(November 1, 2000) BF Goodrich Trans-Am competitor Leighton Reese and his small crew pushed the Banner Engineering/Phillips 66 Pontiac Grand Prix onto the trailer. Echoes bounce around the hollowness of the Las Vegas warehouse that Reese, of Minnetonka, Mn., and the crew have used as a temporary workshop since the completition of the wet and wild Johnson Controls 100 Trans-Am race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Since the race the crew, lead by crew chief Joe Kantarik, have been holed up in this warehouse space getting the Banner Racing/Phillips 66 Grand Prix ready for San Diego. The San Diego Grand Prix on November 5th will be the 12th and final round of the 2000 BF Goodrich Trans-Am season. The San Diego track, a temporary circuit layed out on an airfield and associated base, looks to be a combination of an airport track and a street course.
"I can hardly wait," said Reese. "It (San Diego track), looks like my kind of layout and I am really psyched up for this race!" Don't look for driver and team to be pulling out all stops to win another race. That monkey has already been lifted. This race, according to Reese, will be all about a good finish and gaining as many valuable points in the Trans-Am Championship as possible.
Presently, Leighton Reese is in 4th spot in the championship points races for both drivers and owners points. In the Drivers Standings Leighton has 171 points and trails 3rd place driver Jeff Altenburg by 18 points. Since finishing first or second in the points is not mathematically possible, and making up an 18 point deficit is unlikely, the main focus will be retaining the 4th spot with a strong finish at San Diego. Mustang pilots Chris Neville and Tomy Drissi, 5th and 6th in the points chase with 157 and 156 points respectively, are strong contenders and each has a race win this season, so a good run will be necessary to keep the 4th spot.
As disappointing and discouraging as the first four races of the season were, Reese and his team have been at the top of the class during the last half of the season. This is clearly indicated by the fact that the Banner Racing Team leads the points race for the Momo Design Watches award. This contingency award is based on points earned since the mid-season race at Road America. Since that point no driver or team has won more points than the Minnesota gang from Banner Engineering. Reese presently leads Altenburg and two-time series champion Paul Gentilozzi with 107 points to 104 and 86 respectively.
"This is fantastic," commented Reese when told of their position. "We have really turned the season around and we need to finish off with a top 5 or 6 in San Diego to clinch this award!"
The top three finishing teams from points accumulated beginning with the Road America race on August 19 through the season-finale in San Diego on November 5 will be awarded MOMO DESIGN Watches. Additionally a beautiful custom made trophy will also be presented to the winning driver who accumulates the most points in the final six races of the 2000 season.
While the last three races resulted in top ten finishes, in each event contact and other outside forces have made even finishing difficult. The Banner Racing team is looking for a long clean run this weekend in their Pontiac Grand Prix to solidify their standing in the top 5. Extra time and effort was expended early this week in a lonely warehouse, 1000 miles from home, to do everything possible to make that happen.