Elkhart Lake, WI - Muscle Milk Pickett Racing was once again involved in the American Le Mans Series' closest finish at Road America on Saturday, but this time around the team wasn't on the better end and crossed the finish line 0.083 seconds behind the leader, after another amazing comeback that saw the team make up a four lap deficit.
All was going to plan for the Muscle Milk squad at the start of the race. Klaus Graf, who was starting aboard the #6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03a, had built a lead of over a minute on the closest car.
However, with about 40 minutes gone by in the four-hour event, the team encountered a water leak that forced the German to pit lane.
The crew proceeded to repair the problem but had fallen four laps to the leader by the time they headed back on track. The situation wasn't unfamiliar for Pickett Racing, as the team had faced a similar set back at Lime Rock Park in July when they had come from four laps behind to take victory.
Road America Podium As they did earlier this season, the team put their heads down and never gave up. Graf pushed his car to the limit and made up two laps on the competition before heading to pit lane for fuel, Michelin tires and a driver change to Lucas Luhr with one hour and 49 minutes to go in the race.
Luhr, just like his fellow German, was on a mission once he returned to the track. He made up a lap on track and then the Muscle Milk crew did an outstanding pit stop for fuel and tires with 47 minutes to go that sent Luhr out ahead of the 16 car Dyson - who had stopped for fuel only - putting him back on the tail end of the lead lap.
The Greg Pickett-led team then received some assistance in the form of a full course caution that came out with about 30 minutes to go. The caution period allowed Luhr to close the gap to 13.7 seconds on the first place Dyson car.
The closing stages of the race led to a nail-biting finish that saw Luhr give it his all in order to get by Smith. Luhr kept on getting closer and closer with every lap and even took the lead in the final corner, but the straight line speed of the Dyson car gave them an advantage as they headed up the final hill and Smith took the checkered flag 0.083 seconds ahead of Luhr.
The finish was the closest in American Le Mans Series history, replacing last year's finish in which the Muscle Milk team had taken victory 0.112 seconds ahead of Dyson Racing. While Pickett Racing finished second this season, the feat they accomplished by making up four laps at the longest track on the schedule is a small victory in itself.
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing will be back in action in two weeks time for the Baltimore Sports Car Challenge presented by SRT.
Muscle Milk Quotes:
Lucas Luhr "Once again our HPD ARX-03a was super, super quick and Klaus did a brilliant job at the beginning. But it's just a little frustrating for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing because we are all working so hard and to have a small piece fail like that and cost us a possible victory is disappointing.
"That said, coming back from four laps down here at Road America is just unreal, we did it at Lime Rock but this track is the longest on the schedule, it's unbelievable!
The perfect story would have been to win the race but I have to congratulate Dyson Racing. Guy Smith drove very well at the end and defended his position well. I tried to make a move in Canada Corner but that didn't work out and then I made a move in the last corner but I was so late on the brakes I couldn't get the car to rotate.
However, considering that we came back from four laps down, it's a very good result and thank you to the Muscle Milk crew for getting us back out there. That was very important. We've had a good season so far with five wins in a row and now a second place. We couldn't really ask for more."
Klaus Graf "In the beginning I thought everything was under control. I pulled away and built a pretty big gap but then we had our problem and we lost four laps. After that I had to change my driving mode because I had to push like crazy. I still had to be a little bit careful because it was important to make 70% of the race and score points.
I was able to make up two laps and then Lucas pushed as hard as he could and drove a hell of a race. Unfortunately, this time, we didn't come out on top but he was leading about 500 yards from the end!
It's amazing, unreal. The guys did great pit stops, each of them were unbelievable. I think it was a great day for the ALMS, the fans and the team. All in all it was a bit sad but we're smiling as well (About watching the end of the race).
We had a couple of these races where I had to push like crazy, last year was the perfect example, where Lucas was watching me, so I'm not use to this! I'm not sure I can take this all the time. We need to stop doing this! Now I know where my gray hair comes from. It was fun watching, very exciting and like Greg (Pickett) said, if you don't like this you must be dead."
Source: Muscle Milk Pickett Racing