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LALLY: Indianapolis Debrief

Andy Lally files his latest Sportscar365 column following Indy…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

Indianapolis will always be a special place to me, and it’s awesome that IMSA has continued on with the tradition from our first race here in 2012.

Like any young driver in go-karts, I always dreamed of one day driving there, and though NASCAR was always my ultimate career goal, what kid wouldn’t want to drive in the Indy 500.

In 2011, I was fortunate to drive in the Brickyard 400, but where this place became something extraordinary was when I came here with Magnus for the first-ever professional sportscar race in 2012.

I wanted that one bad and we played the weather and tire strategy perfectly, getting me in front for a shootout in the final 10 minutes, where I was able to hold off some big names to kiss the bricks with my teammate John and the whole Magnus crew.

Winning Indy was one of the highlights of my career and very surreal when it happened. I kept saying to myself “we WON Indy,” and I can carry that with me for the rest of my life.

Last year didn’t work quite as well, but it was still a good race finishing on the podium and playing a great strategy.

Unfortunately, this year we knew we’d have an uphill battle and that was certainly the case.

When you come through the tunnel there’s always a special sense of awe once you’re inside of the track. If you’ve never been here, it’s unlike anything else from the outside.

The city literally grew right around it with several houses directly across the street on Georgetown Rd. and several businesses across on 16th Street. So when you first arrive, it’s not like a lot of the other tracks where you’re greeted by a massive parking lot, you literally drive into the area and the track sort of hits you in the face.

Being over 100 years old it’s also got a very historic feel when you first arrive. When you cross through the tunnel, however, it’s unlike anything else. The track is simply massive and you instantly realize how much you have to respect the place.

Unfortunately, this just wasn’t our week.

In practice we were OK. We were never really the fastest car, but we’ve been focusing our setup on making sure the Continentals last over the course of a whole stint, and in that we seemed OK.

They’ve changed the track a lot since last year and that worked against the Porsches. The last two years the car exited onto the “short chute” between Indy Turns One and Two, and you then accelerated through Indy Turn One, down the front straight, and hard braking into the first corner for the road course. You gained so much speed there that the Porsches were always strong, as in high speeds our cars have very good aerodynamics.

Unfortunately, they changed the configuration this year for IndyCar, which meant we never drove on the actual banked corners of the oval, so we came on the front stretch a lot slower. That took away one of our advantages and it placed a premium on managing our tires and handling.

When the race came we weren’t sure what we’d have, but with the weather looking sketchy we quietly thought we had a shot. John was really strong in the opening. He had a little contact with one of the BMW’s in GTLM, but he never lost focus and the car was unhurt and he just kept on pushing.

When I got in I knew the car wouldn’t be instantly fast, but if we had a lot of green I might be able to catch people as the tires wore on. Within just a couple laps though a series of warning lights inside the car came on, and the engine started to go sour.

At that point, I had to switch my focus from trying to win to trying to finish, and did my best to hold onto positions without risking the car. Eventually we started to lose a cylinder, and at that point I just wanted to finish as well as I could and a handful of cars got past me in the process.

We were still able to stay on the lead lap and come home in 12th, which in the bigger picture meant we held onto good points, and we’re still fourth in the championship. Anyone in the top four right now has a real shot at this championship, and on one hand we can’t keep giving up spots like this, but on the other hand we’ve proven we can win and score podiums and we just have to keep our focus on that.

On to Wisconsin.

Andy Lally (@AndyLally) is a three-time GRAND-AM champion and former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year, currently driving for Magnus Racing in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

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