Gleason and Hand Finish Second Saturday in Garden State 250 MILLVILLE, N.J., May 2 - Only a few miles from the theaters of Atlantic City's casinos, Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and Joey Hand of Sacramento, Calif. came in for their share of ...
Gleason and Hand Finish Second Saturday in Garden State 250
MILLVILLE, N.J., May 2 - Only a few miles from the theaters of Atlantic City's casinos, Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and Joey Hand of Sacramento, Calif. came in for their share of applause Saturday after they finished second in the Garden State 250 at New Jersey Motorsports Park's Thunderbolt Raceway.
Gleason and Hand's Turner Motorsport BMW M3 was only 2.505 seconds behind a Porsche 997 co-driven by Duncan Ende of Los Angeles and Spencer Pumpelly of Suwanee, Ga. after two and one-half hours of competition on the demanding, 2.25-mile road course.
Peter Ludwig of New Paltz, N.Y. and Billy Johnson of San Clemente, Calif. finished a distant third. Their Porsche was more than 18 seconds behind Gleason and Hand's No. 97, which is sponsored in part by Gleason Financial.
The race featured 10 lead changes. Hand led once for three circuits, heading the field from laps 52 through 54. He also set the second-fastest lap of the race on lap 48 in 1:30.190 for an average speed of 89.810 miles per hour. Only Pumpelly ran faster, as he set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:29.963 (90.037 mph) on lap 47 while battling Hand in the 45-car contest. Ironically the top three in the race at that point ended up being the three podium finishers, in that order, when the checkered waved on lap 93.
A great deal happened before and after that, however. Gleason started 18th and passed both Scott Panzer and Charles Putman right away. He ran the fastest lap of his 38-minute stint on lap six, which was just about a second off the laps being run by Matthew Bell at the time. Bell had won the pole and led the first 27 laps of the race in a sister Turner Motorsport BMW M3 that he shares with Bill Auberlen.
Gleason moved up to 15th on lap five and 14th on lap 10. For most of his stint he chased Mark Boden of Winnetka, Ill., who was driving another BMW M3 fielded by Fall-Line Motorsports, while keeping ahead of Putman, of Mills, Wyo., who was in the Automatic Racing BMW M3 that was in contention for the victory until the very end with Charles Espenlaub of Lutz, Fla. driving.
Gleason was one second behind Boden on lap 16, but he'd cut Boden's advantage to only 0.450 of a second two laps later despite the fact there were no cautions during his stint to tighten the field.
When one did occur on lap 24 for a disabled Mazda MX-5, Gleason pitted for four tires, fuel and to turn the car over to Hand. The pit stop dropped the entry back to 27th place, but Hand had it back in the top 15 by lap 28 and in ninth by lap 33. Through some other drivers' pit stops and some passing, he moved from seventh on lap 35 to second on lap 38 after the event's second and final caution came out at about the one-hour mark for two cars that had rolled to a stop. It lasted only five laps.
Hand was 1.820 seconds behind Pumpelly on lap 50, and he took the lead on lap 52 when Pumpelly pitted. Hand pitted himself on lap 55, which dropped him back to 12th place. Two laps later he was 11th to Auberlen's tenth. Auberlen and Bell's car led 29 laps on Saturday to Hand and Gleason's three laps, but the latter's BMW was quicker Saturday.
Hand climbed back into the top 10 on lap 61. With 20 minutes remaining in the race he was eighth, but three minutes later he was fourth. With 12 minutes to go he was third to leader Charles Espenlaub and Pumpelly. With less than 10 minutes remaining Pumpelly took the lead from Espenlaub on lap 86. With six minutes left Pumpelly was 2.534 seconds ahead of Espenlaub, while Hand was 2.596 seconds behind Espenlaub and 5.130 seconds behind Pumpelly. With just three minutes remaining Espenlaub faded to third. He dropped to sixth at the very end because he was running out of fuel, which allowed Johnson to take the final podium position.
"All weekend I was going really well, as I was only about a second off Bill [Auberlen] and Joey [Hand]'s times. We were all set for qualifying on Friday, but when we pulled out of the pits it rained like cats and dogs. I wound up qualifying 18th, which was awful. I was dejected with the whole thing. I worked myself over pretty good.
"But we sat down and talked it over, and Joey said to just keep the car in one piece and run my pace, and not to worry. We came in right at our fuel window, and Joey got four tires and fuel.
"Spencer Pumpelly was the first guy to do a pit stop, and then we came in and did the same thing. Billy [Auberlen] came in and didn't take any tires, so he was ahead of us after the pit stop. The same thing applied for Billy Johnson; he got out right ahead of us too.
"Joey closed in on both Billy Johnson and Billy Auberlen. Billy Auberlen tried to pass Billy Johnson and sliced his tire while he was doing it, and Joey slipped by on the outside and passed them both. That's how he got ahead of him. Then Auberlen had a cut tire later too.
"Joey did a fantastic job. Spencer beat us by less than 3 seconds. It was a wonderful race; I haven't been on the podium since 2007, so it was great. The Turner Motorsport team did a wonderful job; they have a fabulous engine builder. The whole team really performed great. It will be fun to watch it all on TV, and this helps us in the point standings.
"Joey won't be able to be my co-driver at Laguna Seca, so Justin Marks is going to drive with me for Monterey. We were teammates in '05, so it will be nice racing with him again too."
-credit: restart communications