Motorsports Twitter was abuzz Saturday afternoon as Andy Lally, a well-known and well-regarded IMSA driver to sports car fans, stole the show in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The results only tell half the tale in one of the better underdog stories of the NASCAR season.
Right there among NASCAR XFINITY Series stalwarts Team Penske, Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing in the top-five was the No. 07 Branson Supply/MotorCrush Chevrolet owned by Bobby Dotter, a lower-budget team finishing fifth with Lally at the wheel.
That part is well-documented.
The other half of the story is the social media fan club that erupted as Lally charged his way from the rear of the field multiple times throughout the 75-lap race.
Sports car fans, competitors and industry personnel were suddenly joined by NASCAR drivers like Alex Bowman and veteran NASCAR TV personalities like Kenny Wallace in cheering on the IMSA veteran who has scored 34 career North American sports car victories.
Even NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin got in on the action.
“When someone showed me Mark Martin’s tweet it literally stopped me in my tracks,” Lally said. “When you hear something like that from somebody that you literally grew up watching and cheering for is indescribable.
“To have somebody you look up to take a moment to recognize an effort that you do, when in some ways over the years you’ve tried to emulate him, is incredible.
“To have my friends on the sports car side, and even some competitors that I’ve gone door-to-door with and raced really hard, all get behind one guy for the weekend was really cool.
“To represent IMSA and be successful and represent road course racers everywhere and give a good showing for them was extremely satisfying and motivating.”
The fifth-place finish was Lally’s career best in 60 NASCAR national series starts. His previous best finish also came in the NASCAR XFINITY Series where he finished seventh at Mid-Ohio one year ago, and Road America in 2014. It was also a breakout performance for the SS Green Light Racing team.
“(Car owner) Bobby Dotter has been around a long time and my crew chief, Jason Miller, I’ve known for over a decade,” Lally said. “Having a chance to play the role of David in this David vs. Goliath story with that team was something I was looking forward to doing and something they were looking forward to as well.
“Seeing the acknowledgment they got for being able to put a good car together and go head-to-head with the super teams in the sport is really cool. The goal is always to win, but realistically we were incredibly thrilled with a top-five finish.”
Lally now sets his sights back on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Michelin GT Challenge at Virginia International Raceway, where he will drive the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 alongside co-driver Katherine Legge.
The duo enters the weekend fourth in the GT Daytona class standings with two wins and three podium finishes.
“Now that the NASCAR weekend is over my mind switches right back to IMSA and what we can do to get the Acura NSX back in victory lane,” he said.
“We tested at VIR a couple of months ago and the car felt good, so I’m quite optimistic. It’s important we rebound from a poor finish at Road America and get back into the swing of the great summer we’ve had and get the Acura NSX back on the podium.”