Race Weekend Central

Andy Lally on Potential Final Cup Start & His TV Debut

Now 48 years old, Andy Lally is a longtime veteran of sports car racing and a five-time class winner in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

He has dabbled in stock car racing on and off since about 2007, starting in what is now the ARCA Menards Series.

Lally made his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the 2009 Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen for TRG Motorsports. Frontstretch was there that weekend, and we sat down with Lally to discuss it.

Now, the 2011 Cup Rookie of the Year’s career is beginning to wind down. With that in mind, Lally sat down with Frontstretch‘s Phil Allaway to discuss his time in NASCAR over the years and his recent TV work.

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Phil Allaway, Frontstretch: What do you think about the Next Gen car?

Andy Lally: I’m getting used to the Next Gen car. The feel is definitely quite a lot different from the Xfinity car and the [Gen 6] Cup car. It’s sort of like a really heavy GT3 car.

The car has a very similar characteristic with the rear tires. The front tires are still somewhere in between a GT tire and an old Cup/Xfinity tire. The rear end is similar.

I’m also getting better at getting my crew chief feedback. Sonoma was so low grip, and I was really re-acclimating to everything. I don’t think I really did a good job giving the crew the information they needed.

Allaway: [Watkins Glen International is] your fourth race weekend working with Rick Ware Racing. How do you like it here?

Lally: I love it. Rick Ware and I have been talking on and off for a decade about doing a program together. We’ve come so close so many times.

Recently, Robby Benton came onboard as the president of the company, and he is another buddy that I’ve nearly done things with on a number of occasions. When Rick and Robby started working together, those discussions started again.

Something almost happened for last year, but through the circumstances for 2023, I’m lucky to have a really cool seat in a Next Gen car and have one more shot at closing out my Cup career.

Allaway: So you’re saying that the [Bank of America ROVAL 400] at Charlotte is going to be it for you in the NASCAR Cup Series?

Lally: I basically assume so. I would never shut it out though. There’s a time where I’m sure I’m going to stand on the loud pedal and think, “Man, I didn’t do that soon enough.”

The next generation is coming and surpassing me, but right now, we’re doing OK. With the right opportunity, if these guys want me back, I for certain would [race for them]. I guess I’m looking at it with the potential that it could be my last race. If it’s going to be the last, then I’m just going to try to take it in, appreciate it and be ready for that possibility, if it is.

After all, I’m 48 [years old]. If there isn’t another opportunity that comes along, I can’t be mad about it. I’ve been given some really cool opportunities and had some really cool experiences in NASCAR.

I’d like to continue, and I think I will continue to do Xfinity races here and there. But who knows? If something at the top level comes along and it’s the right program, I’ll certainly do it, but I don’t expect or plan on it.

This opportunity is pretty amazing, and I’m going to live this one out as if it is my last one.

Allaway: In addition to driving, you got to do some broadcasting for FOX Sports starting at Circuit of the Americas in 2021. How did that opportunity come together for you?

Lally: It came together because Mark Smith at FOX [Sports] realized that no one in the Cup field had raced COTA.

Note: Mark Smith is the head producer for FOX Sports’ NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series broadcasts and has been in his role for several years.

When it comes to the Truck races, they normally reach out to a Cup driver to help commentate the Truck races and lend a little bit of color and technical information in regards to what the Truck drivers are feeling on the track.

So [Smith] just took a swing and asked, “Is this something of interest to you since you’re doing the Xfinity race there already? You’d be able to speak to the track in a stock car, and you have the most track time of anyone that’s showing up. Would you like to do this?”

I jumped at it and said absolutely. I looked at it and said, “This is going to be fun. This is going to be exciting. I’m going to hang out with Michael Waltrip and Vince Welch and [the rest of the guys].”

I looked at it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Then, the perfect storm hit, both figuratively and literally, and we had rain for a Truck race at COTA. Then, we had a drying track [as well].

[During] a commercial break when I had been quiet, both Vince and Michael were like, “Hey, if you see something, speak up. You’re not the third guy here. You’re one of three.”

They made me feel at home and that I was an integral part of the broadcast. That was amazing. [Waltrip] gave me great tips. Welch was amazing to watch with the way that he would come in and out of segments. He also gave me some really good tips.

They were both super friendly, and I loved it so much more than I thought I was going to. I left there thinking to myself, “Holy cow! Right now, if you said, ‘Andy, if you had to stop racing right now and sign a full-year contract to do this, would you do it?’”

I would have said “absolutely, yes” because I see that as a potential future and the first thing that I truly had a passion for. I didn’t know that I had a passion for [being an analyst] until that drying track when Todd Gilliland and Kaz Grala were going at it side-by-side. I just jumped in and just blabbed my mouth off the entire time for the whole run there.

When I got done [with the broadcast] and walked down to the Xfinity grid, I had qualified next to [Kevin] Harvick. Jamie Little gave me a punch in the arm and said I did a good job. I thought she was just being nice, but a bunch of other people came up and said good job as well.

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I was on the grid with Harvick, and he said, “Man, I just learned a lot. That was great, really cool.”

It was a blast. Really fun. And I’d love to do more.

Allaway: I’ve done an informal poll of my colleagues at Frontstretch and they seemed to like you in the booth as well.

Lally: Unfortunately, I’m not that big of a name. No matter how good of a job I did, at the end of the day, in the next five years, there’s going to be 10 big-name Cup drivers retiring. That’s an easy job for one of them to slot into.

The reason why I didn’t get to do any [races in the booth] this year is that there’s a driver retiring this year that’s going to do full-time broadcasting in 2024. [FOX Sports] gave him his choice of the Truck races to do, and unfortunately, he picked the road course races. I got bumped out of the booth for that.

Totally understandable, but I can see that happening again and again and again. I’ll fill in when I can, where I can, be it ARCA, the Xfinity Series or Trucks.

Note: Prior to the start of the season, Lally told Frontstretch that he had planned on being back in the booth for COTA at least. However, that was a week before FOX Sports announced Harvick’s hiring.

In Watkins Glen, Lally ultimately dealt with handling issues on his Camping World Ford. The team used their Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course setup as a basis, then took a swing from there that left Lally far too loose. The RWR team was able to adjust the Mustang during the race. Lally was able to drive the No. 15 Mustang to a 25th-place finish on the lead lap.

This weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, Lally will make his fifth and final Cup start of the year for RWR. He’ll also attempt to qualify for Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 250 for Peterson Racing Group, a new outfit that has not previously competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Frontstretch didn’t just talk about NASCAR with Lally back in August. We also talked about IMSA, how it’s grown in recent years, his time with Magnus Racing and more. We’ll have that in the second part of our interview next week.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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I love the change of pace that the Road Courses offer, the road course ringers have always been a big part of the drama.

Some of these are guys that have competed & been successful at up to & including the very top rung in motorsports.

The reason we haven’t seen the same level of success in NASCAR, is because they for the most part have been in cars that were not up to the level of their talent.

That’s why I’m looking forward to seeing Boris Said in a ride that should match his performance. I wish it had happened 20 years ago, but better late than never.

This will be a last hurrah, for all of us “Said Heads.”

Mr Yeppers

Nice interview Phil. I agree Lally did a great job in the booth and would love to hear him more often.

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