Houston, TX. (October 6th, 2001): The final race of the 2001 Trans-Am Series season resulted in another top ten finish, but was somewhat disappointing for Leighton Reese. A late race mistake resulted in an 8th place finish here on the narrow street course in Houston. After starting the Banner Engineering Corvette in the 9th spot Reese was part of a seven-car pack that raced hard and close all day without serious incidents, but with precious little passing.
Reese ran closely most of the race with Lou Gigliotti's Corvette and Mike Lewis' Jaguar and while each car had a slight edge in one place or another the trio of Trans-Am competitors were very evenly matched and found little or no passing room on the tight Houston track. The group ran in tight formation all afternoon as each driver looked for the slightest opening to slip past. There turned out to be no openings.
"This is a very tough place to pass," Reese explained. "I really couldn't get past anyone for position and it was even difficult to get past cars we were lapping. Everyone drove really clean all day though and avoided trouble. It was a great race, with only one caution period!"
The disappointing part came late in the running when Reese spun the Banner Corvette while trying to get past a lapped car. The spin dropped him to tenth position and moved him far behind the lead pack. And, while he was able to move back to eighth position at the end, he more than likely would have been in position to finish in the top five after the late race contact and mechanical difficulties shuffled the running order on the last two laps.
"Racing is all about instantaneous decisions," Reese said pointedly. "And I made a bad one and it cost us today! It wasn't much of a spin really, just a lazy 180 degree loop, but it was enough. I got out into the marbles trying to get past Bob Ruman's Corvette and spun!"
On the positive side Leighton Reese and the Banner Racing team did complete their early season goal to get into the top ten in the drivers championship. To accomplish this Reese finished in the top 10 in all but one race (an early race crash in Cleveland) and managed to go from last to tenth position in the chase for the BF Goodrich Cup.
"Joe (crew chief Kantarik) and the crew gave me an excellent car today," Reese concluded. "And we accomplished our goal and finished in the top ten in points. All in all we did well since we had zero points after the first three races! Now it's time to celebrate and enjoy the day. This team deserves it!"
The race was won by Corvette driver Justin Bell, of London England, made the Houston win his second straight victory during his run to win the AmeriSuites Rookie-of-the-Year award. Paul Gentilozzi nursed his ailing Johnson Controls Jaguar home in sixth position to win his third Trans-Am championship. While 2000 champion Brian Simo finished second after leading most of the race. Mike Lewis finished third on the track after a last lap bump by Lewis allowed both he and Tommy Archer to slip past Gigliotti's Corvette, but officials penalized Lewis back to fifth spot (behind Gigliotti), moving Archer's Dodge Viper into third spot.
Due to wet track conditions on the 1.5 mile Houston street circuit on both Friday and Saturday, the Fast-Five qualifying session was cancelled and the field was started based on the seasons standings in the drivers points chase for the BF Goodrich Cup.