Laguna Seca: Chris Gleason race report

Johnstown, Pa.'s Gleason Finishes Third At Laguna Seca Sunday MONTEREY, Calif., May 1 - Chris Gleason was an integral part of a proud day for BMW North America on Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca here. The Johnstown, Pa.-based man was one...

Johnstown, Pa.'s Gleason Finishes Third At Laguna Seca Sunday

MONTEREY, Calif., May 1 - Chris Gleason was an integral part of a proud day for BMW North America on Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca here.

The Johnstown, Pa.-based man was one of the drivers who brought the factory team's three BMW M3s home first, second and third in the Road & Track 250 Rolex series race.

The two-hour-and-45-minute race was televised live on SPEED.

Tom Milner, Justin Marks and Bill Auberlen were first in the No. 16 BMW; R.J. Valentine and Kelly Collins were second in the No. 17 BMW and Ian James, Gleason and Joey Hand completed the BMW GT sweep in the No. 22.

James and Gleason usually drive the No. 22 in the series' two-hour-and-45-minute races alone. Hand was added to the line-up for that car and Auberlen was added to the roster of the No. 16 after the team's No. 21 BMW M3 that Hand and Auberlen usually drive was damaged in a crash in practice on Saturday.

The top two BMWs completed 92 laps in the hard-fought, 51-car race. James, Gleason and Hand lost one lap when they pitted under green but they easily held off the Synergy Racing Porsche of David Murry and Craig Stanton to compete the BMW sweep of the top three spots.

James drove the first stint; Gleason drove the second stint and Hand brought the car home at the end.

James was in the No. 22 when he passed the No. 17 BMW in turn eight for the lead on lap 30. He was still in the lead when he pitted on lap 54 and Gleason got in. That pit stop was made under green, which caused the entry to lose a lap and allow the No. 17 to regain the top spot.

A full-course caution waved on lap 61 when a Pontiac stopped in turn eight, so team owner Tom Milner used that opportunity to bring Gleason in two laps later under yellow to let Hand take over. On the restart the No. 16 had a 10-second lead over the No. 17 and the No. 22 was third, which is where it finished when the checkered dropped.

The next race is a six-hour race on May 21 in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.

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

Quotes follow:

Chris Gleason: "It was a great weekend for BMW; it was BMW all the way. It was great to take all three podium positions. The head of BMW North America was here and they introduced the new 3 Series on the West Coast here this weekend, so it was great to do so well here in the race.

"We were the only car that pitted under the green. That put us back and we couldn't make that up, but we still finished third so that was great.

"Ian [James] led the race for a long time.  He really showed BMW that he can
do the job.  I felt good about that, because I brought him to the program.

"With the sixth at Fontana and the third here, now we're building up some points.

"When we pitted under the green, I told Tom [Milner] that the first chance you get under the yellow, get Joey [Hand] in. He and Ian are both professional drivers and I'm not. I was only out there six or seven laps. I just wanted to stay clean and have no problems, and I didn't have any.

"Now we go to Mont-Tremblant.  We haven't decided on who the third driver
will be for that race.  Maybe we'll only do two; I don't know.

"I'm just really pleased with our results here today. This is another great moment for BMW and I am proud to be a part of it."

Ian James: "If the pit strategy had fallen in our favor I think we could have won, but it is always great to be on the podium. A great day for BMW."

Joey Hand: "Ian and Chris had already done a great job before I got into the car. I hustled the No. 22 M3 when I could, and, after losing the No. 21 M3 yesterday, am very happy to reach the podium and score some points."

Tom Milner, team owner: "Our pit strategy was perfect today. The team truly deserves the credit. We only had three M3s in the race today, but we still put all eight of our drivers on the podium."

Larry Koch, BMW of North America motorsports manager: "Today's strategy was excellent and our drivers were able to stay out of the way of trouble. With a one-two-three M3 finish as a result, we could not be more pleased."

-lm-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers David Murry , Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Kelly Collins , Ian James , Justin Marks , Chris Gleason , Craig Stanton