Gleason Brothers Finish Fourth In Continental Tire Race at Homestead Saturday

HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 6 – When the Gleason brothers set the fastest time in the Street Tuner class in the first practice session for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series Friday morning at Homestead-Miami Speedway, they knew their APR Motorsport No. 181 Volkswagen GTI was fast.

As it turned out their VW was the fastest car in the entire class during the Kia 200 Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. They not only posted the fastest race lap, but they were able to battle back from an incident that dropped them to 27th at one point to finish fourth.

The rousing performance was a dramatic turn-around for the pair, who missed the season opener at Daytona due to an accident in practice.

This time Chris Gleason Jr., of Wayne, Pa., and Kevin Gleason, of Johnstown, Pa., were major players throughout the event with their car, which advertises VW DriverGear, APR Tuned, Motul and BBS.

Chris Gleason Jr. qualified eighth but he was already in fifth place at the end of lap two in the 85-lap, 2-hour-and-30-minute race. He passed Adam Burrows for fourth on his fourth trip around the 2.3-mile, 11-turn road course, right before the first of four full-course cautions waved. It came out so course workers could pick up an errant bumper in Turn 4 and for a wrecker to retrieve Steve Goldman’s Porsche Boxster, which had stopped between Turns 5 and 6.

The green waved again on lap 13 but the action paused again almost immediately when there was contact between Bob Michaelian’s BMW, Tony Buffamonte’s Mustang and Robert Stout’s Camaro to bring out another yellow.

When the action resumed it was again only for a moment. Gleason’s VW was passed by a Kia in Turn 1-2 to push him back to fifth. Gleason got a run on the Kia and almost regained the spot coming out of Turn 7, but it didn’t work out.

“I moved out to pass him before the braking zone and he moved over to defend his position, and we made contact,” Gleason said afterwards. “The Kia spun in front of me, but I was able to continue. Grand-Am considered the contact was avoidable and I was issued a 10-second stop-and-go penalty.”

The green waved again on lap 25, a few minutes before the 1-hour mark. After serving the penalty Gleason’s top-five spot in the running order had disappeared and he was now in 27th place.

Another yellow flew shortly thereafter on lap 31 when John Capestro-Dubets’ BMW rolled to a stop at the exit of Turn 8. The APR team did its mandatory driver change during a pit stop under that yellow, and Kevin Gleason started his stint in 22nd place.

He dug deep and got to work when the green waved again on lap 36. He set the fastest lap of the race for the class on lap 38 when he was timed in 1:32.708 for an average speed of 77.581 miles per hour, although he was 21st at the time.

He continued to chip away at the field, and he was 15th on lap 51. Some of the drivers ahead of him pitted under green around lap 57 with about 45 minutes remaining in the event, which vaulted him to 11th, 5.2 seconds behind the tenth-place driver, Nic Jonsson. Another driver ahead of both of them pitted at that point, and suddenly the Gleason car was back in the top 10 on lap 62 with 38 minutes left.

Two minutes later Kevin Gleason was in eighth place, and he was seventh with 30 minutes remaining. He was able to pass Jonsson for sixth shortly thereafter, and with 15 minutes to go he was fifth after Andrew Carbonell’s Mazda fell back.

The fifth and final yellow came out on lap 78 for two cars experiencing mechanical difficulties, as Todd Snyder’s Mustang stopped in Turn 3 and Jarett Freeman’s Mercedes needed help in Turn 6. When the green waved again on lap 83 there were 7 minutes remaining and the Gleason’s car was still fifth.

Both Kevin Gleason and a driver behind him, Owen Trinkler, who was in a Mini Cooper, passed Tom Long’s Mazda shortly after the restart, which put Gleason in fourth and Trinkler in fifth.

Ian Baas, who was driving a sister APR Motorsport car to the Gleason’s mount, got second on the next-to-last lap, but that was just the beginning of the fireworks. Baas passed the leader, Mathew Pombo, at the finish line to take the second victory in as many races for the APR team and Baas’s co-driver, Ryan Ellis. Trinkler passed Gleason on the last lap to nail down third, Gleason remained in fourth, and the driver who had been third, Ryan Eversley, slipped to fifth at the end.

The Homestead race will be broadcast on a tape-delayed basis at 2 p.m. Eastern time Saturday, March 19 on SPEED, which is a change from what was previously announced.

The next event will be held on the 2.3-mile road course at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala., near Birmingham, on April 7-9. Live timing and scoring will be available on grand-am.com, with qualifying set for 10:15 a.m. on Friday, April 8 and the two-and-one-half-hour race at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 9. That race is scheduled to be broadcast at 2 p.m. ET April 16 on SPEED.

Post-race quotes follow:

Chris Gleason Jr.: “I had a good start considering I was on the outside. I was able to gain three positions through the first four turns by slipping into the inside line through Turn 1. From there I was able to get around the Kia in the Turn 6 braking zone for fourth place.

“My goal was to stay as close as possible to the top three cars while conserving the brakes and tires. At some point going into Turn 1-2 the Kia squeezed by me to take back fourth place. Shortly afterwards I was able to get a great run on him coming out of Turn 7 heading down the backstraight. I moved out to pass him before the braking zone and he moved over to defend his position, and we made contact. The Kia spun in front of me, but I was able to continue.

“Grand-Am considered the contact was avoidable and I was issued a 10-second stop-and-go penalty. When something like that happens you just have to put your head down and deal with it. I was able to crank out a few fast laps after serving my penalty and before handing it off to Kevin.

“Kevin did a great job turning fast laps and keeping the car clean the rest of the race, gradually working his way through the field. I feel very lucky to be a part of the APR team; they are a great organization and they gave us a very competitive car. I can’t say enough about the team and the job Kevin did to give us a shot at the end. That’s all you can ask for; to have a shot at the win/podium at the end of the race, and we were there.”

Kevin Gleason: “After the penalty I knew we were still in it, as we stayed on the lead lap. With the APR team behind us I had all the confidence in the world we could get back up front, which I was able to do by running consistently quick laps while saving the tires and brakes and letting the race come to me.

“We were really holding our breath for a full-course caution to come out, as we pitted a bit early and were very close on fuel. I had to conserve fuel towards the end of the race before the caution came out. We all were extremely relieved when the caution finally came and we knew I had enough in the tank to make it to the end as well as getting bunched up close to the lead pack.

“On the restart there were a few lapped cars between me and the front pack so I had to be very aggressive, as there was only roughly 8 minutes left. I was able to work my way to them quickly and the fight was on.

“I was able to take third place two laps from the end with the Mini pressing me for the final podium spot. I defended on the last lap but the Mini, being so good on the brakes, was able to force it on the inside of me in Turn 8 and I ran wide into the dirt, opening the door for the Compass 360 Honda of Ryan Eversley. We dragged to the finish line and I just nipped him out by a nose.

“I want to give a huge thanks to everyone at APR for giving us such an awesome car and calling great strategy.”

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