Phoenix: Chris Gleason GT race report

Gleason and Valentine Finish Tenth In Friday's Rolex Series GT Race at PIR PHOENIX, Sept. 9 - Trying to win the manufacturers' championship in the GT division of the Rolex series is very much like a chess game played on many different levels. ...

Gleason and Valentine Finish Tenth In Friday's Rolex Series GT Race at PIR

PHOENIX, Sept. 9 - Trying to win the manufacturers' championship in the GT division of the Rolex series is very much like a chess game played on many different levels. In trying to win the title for BMW, Prototype Technology Group team owner Tom Milner moved some of his knights around and also put some of them on different mounts for Friday night's GT race at Phoenix International Raceway. One of his moves was to partner Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and R.J. Valentine of Braintree, Mass. in the team's No. 17 BMW M3. The pair responded with a solid top-10 finish at the end of the two-hour-and-45-minute, 152-lap race on PIR's 1.51-mile, 11-turn infield road course.

Although it was a Pontiac in victory lane the Prototype Technology Group team still made valuable strides towards its goal of the manufacturers' title with its second, third, seventh and 10th-place finishes. The best finishes for Porsche were a fifth and sixth.

Unofficially in the manufacturers' overall point standings after Friday's race Porsche now leads with 345 points over BMW's 329. Pontiac is third with 213 points.

Gleason qualified the Gleason Group/F1 Air No. 17 BMW M3 in 11th place on Thursday with a qualifying time of 1:04.115 (84.785 mph). He drove the first stint, completing about 92 laps before turning the BMW over to Valentine.

The GT event and the Daytona Prototype event were run separately rather than simultaneously here at PIR, which at just over a mile and a half is the smallest track that the Rolex series visits.

That resulted in no full-course yellows Friday night, making tire management and fuel conservation even more important than usual since all the pit stops had to be made under green.

"Most of the cars had to do two pit stops, but our strategy was to try to do just one," Gleason explained afterwards. "We managed to do that despite any full-course yellows.

"The car was pretty good," he continued. "I drove about an hour and 15 minutes; it was for 92 laps or something like that. We did the best we could, and I'm happy that we finished in the top 10. I think seventh or eighth was our best position during the race.

"It was very hot at the beginning of the race," he added. "We worked hard to manage our tires. The line was pretty good but the tires got old pretty fast. But the car ran very well. We had no mechanical issues, and the brakes were good. It started to oversteer as the tires wore out, so we had to be careful."

Gleason said he had one close call. "I let Joey [Hand, who was driving another one of his team's BMWs] by on the banking, and I went up too high and almost hit the wall," he said. "I got a lot of stuff on my tires when I did that, and it took me a couple laps to get that stuff off my tires and get back into rhythm."

Gleason said he likes the single-class races.

"It's more pure racing," he noted. "You don't have to use your mirrors as much and you can focus on your driving more. I prefer it when they split it up because it's more pure racing."

Friday night's race will be shown on a tape-delayed basis Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET on SPEED.

Only three races remain on the 14-race Rolex series schedule for 2005, and two of them are close to Gleason's hometown of Johnstown, Pa. They are: Sept. 22-24 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International with the Indy Racing League; Oct. 7-9 at Virginia International Raceway, and Dec. 2-4 at Mexico City, Mexico.

More information can be found on the team's Web site at ptgracing.com; at Gleason Inc.'s site at gleasoninc.com; at grandamerican.com; speedtv.com and restartcommunications.com.

-lm-

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Chris Gleason