On what was an up and down season for the Ash Racing Team and Hilton Racing, the 2001 Winston West season ended on a high note. You could not find one member of the team who wasn't happy for the second place finish earned by the #23 car, sponsored by Springfield/Unified Western Grocers. The second place finish in the Jani-King 250, the final race of the 2001 season, solidified Brandon's 9th place finish in the series standings. Just 14 points out of the 8th spot, the team was satisfied with how the season ended. Starting 14th of the 26 car field, Brandon quickly moved through the field taking the lead at lap 30 after passing such fierce competitors such as Steve Portenga and the newly crowned 2001 champion Brendan Gaughan. After a series of pit stops Brandon was able to maneuver his way up the field to the lead position once again only to have to fend off a hard charging Gaughan, who eventually took over the lead. With fast pit stops and a well handling car, Brandon was able to capture and retain the lead several times throughout the race. Not only leading lap 30 but leading laps 94-113, as well as laps 129-136. On the last restart of the race following a caution, Brandon made a valiant effort to regain the lead but just didn't have enough to recapture it from Gaughan. "We just didn't have anything for Gaughan at the end," said Ash. Tires were the ultimate factor at the end of the race and clearly the #16 had the better tires. The entire Ash Racing Team gave it their all and was able to earn the second place finish, just ahead of Scott Lynch.
The second place finish was exactly what the team and driver needed to end off their season. What at times seemed like a rather frustrating and arduous run in the 2001 season, ultimately proved to be a challenge which the Ash Racing Team was able to tackle. After a few not so good races, Brandon came into the last season of the race one point out of 9th place, in jeopardy of losing his position. Knowing this and the fact it was the last race of the season Brandon held nothing back. As with all races, the team and driver give it their all but this one was different. He had his mind set he had little to lose and everything to gain which he clearly exemplified through his driving Saturday night. Anyone watching could see his heart was completely into trying to capture the checkered flag. One even commented it was the "old" Brandon back. He drove like he used to, with pure passion and desire to go out and race to win...purely for the love of the sport. Even though he was a little bit disappointed at not winning, he was thoroughly happy at his and the teams effort to pull off the second place finish and proved he can be just as competitive as he once was.
The entire Ash Racing Team would like to congratulate Orleans Racing and driver Brendan Gaughan in not only winning the race but winning the 2001 Winston West championship as well as wish him good luck next year in the Craftsman Truck Series. They would also like to thank everyone who was involved with making this season a memorable and fun one despite its ups and downs. From the crew members, sponsors, friends and family, and fans alike. With any luck Team 23 will be back again next year...up for another challenge, because certainly competing against those in the Winston West Series are formidable opponents as well as friends.