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Caution flags fly at start of American Le Mans Series race

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Wrecked cars and red and yellow flags dominated Saturday's American Le Mans Series race. Three cautions — including the weekend's biggest wreck immediately after the start — whittled the originally two-hour race to just more than an hour.

The first wreck came seconds after the green flag waved. Scott Tucker, in the No. 551 Honda in the P1 prototype class, got caught up in a group of cars, some accelerating and others waiting to get through the opening stretch.

Several drivers were quick to decry the early acceleration, saying that in a drivers' meeting, they'd made it "very clear" to drive at a slower pace until after the opening straightaway.

"As the pole man, you have the authority to accelerate first," overall winner Lucas Luhr said. "Otherwise there's absolutely no reason to do a qualifying. We've had issues like this in the past. ... Today, unfortunately, we saw what happens if nobody takes action."

Tucker said he was hit from behind, after which he spun 180 degrees and slammed the track's inside wall. No. 06 Tom Kimber-Smith then hit Tucker head-on. The race was delayed for a little more than an hour, and six drivers were evaluated by medical staffers and released without injury.

"It was such a shame to see Scott Tucker getting hit," said Guy Cosmo, who won the P2 class crown with Marino Franchitti. "[I'm] massively disappointed for the M5 team obviously. I don't think anyone meant for that."

Luhr and Klaus Graf in the No. 6 car ultimately won the overall race, clinching the ALMS P1 title with three races remaining in the season. The duo has more than twice the points of any driver in the class. It is the last P1 title to be awarded before the series merges with Grand-Am Road Racing in 2014.

"It's been very rewarding," Graf said. "We've never been able to win this race so far. … It was a really great day."

Monkton's Marc Bunting, founder of Team Baltimore Racing, finished sixth in the GTC class, 18th overall, with his teammate Norbert Siedler.

"It's not the result we were looking for," Bunting said. "It's kind of a disappointment for me. … It's such an honor to race in front of friends and family and the great people of Baltimore."

Actor Patrick Dempsey and his teammate, Andy Lally, finished less than a second — but two places — ahead of Bunting and Siedler.

A second delay, less than a lap after the race resumed, marred the start further when three cars had a less serious wreck at the fourth turn, a 90-degree angle at Conway and Light streets.

A third yellow caution flag went up after several cars began dropping debris from damage on the chicane — an obstacle that's been pestering all the series in the Grand Prix.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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