Gleason and Auberlen Lead KONI Challenge GS Point Standings After Second-Place Finish at Homestead Sunday HOMESTEAD, Fla., April 16 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and his co-driver, Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Calif., lead the KONI ...
Gleason and Auberlen Lead KONI Challenge GS Point Standings After Second-Place Finish at Homestead Sunday
HOMESTEAD, Fla., April 16 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and his co-driver, Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Calif., lead the KONI Challenge Grand Sport driver point standings after finishing second on Sunday in the Miami 400k at Homestead-Miami Speedway here.
Tom Nastasi and one of Gleason's former co-drivers, Ian James, won the race, but their entry was penalized after a post-race technical inspection revealed their Mustang had too much front camber. Grand-Am officials allowed the team and drivers to keep the victory but docked them 15 points and all their prize money. Gleason and Auberlen's Turner Motorsport BMW M3 passed the inspection and, coupled with the points they earned with a third-place finish at the season opener at Daytona in January, they now lead the series' driver standings with 62 points each, nine more than the drivers in second place.
Auberlen competed in another race in California on Saturday, and flew all night to be at Homestead to race with Gleason in Sunday's 109-lap/two-and- a-half-hour race. Gleason qualified the car in sixth place and drove the first stint. Five different drivers went off course early but Gleason drove flawlessly and turned the car over to Auberlen in great shape under the second full-course caution 34 minutes into the event on Homestead's 2.3-mile road course.
Just 12 minutes later Auberlen reported back to the pits with the BMW's bumper dragging after an altercation, but repairs were made and an hour and 47 minutes into the event Auberlen was in third place. He got second two minutes later and stayed in a seesaw battle for the lead in the ensuing laps. He got the lead shortly after the 2-hour mark when Andy Lally pitted. He led for two laps, but then Auberlen had to pit for rain tires too, which gave the lead to James Gue.
The Turner Motorsport crew changed the tires quickly, and Auberlen was back in third about 18 minutes later when he passed Nick Ham entering NASCAR Turn Four. James got the lead two minutes later, and then Gue went off course in the rapidly deteriorating conditions due to the rain. Auberlen mounted a challenge to James at the end but ran out of time when another BMW careened into a gravel trap and a Porsche stopped on the backstretch with two laps remaining to bring out another full-course caution.
Gleason's next race is April 20-22 at the brand-new Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
Chris Gleason: "We were third in Daytona and second here, so it's a good start to the season. Bill drove the Panoz at Long Beach, finished fifth, and took the red eye to Miami. He practiced this morning, pronounced the M3 right on, and retired to the drivers' lounge for a power nap. Obviously, he did a terrific job and brought the car home under these conditions. It's terrific. That's why we call him the Rocket Man. He did a great job.
"Our plan was our typical model. I qualified sixth in the 42-car field, planning to turn it over to Bill in the 35- to 60-minute window if we got a full-course yellow. At about 40 minutes a full-course yellow was displayed. I believe I was in sixth place, as I was in touch with the leading group without difficulty.
"We had a textbook pit stop, beating our team car, which pitted ahead of us, out of the pits. Bill then proceeded to work his way through the field despite a few bumps along the way, one that necessitated a pit stop to remove a damaged rear bumper.
"Eventually he was in the top-five, contesting the win. At this time, as called for by the weather forecast, it began to rain. With about 10 laps remaining we brought Bill in for fuel and rain tires, as he couldn't make it to the finish without a fuel stop. Again the Turner pit crew performed flawlessly, getting Bill back on track in fifth place. He closed to second but ran out of time. Ian James, my old teammate, did a terrific job to win the race. Bill and I are happy to be leading the point standings, but it's still early in the season so we'll just continue to take it one race at a time."
Bill Auberlen (as told to the Grand-Am staff): "Chris did a great job. He qualified right up front [sixth]. We made our pit stop really early. It was our strategy call, but it puts you to the back.
"We had to come up through the field, and sure enough, I get hit in the back, it rips my bumper off, and we had to make two pit stops to fix it without going a lap down. I had to come up from the back again.
"The car was great. I think this was the best I've ever seen Chris drive, so he did a great job. Shoot, one more to go and we would have had a double win here in Homestead from the Daytona Prototype thing and the GS thing. That would have been great, but I had to really consider his points deal.
"It was getting very slippery, and I could see the leader right ahead of me. How hard do you push? I just didn't want to push us right out of this championship."
-credit: restart communications