Daytona 24: Chris Gleason Friday report

Gleason Competing in Rolex 24 at Daytona Saturday and Sunday DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 30 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. will be racing with some of the biggest names in motorsports tomorrow and Sunday when he competes in the Rolex 24 at ...

Gleason Competing in Rolex 24 at Daytona Saturday and Sunday

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 30 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. will be racing with some of the biggest names in motorsports tomorrow and Sunday when he competes in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, the most prestigious endurance sports car race in North America.

More than 15 hours of the race will be covered live on SPEED starting at 1 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow. The broadcast is to end at 9 p.m. tomorrow and then resume again on Sunday from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

NASCAR Nextel Cup stars Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Robby Gordon, Christian Fittipaldi and Kyle Petty are among those entered in the race. Indy car racing is represented by polesitter Scott Pruett, Max Papis, Scott Sharp and Stephan Gregoire. There are road-racing stars galore, including the reigning FIA World Endurance Sports Car champion, Jan Lammers, and others such as Didier Theys, Terry Borcheller, Hurley Haywood, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Andy Pilgrim, Andy Wallace, Bill Auberlen, Butch Leitzinger, Andy Lally and Boris Said, to name just a few.

Multi-time boat-racing champion Forest Barber is entered. Even Hollywood is represented, as actor Paul Newman plans to keep young at heart by doing some stints in a Daytona Prototype.

Gleason is with a very good team. He's driving a Porsche GT3 RS entered by The Racer's Group, the same team that won this race last year and the team Gleason competed with in the American Le Mans Series last year. Gleason is coming off a podium finish in the Grand American Rolex Series too, as he finished third in a Racer's Group Porsche in the 2003 season finale here at Daytona.

This weekend he's sharing the driving duties with Ian James of Kissimmee, Fla.; R.J. Valentine of Hingham, Mass.; Abraham Zimroth of New York City and Bohdan Kroczek of Winnetka, Ill.

Even before this race starts it's been memorable for the team, as its tra nsporter caught on fire enroute from California earlier this week. Repairs and replacements were made and things seemed to be looking up, especially when the team did extremely well in the practice sessions.

But more challenges were ahead. On Thursday the team had a miscommunication about a deadline to have its qualifying drivers nominated, so it was disqualified from the first round of qualifying and had to get into the race via the second round on Friday, after the first 30 spots were already set. Gleason's Porsche, No. 68, will start 34th now in the field of 55.

But perseverance is the name of the game in this type of racing, and Gleason is looking at all that very philosophically.

"Oh well; we never qualify that well at Daytona but it doesn't really matter where you start in a race that is 24 hours long," he said. "It's always a thrill to be at Daytona and to compete in such a great event. The NASCAR stars add a lot of interest to the fans and it really is one of the greatest races in the world."

Fans who don't have SPEED can follow the action through live timing and scoring on the Internet at www.grandamerican.com. More information about Gleason is posted at www.gleasonagency.com; www.theracersgroup.com and www.restartcommunications.com.

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Series GRANDAM