Luhr, Graf secure fourth straight win in ALMS

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Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s duo of Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf continued their dominance of the American Le Mans Series today, securing their fourth consecutive overall victory with a triumph in the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

The team basically went unchallenged throughout the 2-hour, 45-minute race in Ontario, with Luhr, the ALMS’ all-time wins leader, taking the checkered flag in the No. 6 HPD ARX-03c after entering the cockpit with one hour remaining in the event.

“Klaus did a long first stint and I just had to bring it home, so it’s very, very tough to keep your motivation and concentration,” Luhr said after the race on ESPN. “But we managed it. It’s another good day for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing – the boys really deserved it and it’s a good birthday present for Klaus.”

With Luhr and Graf burying their competition in the P1 class, the big late-race battle turned out to be in the GT class, where a pair of classic American muscle car brands, Corvette and Viper, fought it out for top honors.

Tommy Milner (co-driver: Oliver Gavin), in the No. 4 Corvette C6 ZR1, and Dominik Farnbacher (co-driver: Marc Goossens), in the No. 91 Viper GTS-R, battled tooth and nail along the 2.46-mile circuit in the final moments. But in the end, it was Milner that came out on top by less than three-tenths of a second over Farnbacher.

“I knew after that yellow flag [with 54 minutes left] that we would be nose-to-tail for a while,” Milner said of his pursuer. “I got through traffic a bit better than he did, but right at the end, I got the worst of traffic and he was right on me. That last lap, he was quick in [Turn] 8 there and I was either going to spin or take the lead, so I just threw it in there and it stuck, and here we are – P1.”

In the P2 category, Marino Franchitti secured a win for himself, co-driver Scott Tucker, and Level 5 Motorsports in the No. 551 HPD ARX-03b, ahead of their Extreme Speed Motorsports rivals, Scott Sharp and Guy Cosmo, in the No. 01 HPD entry.

Prototype Challenge went to Colin Braun and Jonathan Bennett in the No. 05 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09, while the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche team of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil reigned supreme in GT Challenge.

NHRA: Antron Brown on verge of earning 50th career Top Fuel win this weekend at Phoenix

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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When you’re used to winning championships – like three in the previous five seasons – any other season finish is disappointing.

That’s kind of how NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Antron Brown looked at his fourth-place showing in the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

“At the end of the day, we had a very competitive season last year and made it to 10 final rounds,” Brown said. “But we got into the Countdown (NHRA’s six-race playoffs) and our timing was off.

“We struggled with a lot of problems we don’t usually have. Now it’s time for a new chapter for this team and time to get better. This is a new beginning for us and it’s going to be fun and exciting and we’re coming after them.”

Antron Brown hugs the NHRA Top Fuel championship trophy after winning it in 2016. (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire)

Brown had a good start to 2018, reaching the semifinals before losing to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

“We had a great performance at Pomona and I couldn’t be more proud of what our Matco/Toyota guys did,” Brown said. “Now we are going to Phoenix where we’ve won three times (2009, 2012 and 2014, and was runner-up in 2011) and we’ll just try to hit it hard and get a fourth.”

Next up on the NHRA 24-race national event circuit is the second race of the season, this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix (Chandler, Arizona).

Brown has definite plans to make it four wins in Phoenix. And if he does that Sunday, he’ll set a significant career milestone: it would be his 50th career win driving a Top Fueler and the 66th win overall (he won 16 races in Pro Stock Motorcycle before shifting from two to four wheels).

In so doing, Brown would become only the fourth Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to hit the 50-win mark. The others are Tony Schumacher (83), Larry Dixon (62) and Joe Amato (52).

This will be the second time Brown has been racing in Phoenix this month. He was part of the preseason test there for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock cars a week before the season began.

“Testing went really well there,” said Brown, leaving him optimistic that he can reach victory circle once again. “I love going back to Phoenix.”

Brown has been the most dominant driver in NHRA Top Fuel competition since 2012, winning more than twice the number of races (34) than the next most successful Top Fuel driver (16 by Schumacher) in that time period.

He also has a 71 percent overall win percentage, which exceeds both eight-time Top Fuel champ Schumacher and 16-time Funny Car champ John Force.

“I’m just pumped up, feeling like we’ve got some unfinished business from last year,” Brown said. “We had a good outing but didn’t close the deal, so this year, we’re looking forward to getting back there and getting off to a great start.”

NOTES: Brown will serve as honorary pace car driver for the March 4th Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup race at Las Vegas. He’ll be joined by teammates Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett in a weekend full of activities that they’ll all be involved in.

“I’m really excited,” Brown said. “It’s going to be my first experience as a pace car driver, and I’m just super stoked to go out there and drive the Camry pace car for Pennzoil and start those NASCAR boys off the right way. Throttle down, pedal to the metal. I just want them to get off to a great start.”

Brown has won four times at The Strip, the drag strip adjacent to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity,” he said. “It’s an honor to be out there with such talented drivers, and I know I’m going to really enjoy watching our NASCAR counterparts.”

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