Gleason Is Part of Championship-Winning Team; Johnstown, Pa.-Based Driver Is Third in Driver Points For 2006 in Grand-Am Cup Series JOHNSTOWN, Pa., Dec. 29 - As 2006 winds down, Chris Gleason can look back at the just-completed racing season...
Gleason Is Part of Championship-Winning Team; Johnstown, Pa.-Based Driver Is Third in Driver Points For 2006 in Grand-Am Cup Series
JOHNSTOWN, Pa., Dec. 29 - As 2006 winds down, Chris Gleason can look back at the just-completed racing season with pride. The Johnstown, Pa.-based driver and his teammate, Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Calif., won more Grand-Am Cup races than any other pair in the most competitive season in series history; they finished tied for third in the driver point standings; and they were part of the Turner Motorsport team that won the series' team Grand Sport championship.
Individually Gleason and Auberlen finished tied for third in the national driver point standings out of over 180 Grand Sport drivers who competed in the 10 events. They accrued just 24 points less than their teammate who won the driver's title in another Turner Motorsport BMW M3, Anders Hainer. He earned 253 points to their 229.
Gleason and Auberlen were victorious at both Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., in May and at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, in June. No other combination won more than once.
They were on the podium an incredible five _times, finishing third or better in half of the events with their Turner Motorsport BMW M3 No. 96, which is sponsored in part by Gleason Financial.
"The highlights of the year for me were the wins," Gleason said recently. "Up until our win at Lime Rock, I'd gone 30-some races and been on the podium almost half the time with nary a win, and that was really getting to me. That win at Lime Rock and the back-to-back win at Mid-Ohio was the most gratifying part of the year. That got the monkey off my back. There's nothing like winning; it's wonderful!"
He has high praise for his primary co-driver, Auberlen, whom he hopes to race with again in 2007, when the series will be called the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series. "We call him the Rocket Man," Gleason said. "He's a special guy; he's a positive member of the team; he doesn't point fingers, and he's very talented."
Gleason also has high praise for Turner Motorsport, based in Amesbury, Mass.
"I think that they are very thorough," he said. "Commitment to detail differentiates them from other teams. Car preparation for the team is very good. The engineer, Marc Feinstein, is outstanding. Everybody is on the same page and everybody is pulling on the same load and in the same direction together, and that's what you need in such a competitive series."
He added that the BMW he drove this year had less horsepower than the cars it competed against and it was among the heaviest cars in the series, but it has excellent brakes and handling characteristics.
"Our success is really a tribute to the BMW engineers who designed and built the car," he added.
At 63, Gleason still enjoys the challenges of professional racing and the thrills of competing on some of the nation's best road courses.
"The whole locker room appeal of racing is the most fun," he said. "You become close with the other drivers and your team. It's a feeling of camaraderie; you're all pulling to affect an outcome.
"I'm hesitant to give it up; my wife pressures me to hang up my goggles and I'll have to some day, but I really like that locker room aspect of the sport," he added. "The Turner team is exemplary about their culture. They have good leadership and respect among the team members; there is no whining and grousing and finger pointing. And because they have that, they got the results this year. Those achievements just don't happen, especially in such a competitive environment like we had this year."
Gleason is also the chief executive officer and president of Gleason Financial, part of the Gleason Group headquartered in Johnstown, Pa.
He will start testing for the 2007 season next week at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. He plans to compete in both the Rolex 24 on Jan. 27-28 and in the KONI Challenge race at Daytona that will precede it on Friday, Jan. 26.
-credit: restart communications