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Vegan Lally has appetite for auto racing

SPARTA, Ky. – Andy Lally wants a hamburger. Badly. The bloodier the better.

Yet the former sportscar champion turned NASCAR driver won’t have one. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.

He’ll deal with the craving, internalize it and put it aside just like he’s done every day for the last seven years, since he decided every living thing was entitled to the same rights he enjoys.

Two years ago Lally took it a step further, moving from vegetarian to vegan, which means he’s cut out dairy products, too. Though the 36-year-old from New York’s Long Island considers it an ethical choice, he understands it’s not for everybody, particularly the largely meat-and-potatoes crowd that crams the grandstand every weekend at a Cup race.

“If (people) were able to see the mistreatment and what goes on and see what shows up to them in a nice shiny package,” Lally begins then cuts himself off, saying, I don’t want to go there.”

Halfway through his first full-time Sprint Cup season driving the No. 71 TRG Motorsports Ford, Lally is trying to find pleasure in the grind. He heads to this week’s race at New Hampshire 33rd in points, but with something almost resembling momentum.

Lally qualified seventh in Daytona two weeks ago only to fade to 27th after having trouble finding a running partner in the race.

Still, it can be a nerve-wracking experience. He calls failing to qualify at Darlington and Charlotte earlier this year “one of the toughest things I’ve ever gone through as a professional.”

Yet there’s no place he’d rather be. Though he grew up in the Northeast far from the sport’s southern roots, he’s been fixated on NASCAR for years.