Fontana: Chris Gleason race report

Gleason and His Teammates Finish Fourth in Points for Season Following Fontana Finale FONTANA, Calif., Oct. 31 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and his teammates, R.J. Valentine of Hingham, Mass. and Ian James of Kissimmee, Fla., finished tied...

Gleason and His Teammates Finish Fourth in Points for Season Following Fontana Finale

FONTANA, Calif., Oct. 31 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and his teammates, R.J. Valentine of Hingham, Mass. and Ian James of Kissimmee, Fla., finished tied for fourth place in the national Grand Touring (GT) point standings of the Grand American Road Racing Association's Rolex series for 2004 following their sixth podium finish of the season in the season finale Sunday at California Speedway.

Unofficially their entry, The Racers Group Porsche GT3 RS No. 66, which is sponsored in part by Gleason's company, The Gleason Group of Johnstown, Pa., finished third in the GT team point standings for the year. Other sponsors of the car include F1 Boston, Monster Cable and Adobe Road Winery.

Sunday's race, the Lexus Grand American 400, was televised live on SPEED.

Gleason and James ended up doing most of the driving Sunday when the only full-course caution flew on the first of 89 laps.

"We knew that since you're flat-out so much here there probably wouldn't be many full-course yellows, and that one on the first lap was the only one in the whole race," Gleason said afterwards. "Our strategy was to have R.J. start and then I'd get in at the first full-course yellow no matter when it came, and it came on lap one. So he pitted and I got in, and at that point we were last obviously.

"I had a good stint; I think I was fifth or sixth when the fuel light came on. The Racers Group had the car prepared very well. I had a little understeer in the banking, but that may have been wind-induced. I just tried to run real consistent laps and stay out of trouble so Ian would have a car at the end.

"Anyway, the fuel ran out and I pitted, Ian got in and he was able to work it back up to third at the end. He had to battle that Maserati at the end. He passed it but then he had to come in for a splash-and-go for fuel at the end. That put us about 40 seconds behind it. We couldn't believe the Maserati was still out there, but finally about four laps to go it came in for a splash-and-go and that gave us our solid podium finish."

Two BMW M3s were first and second Sunday, while Gleason and his teammates' Porsche was third. BMW won the GT car manufacturers' point standings by 18 points over Porsche, again unofficially. The three drivers who finished ahead of Gleason, Valentine and James in the driver point standings - Bill Auberlen, Boris Said and Justin Marks - all drove BMWs.

"We were on the podium in six out of the 12 races this year, so it was a terrific year for us," Gleason said. "The BMW factory team beat us; it was above everybody else, but it's important to remember that we're a privateer, independent team. We are pleased with what we were able to do against their factory effort."

The series' year-end awards ceremony is tomorrow night at Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas.

"Now it's off to Vegas for the awards ceremony tomorrow night," Gleason noted. "I'll have some plans for the 2005 season to announce soon. It will be in Grand American and it will be exciting. I'll let you know about it when I can."

Until then, more information is available at www.gleasonagency.com, www.theracersgroup.com, www.grandamerican.com, www.californiaspeedway.com and www.restartcommunications.com.

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Boris Said , Bill Auberlen , Ian James , Justin Marks , Chris Gleason , R.J. Valentine