SCC: Chris Gleason Mid-Ohio report

Gleason and Auberlen Win Sunday; Gleason and Hand Almost Win Sat. In Wild Weekend at Mid-Ohio LEXINGTON, Ohio, June 25 - Chris Gleason experienced the highs and lows of racing in dramatic fashion over the weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car ...

Gleason and Auberlen Win Sunday; Gleason and Hand Almost Win Sat. In Wild Weekend at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio, June 25 - Chris Gleason experienced the highs and lows of racing in dramatic fashion over the weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and the Johnstown, Pa.-based driver came within three laps of pulling off a rare double victory with two different co-drivers in two different events.

His co-driver in Saturday night's Rolex Series race, Joey Hand, was leading in the late stages of that race but then was involved in a spectacular accident that destroyed the pair's Matt Connolly Motorsports BMW M3 No. 21. Luckily Hand escaped serious injury.

Less than 24 hours later Gleason and his co-driver in the Grand-Am Cup series, Bill Auberlen, were victorious in another BMW M3 fielded by Turner Motorsport on Sunday afternoon at the 2.258-mile road course.

Sunday Gleason and Auberlen made it two Grand-Am Cup victories in a row Sunday with their Turner Motorsport BMW M3 No. 21, which is sponsored in part by Gleason Financial.

They also moved into a six-way tie for second place in the point standings, just one point behind leader Anders Hainer, by winning Sunday's 77-lap Grand-Am Cup race over the BGB Motorsports Porsche Carrera of Mark Plummer and Craig Stanton. David Russell and Kris Wilson were third in another BMW M3 fielded by Automatic Racing.

Gleason qualified tenth and got off to a great start, moving up to eighth by lap six. In the early going it seemed like the lead was not the place to be, since several leaders got to the head of the 77-car field only to encounter problems.

Gleason had no such trouble, however, and he was clear up to fifth place when the first full-course caution waved on lap 13 to get Jason Workman's car out of a gravel trap. Gleason pitted two laps later under that yellow and Auberlen, of Redondo Beach, Calif., took over.

After the stop Auberlen was shown in 26th position on lap 17, but he was ready to start his charge when the green waved again on lap 21 while he was in 22nd position. He passed seven cars in three laps to move into 15th place by lap 24, and two more to boot on the following circuit.

He was up to seventh on lap 30 but a few seconds later he spun in the final turn and dropped back to 14th place. Shaking that off he once again started to pick off cars, and he was back to 11th by lap 33.

A multi-car flip slowed things down but Auberlen kept to his work, and by lap 56 he was all the way up to fourth. Things got even more interesting then as Spencer Pumpelly, Stanton, Wayne Nonnamaker, Auberlen and Patrick Long were all duking it out for the front-running spots.

With about a half-hour of the two-hour-and-30-minute race left Auberlen passed Nonnamaker for third place on lap 60 and then got by Pumpelly for second on the next lap. Less than two-tenths of a second separated him from the leader at that time, Stanton, and on lap 62 Auberlen passed Stanton in turn four for the lead.

There was still some drama left, however, as Stanton got by Auberlen on a restart on lap 70 with about 13 minutes left in the race. Auberlen immediately passed him back, and although Stanton kept the pressure up another full-course yellow waved on lap 74 and Auberlen was home free when the race ended under yellow.

"My job is to qualify the car and when the fuel window opens, get it into the Rocket Man's hands in good shape," Gleason said in victory circle. "The Turner Motorsport team gave us a car that was good right out of the box this weekend, and Bill was able to show you what he had.

"Yesterday was all about showcasing the talents of Joey Hand; today was all about showcasing Bill Auberlen," Gleason added. "Joey and I were in line for a victory yesterday but it was cut short by a questionable move by another competitor. The important thing is that he's OK. It was a sort of David versus Goliath story all along, because that's a low-budget team pitted again teams with a lot more support. Joey did a masterful job, as did Bill today."

"Chris did a great job and gave the car to me in great shape," Auberlen added. "I spun once, and then I went bananas trying to get to the front. STOP-TECH helps us with our brakes, and that really helped. The Porsche got a run on me once and got by, but then he overshot the turn and I got back by him."

Saturday Gleason thought he and co-driver Joey Hand of Sacramento, Calif. were headed for the top step of the podium near the end of Saturday night's Rolex Series race, but instead both ended up heading to a local hospital; Hand in an ambulance and Gleason in a car to check on him.

Driving the Matt Connolly Motorsports BMW M3 No. 21, Hand was in the lead on the backstretch with second, third and fourth place right behind him when the second-place driver hit him in the rear. Out of control, Hand's BMW went off the track and over a mound of dirt, which served like a motorcycle stunt rider's ramp and launched him into the air. The car flipped at least eight times and finally landed on its roof, with fuel pouring out of it.

Luckily there was no fire, Hand never lost consciousness, and X-rays later at a local hospital showed no broken bones. Stiff and sore, Hand even made it to the track on Sunday, although he decided to sit Sunday's Grand-Am Cup race out.

Saturday's race ended under yellow due to the crash and Gleason and Hand's entry was scored in seventh place.

Hand earned the pole on Friday and he led the first four laps of the race before Wolf Henzler took the top spot with the Tafel Racing Porsche No. 72, which led from laps five through 68.

Hand pitted under yellow on lap 42 for Gleason to take over, about an hour and 15 minutes into the race. Kelly Collins, in the TRG Pontiac No. 64, passed Gleason on lap 44 to push him to third.

Collins pitted four laps later under a yellow to let his co-driver, Paul Edwards, take over. Gleason, still in third, pitted under that same full-course yellow on lap 49 and Hand got back in.

Henzler's co-driver, Robin Liddell, was still in the lead at that point but Hand got second back by beating the No. 64 Pontiac out of the pits on lap 72 under another full-course yellow. Hand got the lead back on the restart on lap 77 with about 35 minutes left by passing Liddell, and a little later Edwards passed Liddell to move into second.

Hand was still in the lead on lap 97 of what turned out to be a 99-lap race when he got hit by Edwards. With Hand's BMW off course and upside down, Liddell got around Edwards in the melee to come from third and post the victory a couple of minutes later under yellow.

"I'm sorry for the Matt Connolly Motorsports team and Chris Gleason; I felt we had a winning car," Hand said on Sunday. "This was my second huge wreck; I'm really sore but I'm surprised and very happy to be walking today. I'm excited that all my limbs move. I'm bruised but the CAT scans and X-rays were all OK. I always say that I'm either going to win or put on a show trying, but this was a big one and I don't want to replay it.

"I was taking stock of everything after every roll. My right shoe and my right glove got blown off; that kind of weirded me out. I tried to get out on my own but my HANS device got caught twice on the window net. The safety crew also poured about 200 gallons of water on me afterwards because of all the fuel that was spilled.

"I'm glad it was a PPG-built race car and it was prepared right by Matt Connolly Motorsports," he concluded, adding with a smile, "And I hope it makes the 'And They Walked Away Seven' video too! It was definitely a Dukes of Hazard-type launch, only I didn't stick the landing too well."

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Robin Liddell , Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Kelly Collins , Wayne Nonnamaker , Patrick Long , Chris Gleason , Spencer Pumpelly , Jason Workman , Matt Connolly , Mark Plummer , Anders Hainer , Wolf Henzler , Kris Wilson , David Russell
Teams Turner Motorsport , Automatic Racing