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Notebook: Lally eyes standings, Johnson speed at WGI

August 11, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

This weekend is big for Andy Lally.

Not only is the Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen -- the place where Lally made his second career NASCAR start in 2007 -- but he has a chance to cement his TRG Motorsports team's position in the critical top 35 of the Cup Series owners' standings.

Watkins Glen


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The accomplishment would be huge for an organization that's still trying to establish itself, and for the driver fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Lally -- competing in his first full NASCAR season and leading the Cup Series' Rookie of the Year standings -- has done an admirable job of getting the No. 71 Ford back into the top 35. Trust me, that's no mean feat.

With his brethren in the Grand-American Rolex Series racing as well this weekend, Lally has a chance to solidify the position he currently holds, 16 points clear of the 36th-place Robby Gordon Motorsports No. 7 Dodge.

How ironic is it that in previous years, Gordon had been a contender to win at WGI? Not so much this year, as the owner/driver works to establish his Speed Energy Drink brand while running an on-again, off-again Cup race schedule; some weekends the car races and some weekends it starts-and-parks.

Lally is in a good spot and should be able to hold his own at The Glen, considering Front Row Motorsports' No. 38 Ford is 25 points behind him and sitting 37th in the owners' points.

Lally: Driver Page | Video Highlights | Statistics

Ranger's Cup debut

After being tabbed to drive by owner/crew chief Frank Stoddard, two-time Canadian Tire Series champion Andrew Ranger is gearing up for his Cup Series debut this weekend at Watkins Glen.

Ranger, 24, learned about stock cars while traveling with his father, Robert Ranger -- a dirt Modified stock car standout.

A win is doubtful, but Stoddard has done some wonderful things in the past and has managed to keep his tiny team in the top 35 of the owners' standings all season.

Johnson ignores history, focuses on win

In all the hype about Jimmie Johnson getting back with JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series this weekend, the most obvious aspect of him driving the No. 7 Chevrolet at The Glen has been ignored.

The first time Johnson raced in the Series at WGI, he was involved in a crash that has since become a cult video clip. After his No. 92 Chevrolet lost its brakes at the end of the front stretch during the 2000 Lysol 200, it skipped through the gravel trap and smashed into the Styrofoam blocks outside of Turn 1.

Never mind that Johnson came back with Herzog Motorsports the next year to finish 21st, or that he had a less memorable outing with JR Motorsports in a Nationwide car in 2008 -- qualifying third but finishing 29th.

Johnson standing atop his used-up car's roof with his arms raised and saluting the fans is an indelible memory, but Johnson will be focused on another part of the course this weekend -- the place when he can gain the most speed.

"The Glen, for me, it is the carousel, the long right-hander after the back straightaway," Johnson said, describing the turn following the bus-stop chicane. "Depending up what driver you speak to, there are a couple of different numbers that they put to it, but that corner there seems to be the area where I've given up the most speed over the years.

"I've got to get that corner right because it leads on to a pretty important straightaway and sets you up for a passing opportunity once you work your way around to T1. If you can gain on that big right-hander, the carousel, and then get through [Turns] 10 and 11, you are on someone's bumper for Turn 1."

That's if you have good brakes.

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Fellows and Eury Jr.

In the course of working together at JR Motorsports, I can't help but wonder if Ron Fellows and Tony Eury Jr. have ever discussed Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s come-from-behind victory over Fellows in the 1999 then-Busch Series race at The Glen. Earnhardt's win prevented Fellows from scoring a sweep of the Truck and Busch series races that weekend.

Fellows apparently was running low on fuel and on the last lap, Earnhardt out-braked Fellows going into Turn 1, deflected Fellows' rub in Turn 2 near the base of the esses and recorded his 10th career win on his way to a second consecutive championship in the series.

It was an unforgettable moment and I still shake my head when Junior says he doesn't particularly like road racing.

Nationwide Spotlight: Fellows tops the list of road ringers at The Glen

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.