In one of the most bizarre races in American Le Mans Series history, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing claimed top honors and clinched the P1 championship following a chaotic and crash-filled Grand Prix of Baltimore.
Lucas Luhr held off Guy Smith to give he and co-driver Klaus Graf their sixth victory in seven races in the No. 6 HPD ARX-03a. It came following a late duel with the No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola B12/60 Mazda, which was at the center of a controversial start that resulted in a six-car pileup and a lengthy red flag for cleanup.
Contact between the No. 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b of Anthony Lazzaro and the P2 pole-sitting Level 5 Motorsports entry of Scott Tucker triggered the massive accident, which wiped out nearly half of the GT field and blocked the 2-mile street circuit.
While Lazzaro was later handed a stop-and-hold plus 60-second penalty for avoidable contact, second place starter Chris Dyson, who moved ahead of the overall pole-sitting Muscle Milk HPD of Graf before the start/finish line, was given a stop-and-go penalty for jumping the start.
It appeared Dyson’s rapid acceleration and Graf’s attempt to keep the field under control until the start/finish line caused the pileup, which eliminated P2 championship leader Tucker as well as four GT class cars. All drivers escaped injuries.
The race was restarted based on qualifying positions, minus the destroyed cars, as a 69-minute race instead of the scheduled 2-hour distance due to a track curfew.
Luhr briefly lost the overall lead on the final restart with 19 minutes to go, when Ed Brown clobbered the tire barriers at the frontstretch chicane.
It caused the entire field to check up behind him, including the then GT class-leading No. 56 BMW Team RLL entry of Dirk Mueller, who was passed by both Corvettes of Jan Magnussen and Tommy Milner, which went onto score a 1-2 finish in class.
Magnussen and co-driver Antonio Garcia took the win, despite the Dane making contact with Luhr’s Muscle Milk P1 car during that restart.
“There was fluid on the circuit and I suddenly had no grip,” Luhr said of the incident. “Obviously the two Corvettes behind me didn’t have the problem, so I let them through and wanted to go back behind them.
“Then I slipped wide again and Guy Smith went through. I have to say I was a little careful but when he went through I said, ‘Oh boy, that isn’t going to happen.’ I’m glad I could regain the lead.”
Luhr went onto take a 3.867-second victory over the No. 16 Lola-Mazda of Dyson and Smith.
The No. 56 BMW Z4 GTE of Mueller and Joey Hand completed the GT podium in third, although Hand did not score driver points since he completed less than the adjusted 6-minute minimum drive time in the race.
While its lead No. 551 entry was eliminated in the start-line accident, Level 5’s No. 552 entry of Marino Franchitti and new recruit Guy Cosmo claimed top honors in P2, finishing third overall.
Cosmo starred in his Level 5 debut, leading overall for parts of his stint. Cosmo’s former team, Extreme Speed Motorsports, salvaged a second place finish for its No. 01 car of Lazzaro and Scott Sharp.
Franchitti, meanwhile, takes over the points lead following Tucker’s DNF.
The fight for top honors in PC was just as crazy, with Tristan Nunez and Charlie Shears taking an unlikely class victory in their Performance Tech Oreca FLM09.
CORE autosport appeared to be en route to a dominant win, but a stop with three minutes to go for a driver change derailed Colin Braun and Jon Bennett’s chances.
Braun was relieved by Bennett in the surprise stop due to the Silver-rated driver not having achieved the adjusted minimum drive time of 24 minutes required.
It then handed the lead to the pole-sitting No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Dane Cameron, who suffered suspension failure moments later.
Braun and Bennett recovered to finish second in class, behind the winning Performance Tech machine.
GTC honors went to the No. 44 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Dion von Moltke and Seth Neiman, who celebrated his first career professional victory.
Von Moltke held off a hard-charging Jeroen Bleekemolen for the win, with the No. 11 JDX Racing entry of Jan Heylen provisionally placed third following a wild and contact-heavy fight for the final podium position with the NGT Motorsports Porsche of Sean Edwards.ALMS, Grand Prix of Baltimore, Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, Sports Cars