chevrolet for TRG Motorsports at the Watkins Glen International Raceway. When asked what his best moment in his career was he spoke like a man who is determined to make it in NASCAR, “It is close but the very best [moment of my career] was probably qualifying for my first ever Sprint Cup race last year. I know this might sound silly compared to winning the 24 Hours of Daytona twice and standing on the podium at Le Mans but that day in qualifying at my home track in Watkins Glen with all the pressure of being a go-or-go homer in the Sprint Cup Series we were able to put the car 15th and ahead of so many of my racing heroes that it was just an amazing feeling.” He said “I had out qualified Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin that day as well as many other solid drivers. After dreaming of getting a chance to make that opportunity a reality it was an amazing feeling and rush to cross the start finish line knowing I had just run a good lap and hearing my crew chief and team owner tell me where that we made it into the field and that we were in great shape!” Lally finished a respectable 27th in his first Cup start after being involved in a crash with Sam Hornish Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton. As well as running the Cup race, Lally ran a part-time schedule in the #7 Chevrolet for TRG Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series, and after the NASCAR season was over, he ran full time in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series.

In November of 2009 Andy competed in the World Championship of Luge events in Australia. He competed in 2 races, qualifying in the pole position for both, while winning one and finishing second in the other. It’s in a racers blood to not like finishing second but according to Andy the whole racing event was a “great feeling”.

In the 2010 24 Hours of Daytona Andy finished 3rd in the GT class which gave him the most podium finishes of any driver at the famed 24 hour race since the Grand Am Rolex series started in 2000 with 6. Lally is running the full 2010 Grand Am Rolex Series schedule in the #66 AXA Financial Porsche with teammate Ted Ballou. He will also be competing full time in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge for Kia. Kia is making its official debut as a participating manufacture for the first time in professional auto racing in North America with the Forte Koup model.

Andy holds series records for most all time top 3 and top 5 finishes and is tied for second on the all time class win list with 20 victories. Lally still is the only driver on the tour to have won in all the Rolex Series racetracks.

Andy played, “Almost every sport imaginable”, as he says, before he got into full time go-cart racing, but now he has got back to his roots and he loves to play football, baseball, and soccer as a pastime whenever he gets a chance. He also enjoys doing Mixed Martial Arts, Luge, and Rock Climbing with his friends.

For the future Andy hopes to find enough sponsorship dollars to run all the NASCAR and ARCA road course races, while still running Grand Am full-time. Maybe in the near future there is a full-time career in NASCAR for Andy Lally, but as of now he will continue his very successful Grand Am racing career.

*I want to personally thank Andy Lally for doing an interview with Nascar Driver of the Day.