Graf, Luhr win ALMS at Road America; Viper, DeltaWing teams also shine

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A crash with less than 10 minutes remaining proved enough to end the American Le Mans Series’ Orion Energy Systems 245 at Road America under caution, with Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr claiming their fifth consecutive overall victory for the No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing entry.

But there are perhaps two bigger stories from this afternoon’s two-hour, 45-minute event.

First, the SRT Motorsports Viper claimed its first win since returning to the ALMS in the GT class as Marc Goossens was able to coax the final drops of fuel from his No. 91 Viper and coast home to the win ahead of the twin Corvettes of Antonio Garcia and Oliver Gavin.

Goossens’ co-driver, Dominik Farnbacher, and the Viper crew were very anxious as they watched Goossens make his final lap along the four-mile road course under yellow conditions. But all of them were soon wearing smiles.

“It’s unbelievable,” Farnbacher said to ESPN. “It was a nail-biter. I think we came through the finish line with the last drop of fuel. If you look at all those faces – everybody’s crying. It’s so emotional for us and I’m just speechless at the moment.”

Second, the DeltaWing machine – which first began as a potential new chassis in 2012 for the IZOD IndyCar Series but was then brought in for sports car racing – led its first laps in the ALMS with co-drivers Katherine Legge and Andy Meyrick. Both of them were able to get the No. 0 to the overall lead in their stints during Sunday’s outing.

Meyrick lost the P1 and overall lead to Graf with 53 minutes to go, and the DeltaWing faded slightly to third in class and fifth overall at the finish. But the laps led were still a significant accomplishment for the unique machine, which weighs half as much as a typical ALMS prototype.

As for Graf and Luhr, the Muscle Milk men found things a bit hairy in the beginning as a track that had been dry for much of the weekend was noticeably damp when the clock started.

“It was a little bit of chaos in the beginning,” said Luhr, who ran the opening stint for MMPR. “We haven’t really been running here [this weekend] in the wet – to be honest, I don’t know when the last time was that I ran the Muscle Milk car in the wet! So it was very challenging in the beginning, but we made it through.

“We were a little bit careful in the beginning because we don’t need to make unnecessary risks. But as the race kept on going, we started really pushing it. It was good fun, but also a little bit sad because for a long time, it’s going to be the last rounds here with the LMP1 car.”

Scott Tucker and IndyCar’s Simon Pagenaud (No. 551, Level 5 Motorsports) were victorious in the P2 class, as were Bruno Junqueira and Duncan Ende (No. 9, RSR Motorsports) in Prototype Challenge, and Spencer Pumpelly and Nelson Canache (No. 45, Flying Lizard Motorsports) in GTC.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.