(Minnetonka, Mn) Veteran Trans-Am competitor Leighton Reese announced that he will drive one of Harry Schwartz's Epic Racing Mustangs for the 2001 Trans-Am season. Banner Engineering, the Minnesota based producers of the industry's most complete integrated line of photoelectric sensors and fiber optics, is returning with Reese as the primary sponsor, and Phillips 66 Trop Artic Motor Oils will also return as associate sponsor for the coming season.
Leighton is excited about the prospects for the coming season and his new team. "Harry Schwartz is an excellent businessman," said Reese. "He is very good at the team management and marketing aspects of the sport. He is trying to build something special with Epic Racing and I am proud to be a part of that."
Epic Racing is headquartered in San Diego, Calif. and their race shops are in Knoxville, Tennessee. Epic campaigned two Mustangs in the 2000 season for drivers Gary Johnson and Steve Pelke. Late in the season Johnson, who was initially slated to be the team manager, relinquished his car to Jack Willes who was in the Rookie of the year points chase. Willes had 3rd and 8th place finishes in the final two races clearly demonstrating that the team can compete with the established teams.
Last season was an emotional but difficult one for Leighton Reese. The 2000 campaign saw his first Trans-Am victory in the Texas heat, his small team win the Momo Design Watch award for earning the most championship points in the last half of the season, and Reese finished 4th (his highest ever finish) in the series points chase. But a dismal start of the season and all the pressures associated with running his own team took a heavy emotional toll.
"I love racing and the Trans-Am series," Leighton commented. "But, I am not going to destroy my marriage, family and business to go racing." Reese was everything from mechanic and fabricator to business manager on his own team. All the pressures of trying to run up front those diverse responsibilities had grown to be too much.
This will be Reese's first time racing a Mustang, or any Ford product for that matter. "It is too bad I am leaving the GM fold," commented Leighton. "But, we were kind of an outlaw team." Ford, GM or whatever, the combination of Leighton Reese and Epic Racing promises to be a potent one. And Leighton Reese for one cannot wait for the 2001 season to begin.