SCC: Chris Gleason Daytona preview

'Ironman' Gleason to Tackle Two Races at Daytona Next Weekend, Including Prestigious Rolex 24 JOHNSTOWN, Pa., Jan. 20 - When it comes to the business world, Chris Gleason is an ironman of industry. President of Gleason Inc., he is a vital part...

'Ironman' Gleason to Tackle Two Races at Daytona Next Weekend, Including Prestigious Rolex 24

JOHNSTOWN, Pa., Jan. 20 - When it comes to the business world, Chris Gleason is an ironman of industry.

President of Gleason Inc., he is a vital part of the four generations of Gleasons that have ensured the success of the company since 1924. Started in a storefront in his hometown of Johnstown, Pa., Gleason Inc., parent of the Gleason Insurance Agency, Gleason Financial and Gleason Technology, now enjoys four offices across Pennsylvania in Johnstown, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. The company just added an operation in Santa Monica, Calif., too, its first outside of the Keystone state, although it's been doing business nationally for the last 10 years.

This ironman of industry whose passion has always been motorsports is about to embark on a journey that will see him compete in auto racing's equivalent of the Ironman competition. Gleason is set to compete in the nation's most prestigious endurance sports car event, driving in the top class, Daytona Prototype, in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway Jan. 28-29.

In the 24-hour race Gleason will be one of four drivers piloting Blackforest Motorsports' No. 50 Ford-powered Crawford chassis sponsored by the Executive Investment Group and Gleason Inc.

"Chris is a great guy, personality wise," said Blackforest Motorsports owner Brian Nott. "We've worked with Chris in the past and I love him as a race car driver. He's a hell of a race car driver, and I have no second thoughts having him run with us whatsoever."

As if driving twice around the clock in an exotic sports car wasn't enough, Gleason will also compete on the same weekend in the Grand-Am Cup support event on Friday, Jan. 27, driving a BMW M3. While the ride in the Daytona Prototype is a one-time deal at this point, Gleason will contest the full 10-race Grand-Am Cup schedule in 2006, driving the GS-class No. 96 Turner Motorsport/H&R Springs/StopTech Brakes BMW M3 with five-time Grand-Am Cup winner Bill Auberlen of Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.

"Teaming Bill Auberlen with Chris Gleason means this driver combination will have the most experience of any team in the GS class, if not the entire Grand-Am Cup series," said Turner Motorsport owner Will Turner. "It's a really strong combination and I'm excited that we could put these two drivers together. We did extremely well last year, winning five out of 10 races, and this driver lineup is just as strong as last year."

When Tony Delogne crossed the finish line in the Ironman competition at Lake Placid, N.Y. in July, he completed the event in a remarkable eight hours, 56 minutes and 11 seconds. That's over 15 hours shy of the time it will take to finish the Rolex 24-hour race. While Delogne traversed 140.6 miles in the Ironman, Gleason and his teammates, Henri Zogaib of Daytona Beach, Ian James of Phoenix and Tom Nastasi of Stamford, Conn. are hoping to exceed the 2,527.6 miles covered by last year's Rolex 24 winner. Add 200 miles for Friday's Grand-Am Cup competition and Gleason surely qualifies for Ironman status in the world of motorsports.

While the clock is often the fiercest competitor in an endurance race, Gleason and his teammates face formidable competition on the track too. Competitors from NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and the Indy Racing League IndyCar series as well as the elite drivers from the world of sports car racing will all be vying for the overall victory when the green flag drops at noon on Saturday, Jan. 28.

Current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Tony Stewart leads the stock car contingent along with Rusty Wallace, Casey Mears and road racing ace Ron Fellows. Stewart will compete using the same type chassis as Gleason and his teammates, but Stewart's Crawford will be powered by a Pontiac. Stewart is partnered with two of the best sports car drivers in the business, Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger.

Rusty Wallace hasn't slowed down since announcing his retirement from the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series, as he will share the No. 2 Pontiac-powered Crawford with IndyCar rookie sensation Danica Patrick. Casey Mears will share his Chip Ganassi-prepared Lexus-powered Riley with Ganassi's regular IndyCar drivers, Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon. Dixon and Wheldon are both making return appearances at the Rolex 24 to seek their share of glory in this grueling event.

Scott Pruett, who has competed in Champ Car and NASCAR competition, leads the second Chip Ganassi entry with Luiz Diaz and open-wheel star Max Papis sharing driving duties.

The IndyCar Series is well represented by drivers and team owners. Dario Franchitti partners with his brother Marino, Mika Duno and good friend Kevin McGarrity in one of Boss Motorsports' Pontiac Crawfords, a team car to the entry led by Tony Stewart.

Franchitti's Andretti Green Racing teammate, Bryan Herta, will share a Ford-powered Crawford, similar to Gleason's, with 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice.

IndyCar Series team owners Adrian Fernandez and 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever are getting into the act with their own teams in the Rolex 24. They'll share driving duties with their IndyCar series drivers; Fernandez with Scott Sharp and Cheever with Patrick Carpentier. Cheever will also have popular Brazilian driver Christian Fittipaldi aboard his Lexus-powered Crawford.

Paul Tracy from the Champ Car World Series will lead the No. 6 Lexus-powered Riley with teammates Ken Wilden, Paul Mears and Mike Borkowski. Two Champ Car drivers will pilot the No. 60 Lexus-powered Riley when Justin Wilson and A.J. Allmendinger team with Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri.

At the end of the day it usually doesn't take the fastest car or the fastest driver to win a 24-hour race. Quite often the victors' laurels are presented to those who have played the game intelligently. With two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champions, two Indianapolis 500 winners and two Champ Car World Series champions in the field, there won't be any opportunity to relax. The top drivers in the world know how to drive one way and one way only, and that's fast. Pushed by the greatest drivers in the world, Gleason will have his work cut out for him. Yet, unfazed by the competition, Gleason knows he can hold his own on the track. With passion, preparation, talent and intelligence all in good order, all that's needed is a wee bit of luck.

Fans can check out all the action by attending the Rolex 24 in person Jan. 28-29 in Daytona Beach, Fla. or watching SPEED's live coverage. The network plans to show the race in three parts this year: from noon until 6 p.m. and from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, and from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29. All times are Eastern.

Live timing and scoring is available online at grandamerican.com. More information is available at blackforestmotorsports.com, turnermotorsport.com, gleasoninc.com and restartcommunications.com.

Chris Gleason will compete in all 10 races in the 2006 Grand American Grand-Am Cup series.

-linda mansfield-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Justin Wilson , Eddie Cheever , Casey Mears , Scott Sharp , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Bryan Herta , Ron Fellows , Scott Pruett , Bill Auberlen , Dan Wheldon , Ian James , Tom Nastasi , Will Turner , Chris Gleason , Ken Wilden , Mike Borkowski , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Chip Ganassi , Mark Patterson , Henri Zogaib , Danica Patrick
Teams Turner Motorsport