Gleason and Hand Are Seventh Until Closing Minutes of Race Sunday at Homestead HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 15 - Drivers Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and Joey Hand of Sacramento, Calif. were poised to finish at least seventh in the Grand Sport KONI...
Gleason and Hand Are Seventh Until Closing Minutes of Race Sunday at Homestead
HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 15 - Drivers Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and Joey Hand of Sacramento, Calif. were poised to finish at least seventh in the Grand Sport KONI Challenge race Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but they ended up 18th instead after their Turner Motorsport BMW M3 No. 97 experienced an unusual problem with its hood that forced the entry out with just nine minutes remaining in the two-and-a-half-hour event.
Until the trouble struck in the waning moments of the race, a top-10 finish for the car, which is sponsored in part by Gleason Financial, looked like a lock. Now the popular duo will have to wait for their luck to change for the better at the third race of the season May 1-2 at New Jersey Motorsports Park near Atlantic City, one of three races for the series that month.
Things started out well. Gleason qualified 14th on Friday afternoon with a time of 1:29.178 for an average speed of 92.848 miles per hour around the 2.3-mile, 11-turn road course. Then he got to start 12th on Sunday after two other entries had problems.
He was already in the top 10 by lap three when he set the fastest lap of his stint, a 1:29.769 (92.236 mph). He moved into ninth when an oil line let go in a sister Turner Motorsport BMW that had been the early leader. He stayed in ninth place until lap 11 when Bret Seafuse, who went on to finish fourth, passed him to relegate Gleason back to tenth position.
As Oswaldo Negri was taking the lead from Peter Ludwig on lap 14, Gleason fell back to 12th when both Daniel DiLeo and Scott Turner got by him. He stayed in 12th for several laps despite a heated battle with Roberto Bengoa in a Mustang that went on to finish eighth. The latter got by on lap 20, although Gleason was gaining on him and was poised to regain the spot around lap 23. He didn't have time to complete the pass, however, as the team's strategy called for him to pit at that point for Hand to take over. Gleason ended up driving for the first 43 minutes of the race, turning the car over to his professional c o-driver in one piece as planned.
Unfortunately the event's only full-course caution came out shortly after their pit stop instead of right before it, as the Automatic Racing BMW stalled in Turn 7 to bring out a yellow from laps 33 to 34. Still, Hand was able to methodically work his way back up the standings. By lap 59 with about one hour remaining in the race the car was back in 12th place. It was one lap down at that point, but all but the top five cars were at least one lap down by then.
About 13 minutes later Hand was firmly in ninth place, sandwiched between Hugh Plumb's Mustang and Barry Ellis's Porsche. He was still in ninth at the two-hour mark, although now he was trying to catch Steve Jenkins' BMW M3 while holding off Bryan Ortiz in the Mustang that Bengoa had been driving earlier.
Hand advanced two more spots by lap 83 to move into seventh with 22 minutes left. He was about 3.5 seconds behind Jenkins and 14 seconds ahead of Vesko Korarov's Mustang at that point. He was right on the sixth-place car's bumper a few minutes later when unfortunately his car's hood flew up and smashed its windshield. The race officials deemed the damage too extensive for the entry to continue, so it only completed 91 laps to the eventual winner's 98. Only four of the 27 starters finished on the lead lap.
"Joey did a great job. We qualified 14th but we started 12th. The car went well for me in the beginning; I got into the top 10. It's amazing how a layoff affects you though; the car's handling changed but I didn't change my driving style to suit my car. I should have adapted better, and I beat the tires up. I finally got back into the groove and held my spot, but we went down a lap when the only full-course caution of the race happened four or five laps after we pitted for the driver change.
"Joey had to fight his way back and he drove a hell of a race. We had a problem with the hood though. I'm not sure what happened, but it sort of buckled. He didn't hit anybody, but it vibrated loose. It affected the aerodynamics some, but that wasn't the real problem. On our last pit stop the crew tried to tape it up, but that didn't work. Five or six laps from the end Joey was right on the sixth-place car's bumper when the hood flew up and smashed the windscreen. He got back into the pits, but the damage was such that the officials wouldn't let him back out. It was a terrible ending to a lot of hard work, but these things happen in racing.
"If we're not in position for a win or a podium we always want to make sure we maximize any points we can make, but it didn't work out for us today. At least it's early in the season."
-credit: restart communications