NASCAR drivers running in the Grand-Am Rolex 24 at Daytona is nothing new, but TRG Motorports and Andy Lally are going the other way. The team, which is fresh off its record-setting fourth GT class victory in the Rolex 24 has entered Lally in the Daytona 500. And, thanks to a 35th-place finish in the 2010 owner's standings, Lally will have a guaranteed spot in the 53rd-annual "Great American Race." Lally will drive the team's No. 71 Chevrolet fitted with an Earnhardt Childress Racing engine.
"I've watched the Daytona 500 every year since Bobby and Davey Allison had their historic 1-2 finish there in 1988,” said Lally. “To have the opportunity to race the 500 is simply amazing. This is a dream come true, it hasn't even settled in yet to be honest. Every driver in the world wants to race in the Daytona 500, and to finally have the opportunity to try is incredible."
Lally will make his first Sprint Cup Series start when he takes the green flag on Sunday, Feb. 20. The Northport, N.Y. native is no stranger to the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, though, having competed in the 2008 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season opener, where he finished 11th. However, Lally is better known for his three wins on the 3.56-mile Daytona road course.
"This year's Rolex 24 at Daytona was another excellent run for TRG Motorsports,” he said. “We had a solid performance from the first practice session all the way to the checkered flag. For me, personally, it was my third win in at the 24. It certainly is the most prestigious and exciting endurance event in the world and it really is an honor to be able to compete in it.
"I've only raced on the oval at Daytona once, back in 2008 in the Truck Series for TRG. It was a total blast, and I can't wait to get back out there and draft in a pack with the greatest stock car drivers in the world. I'll certainly have my eyes wide open to stay out of trouble, and get the best result we can.”
Team owner Kevin Buckler, himself a two-time winning owner/driver and two-time winning owner of the Rolex 24, is looking forward to heading back to Daytona.
“Everyone at TRG Motorsports is certainly looking forward to getting back to Daytona,” said Buckler. “We had a fantastic showing in the Rolex 24, which of course was capped off by a GT class win for the No. 67 team. But, we're looking forward now to the Daytona 500 and putting all of our focus on having a strong showing in that race. It's a very different scenario, going from a five-car team to a single entry.
“Andy Lally is one of the best drivers I have ever worked with in my career. He's got the “speed gene” for sure. It will be very important to get acclimated and find drafting partners that will work with him right off the bat. Fortunately, knowing that we're locked into the starting field, we can use our Duel race on Thursday as race practice instead of worrying about getting ourselves into the show. The last time the Sprint Cup cars raced at Daytona, our No. 71 TRG Chevrolet finished ninth, which was our best finish to date. We know we've got the equipment capable of backing that finish up, provided we stay out of everyone else's trouble and race a clean, smart race.
TRG Motorsports has committed to fielding the No. 71 Chevrolet for the entire 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, while continuing to seek sponsorship opportunities.
“We had several nice opportunities over the off-season to partner with big teams for the 500, but we chose not to,” said Buckler. “We started our NASCAR effort with a little bit of money and a lot of heart. We've gone from a start-and-park team to a single-car team that is locked into the top 35. We've been able to do more with less on our NASCAR program, and I believe that our operating method will become the new paradigm of efficiency. We've made it to where we are by standing on our own two feet, and that's something that myself and all of the partners at TRG Motorsports are extremely proud of.”