VW Jetta: Kevin Gleason VIR preview

Johnstown, Pa.'s Kevin Gleason to Compete In SCCA VW Jetta TDI Cup Series; Series Begins with Doubleheader This Weekend at VIR JOHNSTOWN, Pa., April 22 - Another Gleason is grabbing the goggles and going for racing glory. Chris Gleason of ...

Johnstown, Pa.'s Kevin Gleason to Compete In SCCA VW Jetta TDI Cup Series; Series Begins with Doubleheader This Weekend at VIR

JOHNSTOWN, Pa., April 22 - Another Gleason is grabbing the goggles and going for racing glory.

Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. has been seen on SPEED for years competing at the top levels of endurance sports car racing, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. One of his sons, Chris Jr., may join him later this year in Continental Tire Challenge races. But this season both of them will be cheering on another member of the family, their son and brother, respectively, as Kevin Gleason has been selected to drive in the Sports Car Club of America Pro Racing Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup series this year.

It's just the latest racing accomplishment for the Pennsylvania family. Chris Gleason was inducted into the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame in 2004 for his racing achievements, which include driving in the 1997 and 2001 24 Hours of Le Mans and a dozen Rolex 24s at Daytona, including a podium finish there in 1998 in a Viper. Other highlights of his racing career include finishing second in the Formula Ford national championship in 1973; fifth in the Super Vee Gold Cup in 1974; co-Rookie of the Year in Formula Atlantic in 1979; fifth in both the Porsche Turbo Cup in 1980 and the Trans-Am series in 1981; third in the point standings for Rolex GT in 2004 and third in the KONI Challenge series in 2006. He has 15 podium finishes, including six victories, in 33 starts in the latter series, which is now sponsored by Continental Tire.

The phrase "like father, like son" certainly applies to the Gleason family, as this year Kevin Gleason was one of only 25 drivers chosen from a group of over 200 hopefuls to compete in the SCCA VW Jetta TDI Cup series, which kicks off this Saturday and Sunday with a doubleheader at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) in Alton, Va.

The series consists of 10 rounds of 30-minute races in identical factory-prepared VW Jettas. The drivers are between the ages of 16 and 26, and the goal of the series is to develop the best of motorsports' up-and-coming talents as well as to showcase clean diesel technology to the United States market. It's the only clean diesel racing series in the world, and each car will only use two tanks of gas for the whole season.

Each driver competing in the series earns a SCCA Pro Racing license at the conclusion of the season. They're all vying for more than $50,000 in prize money, and the series champion receives Volkswagen factory career advancement support valued up to $100,000.

Kevin Gleason just turned 23. He'll be graduated in the fall with a business management degree from Niagara University in Niagara Falls, N.Y., where he has also been a member of the club hockey team.

He'll drive car No. 32 in the series. His primary sponsor will be Gleason Financial.

This weekend's season-opening doubleheader supports the Grand-Am Rolex Series. Round 3 will be May 8-9 at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.J. The series then travels to Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah June 5-6. The series then stops at a track that is about four hours from Gleason's home in Johnstown, Pa., the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio June 18-20. Round 6 is at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill. July 30-Aug. 1. It is followed by a doubleheader at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Aug. 20-22, when the series supports an American Le Mans Series event. Another doubleheader in Pueblo, Mexico will close the season in September or October.

All of the races will be broadcast on SPEED this winter.

Although he's a rookie in this series, Gleason has driven other cars at VIR, Mid-Ohio and New Jersey Motorsports Park.

"I'm especially looking forward to Mid-Ohio, because I've driven there a lot," Gleason said. "It's one of my favorite tracks.

"I drove at VIR once before in a 13-hour Mazda Miata enduro," he added. "It's long and pretty technical, so that previous experience there will definitely be a bonus. It's a double race weekend, so it's especially important."

Gleason drove in 13 regional Spec Miata races in 2008, and a handful of them last year too. But he relishes the challenge of competing in the VW Jetta TDI Cup series this year.

"It will be a challenge, because there are a lot of really good karters racing in the series this year, as well as some returning drivers," he said. "There is a three-year maximum for drivers to compete in this series, and I'm a rookie. But the cars are really fun to drive. They have a lot of torque and the brakes are really good. They use Pirelli tires. It's a very cost-efficient series thanks to VW's support."

"The 2010 SCCA Pro Racing Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup season is shaping up to be our most competitive ever," said Clark Campbell, motorsport manager for Volkswagen of America. "With the influx of young, talented drivers like Kevin Gleason, we fully expect to see strong battles at the front of the pack this season. Kevin came to the TDI Cup series from our karting qualifier program and was able to solidly make his way into the final 25 drivers for 2010.

"We had just over 200 young drivers apply to become part of the program, with 41 selected to attend the final driver selection process that determined the 25 drivers that will make up the field in 2010," Campbell explained.

Just earning a spot in the series is quite an accomplishment.

"The selection process was held over the course of three days in Las Vegas," Gleason explained. "The first two days were held at the South Point Hotel and Casino. We had classroom sessions where we covered VW brand awareness, media and PR skills. There was a sponsorship workshop with Townsend Bell, and then we had a written test on general racing knowledge. There was fitness testing too. Then they set up an autocross course and a karting track in the parking lot and we had tests on those too.

"That narrowed the field down to 30," he continued. "Those 30 were then taken to Spring Mountain Race Track, which is about 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas. We did sessions in the VW Cup cars there.

"In the morning we walked the track and reviewed track notes, and then we broke into groups. We had follow-the-leader, controlled lapping sessions first, and then 15-minute sessions on our own, and then the judges made their final decisions."

What do Gleason's parents think?

"They are really excited for me," he said. "It's a tremendous opportunity and I can't thank them enough for their support."

-source: kg/restart commmunications

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Townsend Bell , Chris Gleason , Kevin Gleason