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LALLY: Sebring Debrief

Andy Lally’s post-Sebring Sportscar365 column reflects on John Potter…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

So our 12 Hours of Sebring was not exactly ideal. If you missed it, we essentially made contact with lapped traffic, which caused enough damage for the suspension to collapse half-a-lap later, which would result in two hours back in the garage to repair the car. We did go back on track, received points for minimum drive time, but in that process discovered a few more issues that eventually put us out.

It was tough for everyone because we had a really good shot at it. The crew has been putting in a ton of time on this, between all of the post-Daytona work, a test at Sebring a few weeks ago, and then all of the Sebring preparation, they’d earned a good day. Same goes for Marco Seefried who did his usual faultless job.

However, today I want to talk about John Potter, who I just feel terribly for. He was unfortunately the one driving when the contact was made and you could tell he was beating himself up over it.

We’ve all done it, it’s racing, and John so rarely makes mistakes.

As a driver, John Potter has come a long way since I first met him in 2008. He always had a certain amount of speed, but after several years of racing at the top levels, as well as working with a great coach like Craig Stanton, he’s one of the best “AM” drivers out there, and in many ways he shouldn’t even be labeled that.

The perfect case in point was this weekend. We led a lot of laps during the first half of Sebring… but guess who led most of them? John! The second stint of the race seemed to be when many of the silver-rated drivers took to the track, and who led the field? John. He did it remarkably well, leading the majority of his double-stint and proving to everyone just what kind of pace he can run.

In fact, the only reason he lost the lead during his first run is because of the other half of his ability: his intelligence. In or out of the car, John is one of the smartest guys I know. He’s always well aware of the big picture, and on Saturday the No. 33 Viper was getting very aggressive behind him, and he had the intelligence to say, “I’m OK not leading, this isn’t worth the risk,” and he let him by.

To put your ego aside, your desire to ‘have fun’ aside, and to simply preserve the car is a huge sign of patience, maturity, and intelligence.

In the car, John simply doesn’t make many mistakes. We’ve now gone to the final race of the season in the hunt for the championship for three years running, including winning the first-ever NAEC, and John’s ability to drive with patience and maturity is a big part of that. I’ve had several teammates over the years who get too aggressive, too early and either damage the car or burn it up, and ultimately it’s what keeps us from victory. With John, I never, EVER, worry about this, because he thinks very much about the big picture.

If you look at the man outside of the car, you can see it’s very much a reflection of who he is. Most Magnus fans know him as the quiet, funny guy who has managed to surround himself with a great crew and awesome PR group to create the brand that he has, but he’s also got a great business mind and it shows through every facet of his life.

Many people in his position choose to exercise a certain amount of flashiness with their lifestyle and business choices, but John is incredibly intelligent in his approach. If you look at where he invests and focuses his professional time, it’s in well-crafted, intelligent decisions: modest hotels with high return, storage properties with constant revenue streams, and so on. His role in owning Magnus Racing is his only true extravagance, and even at that he uses it wisely to coordinate with his other businesses, as well as managing it cost-effectively.

He’s also a great guy to work for. For better or worse, this sport has quite a few slippery characters and everyone has a story about a team owner that didn’t pay, a sponsor who didn’t honor their commitment, or someone who simply sold you an empty bag of goods. John is the complete opposite. When he commits to something, he commits, and he’s never broken a promise to anyone in this sport, which is hugely commendable. Beyond his integrity, he’s also funny, sincerely invested in everyone’s success – an all-around good guy.

I say all of this because it pains me to see a good guy beat himself up over something that we’ve all done. Sebring is behind us, and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of our best tracks, is a great place to rebound. We’ll be back, ready and stronger than ever, I’m definitely excited.

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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