Klaus Graf's column: Fighting back and looking ahead

Klaus Graf's column: Fighting back and looking ahead

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Klaus Graf's column: Fighting back and looking ahead

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What a great weekend at Virginia International Raceway with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing winning an eighth race in a row this year. It’s certainly been an outstanding season for us picking up so many victories and winning our second consecutive ALMS Championship.

This being the final American Le Mans Series Championship before the merger it means a lot to us. Plus with the P1 cars going away from North American sports car racing for the foreseeable future, it gives it that much more meaning. It’s hard to believe there’s only one race left for these amazing P1 cars. Any driver that has had the chance to drive a P1 racecar will tell you how satisfying it is for a driver to get behind the wheel of one of them. Both Lucas Luhr and I, are certainly taking it all in before next year’s merger and enjoying every moment we get in our Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03c and we had a great time aboard it at VIR battling with Dyson Racing.

We knew they would be strong at this last race with Guy Smith getting back behind the wheel which is why we were not very surprised to see them get pole position on Friday.

It made for an exciting qualifying session for the fans. It wasn’t exactly what we wanted on our end but that’s all part of racing. We couldn’t quite get the performance out of the car during qualifying but I had complete confidence that we would have a good car come race day. And we did.

Starting the race in second place didn’t make much of difference, as I was able to get the lead with a pass on Johnny Mowlem at the exit of Turn 1 on the first lap. From that point on, I started building a gap and everything was going well until a GT car punted me off course. I was able to get back on track and had no damage to the car but I did end up losing the lead.

I was catching Mowlem when he entered pit lane, which gave me back the lead. We were then able to maintain our position after an excellent full service’ stop for fuel, Michelin tires and a driver change to Lucas. The crew did an awesome job on the stop, they’ve really come together in the last year, doing great, mistake-free stops.

However, a few laps later, Guy Smith was able to get by Lucas thanks to the straight-line speed of his Dyson P1 car. Lucas managed to stay within about half of a second of him the whole time. When a full course caution came out for a grass fire (!) with about one hour to go our engineering team made the call of the race to bring Lucas in for fuel and tires.

That call, by Brandon (Fry, chief engineer) is what made the difference between a second place finish and a win. It came really late too and Dyson had no chance of doing the same thing as us. Smith came in under the following yellow but found himself at the back of the field while Lucas was up front with a nice lead over him. At this point, we pretty much knew we had it.

Lucas maintained the lead between about 25 and 30 seconds until the end and gave us our eighth win this year. It certainly wasn’t an easy one at Virginia International Raceway but wins like this, when you have to fight for them, when you are put to the test, are definitely more satisfying than winning by three laps. VIR is a great track and I think it proved once again that it provides great racing, in all classes.

Since this is my final blog of the season, with Lucas doing the next one, I want to thank everyone for reading. It’s been a great year and I’m glad I was able to share some of it with you, our fans.

We don’t know yet what we’ll be doing next year but I know that Greg Pickett will give us something competitive and fun. I look forward to the future.

But first, one more to go, and it would be great if we can keep our winning streak alive and get Lucas to 50 career ALMS wins. He’ll already be crowned the driver with the most wins in the series but it would be nice for him to finish with a nice round number like 50 #50forLucas.

Thanks for reading,

-Klaus

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