Klaus Graf shares the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03a with Lucas Luhr in the American Le Mans Series.
As they say, all good things must come to an end. Unfortunately, that was the case with our win streak that was stopped at five victories in a row following our second place finish at Road America, but was it ever close!
For the second year in a row we were involved in the closest overall finish in the American Le Mans Series history, at the same track no less. Sadly, this year we were not on the better end, but what a show and a fight Lucas (Luhr) put on with Guy Smith.
I now know where my gray hair is coming from! I'm not use to watching close racing action like that. Now I know how Lucas felt last year when I was the one in the car fighting for the win. I'll be honest, it's much easier being in the car than watching!
Had it not been for the straight-line speed advantage of the Dyson car, Lucas would've had it, he did everything he could and was even leading with about 400 yards to go, what a great effort.
Unfortunately, what the record books won't show is that we came back from four laps down to finish only 0.083 seconds behind. There needs to be an asterisk next to that statistic in my opinion.
Once again, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing showed what we are made of. We came back from four laps down at Lime Rock Park to win the race but while we didn't win this one at Road America, I think the feat that we accomplished is, in a way, bigger than the Lime Rock one.
The reason is simple, it's one thing to make up four laps at a one-mile track, it's another at a four-mile track. We had to make up 16 miles! That's a lot of track. Yes we got lucky with some caution periods but it wasn't an easy fight back and it wouldn't have been possible without the great work of the crew and our never give up attitude.
All had been going according to plan all weekend but like at any other race weekend you have to be prepared for whatever can happen, because it's racing, you never know what can go wrong.
Qualifying was a little bit of a non-story in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately the No. 16 Dyson car didn't make it out for qualifying but we still went out and tried to do the perfect lap. We always want to compete at the best level and at our own standards so we don't really look too much at the competition.
While my fastest qualifying lap wasn't perfect, it was enough to secure our third consecutive pole position this season. I could have done more laps but there was really no point in doing that and taking any unnecessary risks.
After starting from pole, I was able to build a pretty big gap on the #20 Dyson car and I think I was leading by over a minute when we had a water leak that forced me into pit lane. Our engineer Brandon (Fry) called me into the pits immediately so the crew could assess the problem and fix it.
The guys did a great job to get me back on track but we lost four laps in the process. Again, it would have been easy to give up and say let's just go out there and make sure we make 70% of the race to score points, but that's not our way of thinking.
Once back on track, I pushed like crazy all while being a little bit careful because you always do have to keep the big picture in mind, which is to score points toward the championship. I was able to make up a couple of laps before heading back to pit lane for a driver change.
Lucas then drove a hell of a race. He also made up a couple of laps, not to mention the outstanding work the crew did on the final stop for fuel and tires to get him out in front of the No. 16 Dyson car during a caution period that got him back on the lead lap.
Watching the last 20 minutes of the race was really exciting, especially the final few laps. I'm not sure I can take this all the time! There was a lot of action up on the timing stand with Greg (Pickett) and Mike (Pickett).
Lucas came close a few times but Guy was defending his position really well. Lucas gave his all. He was apologizing at the end of the race because he couldn't get the win. I told him there was nothing more he could do! We just didn't have the straight-line speed and we knew that was going to be our disadvantage going into the Road America race.
Looking back on the weekend, it's amazing and unreal what we accomplished. Yes, it's sad to see our win streak come to an end and to be so close to making it six in a row but it was hard not to be smiling at the end of that race!
I think Greg said it best, if you didn't like the ending to that race you must be dead! It was a great day for sports car racing. I think the fans really enjoyed it and how great for television!
We knew that our streak would come to an end at one point and we would have loved for it to continue a little longer, but at the end of the day to make it back from four laps down and to finish only 0.083 seconds behind the winner while making history, is somewhat of a win.
As mentioned earlier on, the one ‘downside' is that fans will most likely only remember the finish itself but this result means so much more to Pickett Racing. Had it not been for the incredible determination and perseverance of everyone at Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, from the drivers to the crew and engineers, history would not have been rewritten at Road America this year.
Thanks for reading!
Follow Klaus on Twitter at @klaus_graf, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing at @MuscleMilkRace and Honda Performance Development at @HondaRacing_HPD.