Daytona 24: Chris Gleason race report

Gleason's Team Finishes The Rolex 24 at Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 28 - Chris Gleason followed up his podium finish in the KONI Challenge race at Daytona International Speedway Friday in a BMW by completing the Rolex 24 here Saturday...

Gleason's Team Finishes The Rolex 24 at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 28 - Chris Gleason followed up his podium finish in the KONI Challenge race at Daytona International Speedway Friday in a BMW by completing the Rolex 24 here Saturday and Sunday in a Porsche.

The driver from Johnstown, Pa. was one of four who piloted the TRG Porsche GT3 Cup No. 68 in the 45th annual Rolex 24. The other drivers of the Porsche, which was sponsored in part by Gleason Financial, were Ted Ballou of Corona del Mar, Calif.; Rocco DeSimone II of Johnston, R.I.; and Brad Jaeger of Cincinnati.

The car started 58th overall and 30th in class in a total field of 70, and finished 33rd overall and 15th in class 24 hours later.

Gleason drove fourth in the rotation, including the wee hours of the morning on Sunday when it rained steadily and poured now and then.

The race was red-flagged around 1 a.m. for about 90 minutes so track crews could repair a guardrail damaged in one of the crashes. Gleason had the car up as high as it got, 14th in class, around the red-flag period. It ran in 15th for the last five hours of the twice-around-the-clock classic before finishing in that position.

Gleason finished third in the KONI Challenge season opener at Daytona on Friday with his co-driver in that race, Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Calif.

"If you can't shoot for a podium, then just finishing a 24-hour race is an achievement in itself," Gleason pointed out Sunday. "Our car didn't have the speed or capability, nor the experienced drivers, to get on the podium in the Rolex 24 this year, but we did have an enthusiastic crew," he said. "We went for finishing the race instead, and we were able to do that.

"I think I've been in about a dozen 24-hour races during my career and I think I've only finished three of them," he added. "It's not real common to finish a 24-hour race, so I'm pleased that we were able to do it today. My wife and my two boys were here, and it worked out pretty good."

As always, the Rolex 24 was a test of both man and machines.

"I spent a lot of time driving in the rain; it was very difficult conditions," Gleason said. "We had some damage to the front end which changed the car's aero balance. In NASCAR Turn 4 at about 160 miles per hour at night in the rain the car would push up towards the wall, which was challenging. Keeping the car on the track and keeping it moving forward was the goal.

"I had a couple of offs," he noted, meaning times the car left the racing surface. "The braking area for the Bus Stop chicane was greasy and difficult; it was hard to get it just right. It was easy to miss the turn and then you'd have to go down the escape road. I had a few off-track excursions, but that's kind of standard procedure for a 24-hour race."

Still, he was happy. "To finish third in the Fresh from Florida 200 KONI Challenge race on Friday was great," he said. "Coming back and completing the 24-hour race was a good ending to a solid weekend, so I felt pretty good."

-credit: restart communications

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