Leawood's Scott Tucker, Level 5 Clinch Fourth ALMS Championship with Win in Virginia
Level 5 Motorsports etched itself into the history books Saturday at Virginia International Raceway, as the Scott Tucker-owned organization became four-time American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón champions following P2 victory in the Oak Tree Grand Prix. It caps off a remarkable undefeated run of ALMS team’s championships, coming in the final season of the series.
In another commanding performance, nine-time national driving champion Tucker and open-wheel standout Ryan Briscoe drove the No. 551 Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort-sponsored Honda Performance Development ARX-03b to its seventh win of the season and eighth for the Madison, Wis.-based team. It came after an early race battle with the No. 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports car of Anthony Lazzaro, which the Level 5 team principal held off for the most of his driving stint before handing over to the Australian IZOD IndyCar Series ace for the run to the checkered flag.
"This was a really big win for us," said Tucker, who earned his 24th career ALMS victory. "We put a great strategy together with the engineers. There was a lot on the line, including the team's championship. We had a pretty good strategy walking in and had a little trouble setting up the car early on. But by the time we got to qualifying and also in warmup, the car was really good.
"The car was great for me in my first stint,” Tucker continued. “Ryan did a fantastic job, along with the entire Level 5 team. There were no mistakes. Our engineering and strategy went to plan. We're very fortunate that it all worked out. I really appreciate the job that all of the drivers did this weekend, along with the guys to clinch another team’s championship.”
Once behind the wheel of the Michelin-shod car, polesitter Briscoe managed to retake the lead and bridge out a 13-second gap over the ESM car of Scott Sharp for the win. The result was also enough to propel Tucker to the lead of the driver’s championship with one race remaining.
Level 5’s No. 552 car of Marino Franchitti, Guy Cosmo and Stefan Johansson finished third on Saturday, following a flawless performance by all three drivers, who played a crucial role in helping clinch the team's championship as well.
“It was a really great effort by everybody at Level 5,” said Briscoe. “Scott did an awesome job and led most of the laps and really got unlucky by getting held up by the DeltaWing out there. There's just nothing he could do. That's how all of the other cars managed to catch up. Other than that, he was leading and driving away.
“We were able to get the lead back later in the race,” Briscoe added. “Scott Sharp was putting a bit of pressure on new tires but it looked like we just had him covered over the distance. At the end of the day, we just drove away. It was perfect; no mistakes by the whole team, great strategy and good job by everybody."
It was a banner day for the David Stone-led organization, which clinched its fourth consecutive team’s title and third straight in the cost-capped prototype class. Level 5 burst onto the ALMS scene in 2010, earning the PC title in its debut season. With P2 championships each year since, they become tied with Penske Racing as the most successful P2 team in series’ history, with three championships apiece.
“We’re incredibly proud of this entire team effort,” Level 5 team manager David Stone said. “Scott and Ryan drove a perfect race and the No. 552 car of Marino, Guy and Stefan brought it home on the podium as well. The team’s championship is a culmination of an entire season of hard work and dedication. We can now go into Petit Le Mans entirely focused on helping get Scott his 10th driving championship.”
The 15th and final season of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón concludes with the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda. The 1,000 mile/10 hour race, from Road Atlanta, is set for 11 a.m. EDT on Saturday, October 19, with live coverage on Fox Sports 2. Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race on Sunday, October 20 at 4 p.m. EDT. Live web qualifying coverage will be available on http://www.alms.com on Friday October 18 at 11:30 a.m. EDT. Live timing and scoring will also be available on the series’ official website.
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