Road Atlanta: Chris Gleason preview

Gleason's Race to be Broadcast on CBS Sunday JOHNSTOWN, Pa., June 26 - Many sports fans know that Chris Gleason is an accomplished endurance sports car racer in addition to being the president of a top insurance company, Gleason Financial, based...

Gleason's Race to be Broadcast on CBS Sunday

JOHNSTOWN, Pa., June 26 - Many sports fans know that Chris Gleason is an accomplished endurance sports car racer in addition to being the president of a top insurance company, Gleason Financial, based in his hometown of Johnstown, Pa. However, if they wanted to catch one of his races on TV sometime to learn more about this type of motorsports, they were often out of luck if they didn't have cable television.

All that can change Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time, as Gleason's next race, the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta, will be broadcast live on CBS. The event itself will start at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

There are four different classes of race cars (LMP 900, LMP 675, GTS and GT) competing at the same time in American Le Mans Series (ALMS) events like this one at Road Atlanta Motorsports Park, just north of Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. Each compete for top finishing positions within their respective classes, and an overall winner is also crowned.

Gleason and co-driver Marc Bunting of Monkton, Md., are entered in the GT class, sharing one of the bright blue Porsches of The Racer's Group. This particular Porsche 911 GT3 RS, number 68, is sponsored by Monster Cable, mail2web.com, Adobe Road Winery, Rennlist.com and of course Gleason Financial, a leading, independently-owned property and casualty insurance broker that develops and manages customized risk management, employee retirement and benefits programs.

The race is the second of nine ALMS races this year on a schedule, which saw a 15-week break in the action between the season opener, the prestigious Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in Sebring, Fla., and the second race. The pause was due to some unavoidable schedule changes, but now everyone involved is raring to get back racing, including Gleason, although he did race in two other non-ALMS races at Road Atlanta and one in Phoenix, Ariz. in the interim. (He won one of the Road Atlanta events.)

"Well, Marc and I will finally get back in a race car," Gleason said Thursday from his offices in Promistar Plaza on Main Street in Johnstown before leaving for Georgia. "It seems like an off-season since our last event in April. As you know the schedule begins to pick up at the end of July and through August and September.

"I'm excited about the race," added Gleason, who will turn 60 in October and has kept himself in a rigorous training program even before the seventies, when he ran Super Vees and tied for Rookie of the Year honors in Formula Atlantics, one of the key stepping-stone series to Indy cars. "I've been driving shifter karts trying to stay in shape."

Road Atlanta, a 2.54-mile road course, is a very demanding race track with its 12 twisty turns and various elevation changes. The GT class is not the fastest but it's the most competitive, as 16 of the 36 cars entered in the race are GT cars.

Gleason sometimes competes in races that are 24 and 12 hours long. Just two years ago he had top-10 finishes in his class in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France--in three different cars! Sunday's race is much shorter, however, as it will all be over in two hours and 45 minutes. Avoiding crashes and mechanical gremlins will be of paramount importance.

Staying as comfortable as possible in the Georgia heat will be important too. Drivers can face temperatures of approximately 140 degrees while wearing multiple layers of protective clothing. It is estimated that a driver's body temperature can reach 103 degrees during a race due to the effects of G forces, heat, vibration and other factors. The stress of the race is hard on a driver's heart, eyes, neck, hands, elbows, ribs, knees and feet, in particular.

Testing will be held tomorrow (Friday), while qualifying for starting positions will be the highlight of Saturday's action. Gleason's class and the GTS class will qualify together from 3:10 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The two-hour, 45-minute race, with all four classes running at their various speeds at the same time on the same track, will start at 3 p.m. Sunday and get the checkered at 5:45 p.m.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Chris Gleason , Marc Bunting