Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Gleason Flies Through the Field but is Denied Victory Near End of NASA Spec Miata Championship
LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Kevin Gleason turned in a spectacular drive from 18th to first in the Spec Miata finale at the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) National Championships presented by Toyo Tires Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The event turned out to be a character builder rather than a victory for the popular driver from Johnstown, Pa., however, because he was forced to drop out of the race with mechanical difficulties while he was leading.
It was a disappointing end to a weekend that saw Gleason and the Jim Locke Automotive team overcome a host of challenges in the preliminary action and in the race itself, which attracted an impressive field of 39 competitors.
The weather posed a big challenge too, as rain began to fall on the pace lap. Rain has a way of being a great equalizer, but Gleason was on slicks and Mid-Ohio's 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course has earned its reputation as one of the most challenging race courses in the country even under ideal conditions.
Gleason certainly gave the crowd a thrilling race to watch as he carved his way through the field. It looked like he was going to be rewarded justly right until the end, when engine problems forced him out prematurely.
"Earlier in the weekend the throttle body broke on my first lap of qualifying on Friday," Gleason said. "Fortunately I realized something wasn't right and I was able to throw the car in neutral and hit the kill switch before braking into the Key Hole. We also had problems with the right-front suspension. Dealing with these issues gave us no time to make set-up changes. We never were able to make a stride forward, and we were dead slow in the dry.
"This weekend was a challenging one for sure," he added. "We experienced the highest of the highs and lowest of the lows, but that's racing. It's an emotional rollercoaster, and that's why we love it.
"After suffering all the issues with the car we made a significant set-up change for the race and hoped for the best. I was starting 18th in the dry and I knew I did not have the car to win, so I decided to just relax and have fun. Once it started raining on the pace lap my mindset switched, because I knew I now had a shot to take it to the front.
"Once I got the car into the lead I gaped second place pretty quickly," he continued. "It was short lived though, as the engine started cutting out on the second lap that I led and that was that. Race over. I was pretty emotional once I pulled off. We worked so hard overcoming all the issues and then to have the race in my hands and just have it all taken away in an instant was really tough. That's racing though. I have to thank Jim Locke for busting his tail all weekend. Without him we would not have even made it out on track with all our issues."
Nathanial Sparks of Daphne, Ala. went on to take the checkered over Sammy Valafar of Las Vegas and Gleason's teammate for this event, Greg Stasiowski of Wellsburg, W.Va., who won Thursday's preliminary. Sparks started fourth, Valafar started third and Stasiowski started on the pole, while Gleason took the green flag way back in 18th position in the 39-car field.
Last weekend's competition featured over 400 competitors racing for national titles in 33 classes and nine Time Trial divisions. In order to qualify for the championships the drivers had to score points in at least five regional races around the nation. In addition to bragging rights, over $1 million in prizes were up for grabs from major automotive and motorsports companies. For more information on the NASA series, see NASAProRacing.com. There is also coverage of last weekend's championships on GoRacingTV.com.
Gleason will be competing at Mid-Ohio this coming weekend too. This time he'll be racing at the EMCO Gears Classic, which is the season finale for the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. He'll drive the APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTI No. 181 with his brother, Chris Gleason Jr., in that event. Kevin Gleason is 12th and Chris Gleason Jr. is 16th in the Street Turner point standings out of 144 drivers going into that race with one victory. Kevin Gleason is third and Chris Gleason Jr. is currently fifth out of 21 drivers in the MESCO Rookie of the Year point standings for the division too.
Live timing and scoring of that two-hour-and-30-minute race will be offered at 11 a.m. Eastern time this Saturday on grand-am.com. The race will also be shown at noon Eastern time Sunday, Sept. 25 on SPEED.