ALTON, VA - After battling Dyson Racing throughout the opening two hours, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing dominated the final 45 minutes to score its eighth consecutive American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón victory, with Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf winning Saturday's Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway.
Quick work in the pits gave Luhr the lead under an extended caution. He pulled away on the restart in the No. 6 HPD ARX-03c and beat Dyson Racing's Guy Smith to the checkered flag by 22.846 seconds to score his 49th career ALMS victory.
Meanwhile, the championships in both the P2 and Prototype Challenge presented by Continental Tire will be decided at the season-ending Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 19.
HPD and Chevrolet won the P1 manufacturer championship on Saturday, while Level 5 Motorsports wrapped up the P2 team title.
"It's nice to have 49 wins now and, of course, the aim is to make it 50 at Petit," Luhr said. "Today we had some really strong competition from the Dysons. Today the victory came from the strategies of the pit stops."
Smith won the pole in the Dyson Racing No. 16 Mazda/Thetford/Norcold Lola B12/60. Johnny Mowlem started the car and battled Graf throughout the opening hour, with the lead changing hands five times during the event.
A two-car incident involving Porsche drivers Marco Holzer and Eduardo Cisneros approaching the second hour led to an extended caution. Luhr regained the lead during final pit stops during that yellow flag period, and led the final 39 minutes following the restart.
"It was a good battle with them," Graf said. "Today, I think the win came from strategy. We had amazing pit stops today, mistake free and everyone knowing what they are doing. This was a team win, for sure. This was certainly a tough battle."
In the P2 class, Ryan Briscoe beat Scott Sharp to the checkered flag by 15.317 seconds for his fourth victory of the season, joining seven-time winner Scott Tucker in the No. 551 Level 5 Motorsports Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort HPD ARX-03b.
Sharp finished second with Anthony Lazzaro in the No. 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports Tequila Patrón HPD ARX-03b, followed by Level 5's Stefan Johansson, Marino Franchitti and Guy Cosmo in the team's No. 552 entry.
Entering the finale, Franchitti unofficially leads Cosmo by four points (154-150), followed by Tucker with 149 points and Sharp with 143.
"We had a lot on the line today and we had a real good strategy coming in," Tucker said. "The car was great for me on my stint and Ryan did a great job. No mistakes, everything went as planned. We're still gunning for some championships and we'll still need to put on our best game at Petit."
A first-time winner at the most recent race in Austin, Texas, Kyle Marcelli and Chris Cumming scored their second consecutive Prototype Challenge presented by Continental Tire victory. Driving the No. 8 BAR1 Motorsports Evident Capital/MBRP Performance Exhaust Merchant Services ORECA FLM09, Marcelli took the checkered flag by 11.590 seconds over championship contender Jon Bennett and Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 05 CORE autosport Composite Resources ORECA.
PC championship leader Mike Guasch was clipped from behind by a P2 car on lap 5, leading to the first of three caution flags. Guasch was running third at the time of the incident but lost 10 laps for repairs to the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Molecule ORECA. Guasch and Dane Cameron returned to finish fifth.
Entering the finale, Guasch leads Cumming by 11 points (128-117), with Bennett one point back with 116, followed by Colin Braun, 112, and fourth-place finisher Tristan Nunez, 110.
"We're at a level of competition that's so good, we really have to be on our game," Marcelli said. "Now we move to Road Atlanta. I've had a pole there and we really want to finish the season strong and bring home another win."
Third in PC went to the winners' BAR1 Motorsports teammates Rusty Mitchell and James French in the No. 7 Petro Comm/Merchant Services ORECA FLM09.
Neither of the Porsche drivers were injured in the Turn 10 incident that caused the third and final caution at the two-hour mark, which came following a restart for a brief caution due to a grass fire. Cisneros flipped after contact with Holzer and came to a stop atop a tire barrier, but quickly climbed from the crashed vehicle.