Epic Finishes Highlight The American Le Mans Road Race Showcase At Road America Company press release.
Guy Smith and Dyson Racing were on the other end this time around at Road America. A year after missing out by 0.112 seconds to Muscle Milk Racing in the P1 class, Smith delivered victory for Dyson Racing on Saturday in the closest overall finish in the history of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón - 0.083 seconds.
Despite starting next-to-last on the grid, Smith and Chris Dyson won the four-hour Road America Road Race Showcase in an epic finish. Muscle Milk Pickett Racing's Lucas Luhr appeared to have the race won by passing Smith in the final corner, but Smith and the No. 16 Lola-Mazda won a drag race up the hill and to the checkered flag.
'It was too close for comfort,' Smith said. 'Last year was really close, I never expected something to beat that.'
Dyson took the start of the race from the 34th position after missing qualifying due to a faulty gearbox on lap 22 when then-leader Muscle Milk Pickett Racing brought its Honda Performance Development ARX 03a-led into pit lane with a broken hose clamp.
'We knew Muscle Milk had the advantage on pace all weekend,' Dyson said. 'The main thing was to get to the front and not make any contact. We tried to play the yellows right and just be in contention. I was able to have a really good first stint. The tires were fantastic. We needed to get to the front and I just never looked back.'
Klaus Graf lost four laps in the pits, but he and teammate Luhr fought hard to get back on the lead lap with about 45 minutes remaining. A late full-course caution took nearly a minute out of Smith's lead with less than 30 minutes to go. The two cars ran nose-to-tail for the last three laps, and memories of 2011 surely came flooding back for both teams.
Luhr pressured Smith relentlessly over the last two laps and finally got around the Lola on the inside of the final corner. Smith had too much power on the long climb up the final hill and got back by Luhr just before the finish line.
'I knew they were going to be close on the final restart,' Smith said. '(The Dyson team) kept telling me, 'Push Guy, push. I told them I was pushing and they said to push a little more.
'Going into the final corner, Lucas was all over me,' he recounted. 'I thought I had it covered, and to be honest he made a really good move. But I knew the way he got around me I could get back to him if I could slingshot around him. We opted over the weekend for the low downforce strategy. So we thought if we had to drag them in the straight line we could keep them behind us. In this case, the strategy worked for us.'
The victory ended Muscle Milk's five-race win streak, but Graf and Luhr retained the lead in the class driver championship. Eric Lux, Michael Marsal and Tony Burgess placed third in the No. 20 Dyson Lola-Mazda after running second for most of the day.
The overall finish was one of a handful of magic moments on the day. CORE autosport clinched its second straight Prototype Challenge championship with a 1-2 finish led by Alex Popow and Tom Kimber-Smith.
BMW Team RLL's Bill Auberlen and Jörg Müller won in GT in another hard-fought battle. Conquest Endurance's Martin Plowman and David Heinemeier-Hansson won their second P2 race of the year and led overall twice.
Cooper MacNeil and Jeroen Bleekemolen won in GT Challenge for Alex Job Racing. Their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup won by 2.459 seconds in a back-and-forth affair.
ESPN2's telecast of the Road America Road Race Showcase begins at 2 p.m. ET on Aug. 19.
Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Action - Though he's only a rookie, teenager Tristan Nunez embraced Road America like a veteran, sweeping a pair of races in the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship.
Nunez, 16, jubilantly pumped his fist after crossing the finish line with a 3.475-second margin of victory over teammate Dan Goldburg on Saturday at the 14-turn, 4-mile road course. One day earlier, Nunez broke a fast time record with a blistering 2:05.234 time for one lap in his Élan DP02.
Nunez, who drives the Performance Tech team, has dominated the L1 class in his first full-time season. He's posted eight race victories through 10 races, but on Saturday, directed attention to Goldburg, who is running a part-time slate for Performance Tech.
'This race was really tough,' Nunez said. 'There was not one point during the race where I wasn't pushing as hard as I could. (Goldburg) ran a great race and he got me looking in my mirrors.'
Meanwhile, Scott Tucker was the class of the field and broke records of his own in the L2 class. Tucker won a pair of L2 races at Road America, and also broke a qualifying record with a 2:11.801 lap. Tucker drives a West WR1000 for Level 5 Motorsports, a team based in Madison, Wis.
IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge Action - It took little time for Sean Johnston to become acclimated to Road America, as the rookie claimed victory in his first-ever two races from pole positions in the platinum class on Friday and Saturday at the historic track in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge.
Johnston held off Madison Snow with a 1.628-margin of victory in the 17-lap event on Saturday. Snow also posted a runner-up finish in the first race on Friday.
The second race Saturday got off to a thrilling start as the top three qualifiers - Johnson, Madison Snow and Fernando Pena - battled three wide heading into the first turn.
Johnston said he breathed a sigh of relief out of the turn and that his Wright Motorsports team was running on all cylinders the entire race weekend.
'It was a very exciting first lap, three wide was a little nutty, but we all came out OK on the other side, Johnston said.
'This is the kind of weekend you really want to have, where we just came out and we are quickest in every session. That's our goal (is quickness), when we show up to the racetrack, and have it happen here at Road America is just great.'
Johnston, who worked as a junior engineer at Wright Motorsports before running a full-time race schedule, has won four races and earned four poles so far in 2012.
Scott Tucker said his ability to put a distance between himself and runner-up Angel Benitez Jr., in Saturday's second race in the Gold class made a difference in earning the race win.
'Getting a gap here is really tough,' said Tucker, who finished runner-up to Benitez in the first race on Friday. 'I was able to make a couple moves at the start and able to get out in front and hold the position. We set up the car for a late charge, which we thought would be the case, and things just went our way.'
USF2000 Action - Rookie Scott Anderson won the third race of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda trifecta at Road America on Saturday.
The victory was the second of the season for Anderson, who won the pole for the first race. Anderson, the 2011 Skip Barber National champion, also claimed podium finishes of third and second, respectively, on Friday.
Teammates Spencer Pigot and Matthew Brabham rounded out the top-three finishers in the series' finale Saturday morning, with Brabham clinching back-to-back wins one day earlier on the 14-turn, 4-mile road course.
Timing was everything when Anderson assumed the lead from Pigot on turn 1 of the third lap of the 12-lap race. 'My pass on Spencer came at the right moment and was able to pull away as the guys behind me started battling,' said Anderson, who had a 5.146-margin of victory ahead of Brabham.
Brabham and Pigot have flexed their muscles earlier this season in USF2000 for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. Pigot, the 2011 USF2000 runner-up, has claimed five race wins, while Brabham has logged three victories and tops the points standings ahead of Pigot. Brabham is the grandson of Sir Jack Brabham, a three-time Formula One champion.
Meanwhile, Anderson has been been pleased with how his Belardi Auto Racing team is clicking at this season winds down. 'Everybody is kind of used to everything and we didn't really know where we'd be in the championship or who we'd be competing with,' Anderson said. 'Now we're at the top of the standings, we know what to do coming into each weekend.'
The triple-header for USF2000 at Road America was the first in event history for the series.