“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” - Bobby Unser
Watkins Glen NY: The race was set to begin with APR Motorsport’s cars in completely unfamiliar territory, the rear of the field. The Championship Leading car #171 VW DriverGear GTI MK6 suffered an engine related failure shortly before qualifying and was unable to post a time while the #161 Perfect Pedal VW GTI MK5 and the #181 VW DriverGear GTI MK6 both had their qualifying times disallowed due to a minor technical infraction. This was very disappointing because the #181 GTI of Chris Gleason Jr. had qualified in pole position with a new track record and the #161 GTI of newcomer Nate Norenberg had qualified 3rd in his first of many races for APR Motorsport.
Undaunted by the challenge of having to pass the entire field, Chris Gleason Jr. in the #181 GTI, Ryan Ellis in the #171 GTI, and Nate Norenberg in the #161 GTI went about their business picking off competitors as quickly as possible. Each of the opening drivers avoided contact while overtaking the field and insured that their driving partners would have a solid car ready to finish the race. Before the first round of pit stops, the APR Motorsport cars overtook 55 competitors with Nate Norenberg actually leading a lap before his pitstop! The APR pit crew was equally as motivated to win as were the drivers and turned in record-setting pit stop times. The APR Motorsport cars were passed by no other team in pitlane and actually gained several positions during the extremely quick stops.
APR Motorsport Director, Jeff Mishtawy, said “The drivers and the team all executed and got it done! Being relegated to the back after qualifying was tough to take as a team but it created an atmosphere of determination for everyone here. We were simply not going to be denied today.”
The finishing drivers, Ian Baas in the #171 GTI, Kevin Gleason in the #181 GTI, and Josh Hurley in the #161 GTI were now in place and continuing the charge to the front of the pack. Unfortunately, the GRAND-AM championship leading #171 GTI of Ian Baas and Ryan Ellis suffered a broken left rear suspension and had to make multiple pit stops in an effort to repair the damage, eventually finishing in 31st position and losing the championship lead. “This one was hard to take,” said Ian Baas. He continued, “We had a great car but we have to get to the finish line. We aren’t out of the championship yet, we must outperform everyone in the remaining 4 races to have a shot.”
The race would progress differently for Kevin Gleason and Josh Hurley. With 20 minutes remaining they had driven all the way to 3rd and 4th places respectively and were closing the on the 2 leaders when a full-course caution was thrown for a crash and bunched the field back up. On the restart, the ST leader was a victim of a “jump start” by the driver of the #30 Mazda in second place who then suffered a punctured tire ending his race and scattering debris all over the track bringing out yet another caution. The GRAND-AM officials assessed a penalty to the #30 Mazda and handing the lead to the #181 GTI of Kevin Gleason. On the final restart with 2 laps to go, Kevin and Josh Hurley held off the competition to complete a dream 1-2 finish after starting last on the grid, the first time this has ever been accomplished in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
After the race, Chris Gleason Jr. said, "We were a little bit bummed out about it (the qualifying penalty), but we got the team together, we talked about it and we said, ‘We can still win this thing.' And we believed it. We all executed our jobs and made it happen and here we are. We had a fast car and I felt good in the car. It was just actually ‘keep it safe’ but start picking off guys as soon as possible and that's what I did. We executed our strategy and it just worked out. We got out there in good track position and Kevin was big time. He laid down the laps he needed to do it. Here we are in the winner's circle. Go APR!"
The race will air on SpeedTV Sunday, June 12 at 5pm Eastern.
About APR: APR LLC is an automotive engineering firm operating a 36,000 sq. ft. performance campus in Opelika, AL. APR was founded in 1997 with a corporate philosophy of Integrity, Excellence and Innovation. APR’s Sole Mission is to provide the highest quality and most highly engineered aftermarket performance products available for Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen vehicles. Learn more at www.goapr.com.