VIR: Chris Gleason race report

Gleason and James Finish Eighth In Sunday's Rolex Series Race at VIR ALTON, Va., Oct. 9 - Although Chris Gleason got hit in the rear during Sunday's VIR 400 Rolex series race at Virginia International Raceway which knocked the car he shares with...

Gleason and James Finish Eighth In Sunday's Rolex Series Race at VIR

ALTON, Va., Oct. 9 - Although Chris Gleason got hit in the rear during Sunday's VIR 400 Rolex series race at Virginia International Raceway which knocked the car he shares with co-driver Ian James out of contention for the victory, both drivers of The Prototype Technology Group/The Gleason Group No. 22 BMW M3 were very happy that two of their team cars finished first and second.

One of their sister BMWs, the No. 21 of Tom Milner Jr. and Bill Auberlen, won the event. Another one of their sister BMWs, the No. 16 of Justin Marks and Joey Hand, finished second.

Gleason, of Johnstown, Pa., and his co-driver, James, of Paradise Valley, Ariz., rebounded from the accident to finish eighth in the two-hour-and-45-minute, 74-lap race, which was televised live on SPEED.

"The team finished first and second, which is a great accomplishment," Gleason emphasized. "I think this is our team's seventh win, so we've won half the races. The Pontiacs are factory cars and they're hard to beat, so we have to be happy with first and second."

A manufacturer only receives points for its highest-finishing car in each class. Unofficially with Sunday's results BMW gained seven points on Porsche, which still leads the manufacturer point standings with 403 points to BMW's 392. Pontiac is third unofficially with 278.

The championship of the 14-race 2005 season will come down to the season finale Nov. 4-5 at Mexico City, Mexico. That race will be broadcast on SPEED at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Sunday in Virginia all of the BMW cars had to start at the rear as a penalty for missing the deadline for some paperwork, but a half-hour into the race that was just a bad memory for Gleason and James because James already had the car up to fifth place. He continued to zoom through the field, and moved into second place around the 45-minute mark.

James took the lead when Andrew Davis pitted under the race's third full-course caution about an hour and 12 minutes into the race, but then PTG owner Tom Milner brought James in under the same caution for the driver change. The team conducted an excellent pit stop and when Gleason took to the course he was in third place, behind only the two sister BMWs that would go on to finish first and second.

Gleason held off a fierce challenge from several different drivers during his stint and he was still in third place when trouble struck, literally, in the form of an orange Porsche.

"I guy in an orange Porsche hit me and sent me into the tires, coming down the hill at the next-to-last corner," Gleason related afterwards. "I don't know who it was. It was so slippery due to all the rain we've had that there wasn't much I could do. I was spinning my tires, but I got it back to the pits. I thought there was more damage than there was, actually. I went back out and then I pitted again to let Ian take over again."

The car sustained some damage to its left side, but the team quickly had things patched up. Although the entry dropped to 11th after the shunt, James was able to regain three spots at the end to finish eighth.

"I'm disappointed that it happened; Ian did a terrific job to drive it from the back of the field to the front," Gleason noted. "The plan was for me to drive the middle stint and then turn it back over to him for the finish, since he's faster than I am. I was hoping to have the car in good shape to leave him with an opportunity to really press at the end. It was too bad.

"Actually I got bumped a couple of times," he added.

Gleason was very pleased with how the No. 22 BMW ran, however.

"The car was great," he said. "It was as good Sunday as I can remember it being. It went up through the esses especially well. I was having a lot of fun driving it, and then when you get whacked in the rear, it takes the fun away."

Hopefully there will be more fun in Mexico at the season finale Nov. 4-5, and hopefully it will last even longer than it did on Sunday.

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

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Ian James , Justin Marks , Chris Gleason , Andrew Davis