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Continental Tire Series - Gleason Brothers Finish Ninth In Season Finale Saturday At Mid-Ohio

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LEXINGTON, Sept. 20, 2011: The Gleason brothers started at the back of the field in the Street Tuner class in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season finale at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last Saturday, but they brought their car home ninth in the two-hour-and-30-minute race that was part of the EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank.

Although Chris Gleason Jr. of Wayne, Pa. started 24th, he and his brother Kevin of Johnstown, Pa. were still able to record their fifth top-10 finish of the year, which included a victory at Watkins Glen, N.Y. in June.

Although they’re both rookies in the series and they didn’t compete in all 10 races, Kevin Gleason finished eighth and Chris Gleason Jr. was 12th out of 150 Street Tuner competitors nationwide for the season. Their entry, a Volkswagen GTI fielded by APR Motorsport, placed fifth in the team point standings, and the Gleasons were among the drivers who helped VW finish second in the manufacturer point standings for the year. Kevin Gleason finished third and Chris Gleason Jr. finished fifth in the 2011 MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year point standings too.

After Chris Gleason Jr. qualified with a time of 1:37.212 for the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course on Friday afternoon, the APR team decided to change the engine in the brothers’ No. 181, which is sponsored by VW DriverGear, APR, BSS, Motul and DXD. It was a wise move, as Chris Gleason Jr. set the entry’s fastest lap of the race on lap 8 with a time of 1:37.142 in race trim.

The race had seven caution-flag periods for 28 of the 77 laps completed in the allotted time, as nine different cars either sailed off course, hit a wall, plowed into a gravel trap or simply stopped on the track. Luckily the Gleasons weren’t involved in any of the melees, but they didn’t crack the top 10 until there was just 15 minutes remaining in the race.

Chris Gleason Jr. was as low as 26th in the early going but he was 19th when he turned the car over to his brother under yellow on lap 17. He drove for about 35 minutes, but only about 15 minutes were run under green-flag conditions due to lengthy yellows. Every position he gained was hard fought even though he had to remain patient and stay out of trouble.

Kevin Gleason had the same goals, and after spending a great deal of time in the low twenties he was 18th at the one-hour mark with 29 laps completed. He slipped back to 21st shortly thereafter but he worked his way into the top 15 for the first time Saturday about 22 minutes later on lap 40.

He was 14th when the sixth full-course caution waved on lap 51 but at the two-hour mark on lap 60 he was back in 15th, as Jameson Riley passed him.

Six laps later things looked up when he advanced back into 14th, although Gleason had his hands full holding off Chad Gilsinger at that point.

Up ahead suddenly things weren’t going well for Owen Trinkler either. Although Trinkler’s car had won the pole and he was leading at the time, he rolled to a stop on lap 67 with a broken clutch to bring out the seventh and final full-course caution flag on lap 69. That development, coupled with some late pit stops by some rivals, vaulted Gleason into ninth place on lap 71. He got one more spot when the third-place driver, Chris Puskar, fell back on the restart on lap 73 with just 4 minutes remaining.

That was as high as he’d get on Saturday, however, as Riley re-passed Gleason on the next-to-last lap to push him back to ninth place. Gleason took the checkered flag in that spot, 1.707 seconds behind Riley’s Mazda RX-8 and 0.784 of a second ahead of Ryan Eversely’s Honda Civic.

i-Moto Mazda drivers flanked Doran Racing’s BMW team on the podium. The Mazda Speed 3 of Mark and Mathew Pombo won, while Tim Bell and B.J. Zacharias were second in a BMW 128i. Pierre Kleinubing and Taylor Hacquard were third in another Mazda Speed 3.

“It was a tough race,” Kevin Gleason said afterwards. “We made an engine change after the morning warm-up which held us back from doing any more set up on the car. The car had some serious understeer in it. I pretty much had to play defense and try to hold guys off all race.

“It's been a great season,” he added. “I've learned so much this year, and being able to drive with my brother was awesome.

“We can't thank the entire APR organization enough for all of their hard work, preparation and attention to detail,” he said. “The team really is a big family, which creates a great atmosphere to be in."