Gleason and Auberlen Finish Ninth at Salt Lake City; They're Still in Contention for Title Going Into Season Finale
TOOELE, Utah, Sept. 1 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and his co-driver, Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Calif., were part of the winning team in Friday's Grand-Am Cup race at Miller Motorsports Park even though their Turner Motorsport BMW M3 No. 96 actually finished ninth.
A sister car to their Gleason Financial-sponsored No. 96, the Turner Motorsport BMW M3 of Anders Hainer and Boris Said, won the race overall on the last lap, while a Turner Motorsport BMW 330i driven by Will Turner and Don Salama was victorious in the Street Tuner class, something the team owner called "surreal."
After Friday's race in Utah at MMP, which at 4.486 miles is the longest road course in the country, Gleason and Auberlen are still in contention for the drivers' championship. Seven drivers are still in the running for the title, which will be decided at the season finale at VIRginia International Raceway in Alton, Va. Oct. 6-8. Turner Motorsport's Anders Hainer now leads the standings with 228 points. Brent Martini and Pat Long are tied for second with 221. Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly are tied for fourth with 210, while Gleason and Auberlen are tied for sixth place with 199 points.
Gleason qualified 12th in the 60-car field and drove the first stint of the 45-lap, two-hour-and-25-minute race. He ran in 13th or 14th in the early going, trying to save his Hoosier tires, although he did get caught up in good battles with Champ Car World Series driver Alex Tagliani and TV star Patrick Dempsey, among others. His fastest lap during his stint was his lap 14 when he was clocked in 3:12.855.
He had a controversial stop-and-go penalty and a spin that thwarted his drive, but he was in 17th when he pitted on lap 23 to let Auberlen take over.
Auberlen had his hands full with Craig Stanton and Shane Lewis, but the entry was in 15th place on lap 36. Since the course is so long no yellows were thrown for cars that got off course, and the lack of restarts to bunch the field hurt Auberlen's normal heady drive. Still, finishing in the top 10 was a great accomplishment in such a competitive field.
The race was part of the Discount Tire SunChaser weekend. It will be shown on SPEED at 1 p.m. Eastern time on Sept. 23.
Gleason's post-race comments follow:
"We had a pretty mediocre day, really. I had a stop-and-go penalty that I still don't understand. A car bumped me in the rear and just about spun me out, but I was the one that was penalized. Then I spun in the first turn at the end of the straightaway, and that hurt us.
"Bill did a nice job, as usual, but there were no full-course yellows to close up the field.
"I'm really happy for everyone at Turner Motorsport though, and proud to be part of the team. Both guys got their first win of the year, which is really a storied achievement because the level of competition is so strong. I'm really pleased for them.
"Anders [Hainer] is now leading the championship, and that's really noteworthy. Bill and I are still in it mathematically, and you have to play the game. Joey Hand will be driving with Bill and I at VIR at the season finale, and we'll just all try to do our best and see what happens."
-credit: restart communications