SCC: Daytona: Chris Gleason preview

Gleason to Race at Daytona on Friday; Johnstown, Pa.-Driver on Top BMW Team DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 21 - As he's done many times in the past, this week Chris Gleason is starting a new racing season by competing at one of the premier racetracks...

Gleason to Race at Daytona on Friday; Johnstown, Pa.-Driver on Top BMW Team

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 21 - As he's done many times in the past, this week Chris Gleason is starting a new racing season by competing at one of the premier racetracks in the world - Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.

This year the Johnstown, Pa.-based insurance executive will race in the KONI Sports Car Challenge Series, which will hold its season opener on Friday afternoon at Daytona.

He'll be driving as a member of Turner Motorsport of Amesbury, Mass., the most successful BMW team in the last four years in the KONI Sports Car Challenge Series. Although Gleason sat out the 2008 season due to Achilles tendon surgery, he and BMW factory driver Bill Auberlen won three times in 2007 in a Turner Motorsport entry. Together they had five victories and 10 podium finishes in 22 starts over the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and finished third in the 2006 championship.

For 2009 Gleason will be paired with another BMW factory driver, Joey Hand of Sacramento, Calif., in the KONI Challenge's very tough GS class. They'll share the No. 97 BMW M3 sponsored by H&R Springs, Turner Motorsport and Gleason Financial.

The GS (Grand Sport) class has attracted 35 entries for Friday's race. Another class that will compete in the same race at the same time, the ST (Street Tuner) class, has 34 entries. With 69 race cars on the same 3.56-mile, 12-turn road course that uses some of Daytona's famous banking, the competition is sure to be close.

"It's great to be back in the saddle again," Gleason said of Friday's race, called the Fresh from Florida 200, which will start at 1:45 p.m. Eastern time and conclude about three hours later. Live timing and scoring will be available at grand-am.com. The race will be broadcast on a tape-delayed basis at 4 p.m. Eastern time Jan. 31 on the SPEED network.

"As team owner, I'm very excited to have Chris back with the team," said the head of Turner Motorsport, Will Turner. "He took a year off last year, and he was definitely missed. When he last drove with us he had more podiums as a percentage of race starts with us than any of my other drivers, which is kind of cool. He's getting back in the same car that he drove in 2007, and although he's teamed with a different co-driver this year, it's the same car and the same team. All the planets are lining up, and now we just need a little racing luck.

"Between the years of experience that Chris has racing in different cars and on different tracks and in different countries, he's the veteran driver that has the experience, yet he's paired with a young, up-and-coming racer," Turner noted. "They complement each other in that respect, so we're looking forward to a great year."

"I'm really looking forward to racing with Chris this year," said Hand. "Chris and I now go way back, so there's a certain comfort level there. We've won races together, and Chris has helped me out several times when he didn't have to. He's a father figure to me and a mentor both on and off the racetrack.

"When he asked me if I would be his co-driver this year in KONI Challenge, I said 'Absolutely!'" Hand continued. "In many ways it's like coming home again, because we're in a BMW, Chris and I are racing together, and we're with Turner Motorsport. All the pieces are in place, and I think we have a good chance to win the championship. We're going all out to help Chris win a championship, and add that to his long list of accomplishments."

-credit: restart communications

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Will Turner , Chris Gleason
Teams Turner Motorsport