Gleason's Rolex Series Car Gets Fourth in GT Race; He Leads Grand-Am Cup Race Saturday at VIR ALTON, Va., April 22 - Johnstown, Pa.'s Chris Gleason had a lot going on Saturday at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR). One of his co-drivers in...
Gleason's Rolex Series Car Gets Fourth in GT Race; He Leads Grand-Am Cup Race Saturday at VIR
ALTON, Va., April 22 - Johnstown, Pa.'s Chris Gleason had a lot going on Saturday at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR).
One of his co-drivers in Rolex Series GT competition, Joey Hand, finished fourth in the 30-minute Rolex Series GT race Saturday afternoon in the Matt Connolly Motorsports BMW M3 No. 21. Under a new qualifying format that debuted here today, that did two things that affected Gleason. The first is that Gleason will start fourth in the GT class in tomorrow's longer Rolex Series race, when both the Daytona Prototype and GT fields are combined. The second is that as soon as he completes at least one lap in tomorrow's race, he'll also share in the fourth-place points earned today along with Hand, as will Jeff Altenburg when he does at least one race lap tomorrow in the BMW of Towson, Md.-sponsored car too. The 30-minute qualifying race carried a complete Rolex Series points payout, effectively making a Rolex Series doubleheader here this weekend.
Gleason also drives the Turner Motorsport/Gleason Financial BMW M3 No. 96 in the Grand-Am Cup division, which had a wild and wooly race of its own here later Saturday afternoon. Gleason started second in the 81-car field and promptly passed the pole-sitting Porsche 996 of Joe Nonnamaker to lead lap one. Then he was forced to endure numerous yellow flags as cars collided and slid off the 3.27-mile road course under a driving rain.
Gleason survived the melees and he turned the car over to co-driver Bill Auberlen in great shape. Auberlen was able to lead twice in what turned out to be a 49-lap race, heading the field from laps 26 to 34 and then again on lap 37.
But the team was on Hoosier rain tires late in the race when the rain let up, the track started to dry out and more laps were run under green. Pitting under green wasn't an option, so Auberlen nursed his rain tires on the drying track as best he could, but they just got too hot. The entry fell from the front of the field to 25th overall and 22nd in the top class, GS, in the last 12 laps, and that's where it was scored at the checkered.
Officiating was as frustrating as driving under the five cautions that slowed the field for 37 of the 49 laps run, as a total of 27 penalties were bestowed. Most of them were for pitting out of sequence or passing under the yellow. The No. 96 got one of the latter, served it and soldiered on.
"It was a frustrating race," Gleason said afterwards. "There were too many cars on a difficult course in very challenging conditions. We tried our best but when it started to clear up we just basically destroyed our rain tires. Poor Bill. I think he did less green-flag laps than I did before that final run. The number of laps run under yellow had to be a new record.
"I had a good start," Gleason continued. "I passed the polesitting Porsche at the top of the esses, but then on the next lap the yellow came out."
Gleason will get ready to go again in the Rolex Series race tomorrow, which will be televised live on SPEED at 1 p.m. Eastern.
"Joey [Hand] did a great job in the GT race under appalling conditions," Gleason noted. "He showed why he's a BMW factory driver. I'll start tomorrow's race and try to stay out of trouble and we'll see what we can do."
In addition to the live TV, live timing and scoring will be available on the Internet at grandamerican.com.