Team Sahlen Watkins Glen race report

Team Sahlen press release

Team Sahlen almost accomplishes a "Spin and Win at Watkins Glen 200

#49 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8: Joe Nonnamaker, Wayne Nonnamaker
#49 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8: Joe Nonnamaker, Wayne Nonnamaker

Photo by: Adriano Manocchia

Team Sahlen entered the weekend on a string of fine finishes. And the streak of being at the sharp end of the GT grid continued, as Team Sahlen was fastest in both the 1st and 3rd Practice Sessions.

Qualifying ended up being a rather mixed up affair as 3 separate on track wrecks caused 2 full course red flag cautions. Thus each car only had 2 flying laps to get in a timed lap.

In the end Wayne Nonnamaker posted the 5th fastest time. And in the full 21 car GT field, Joe Sahlen posted a fantastic 14th best time. Joe Nonnamaker in the #49 Mazda settled for 19th while still working to rectify a mysterious electronic gremlin that the team was still working through.

“I was very happy with qualifying. It’s funny, before we went back out after the 1st Red Flag, our #43 was in 10th place. But to post a 14th grid slot in this competitive 21 car field is a great feeling at my home track of Watkins Glen International.” – Shared Joe Sahlen

The start of the race saw everyone get away cleanly, with no incidents to speak of. As the Daytona Prototypes started to lap the GT field, the 1st and only full course caution of the day occurred at the 10 minute mark. Unfortunately, the incident involved the #42 Mazda driven by Wayne Nonnamaker.

“I know that Jon Fogarty of the #99 DP has differing opinion on the situation that occurred. It’s unfortunate that he ended up in the wall, as that put them out of the race and ended their chances at the championship. But as he attempted the pass on my left on the outside of the last turn, he came down to the apex, and I was still there. I had nowhere to go as I was on the brakes at the apex with my right side tires on the curb.” – Shared Wayne Nonnamaker

Amazingly, after getting bumped, Wayne kept his foot on the gas pedal and did a complete 360 spin and got back underway down the track, that was now under full course caution.

To take full pre-cautions after the incident, Team Sahlen choose to pit Wayne to change tires, add fuel and place barabond on the front left fender/bumper. This place the #42 in 21st place in GT. Additionally, the #43 and #49 Team Sahlen entries driven by Joe Sahlen and Joe Nonnamaker where brought in to top off their tanks at this time.

At the 1 hour and 10 minute mark, Wayne pitted and handed over the controls to John Edwards. John then drove a very heady race, keeping pace with the leaders, while working to conserve fuel the entire time. This strategy almost worked, as John found himself in 2nd place with 2 laps to go. But then fuel strategy caught up to John as he had to pit with a #42 on reserve capacity coming the last remaining lap. The pit stop put the #42 back to 8th place.

“We were all biting our nails at the end of the race. A full course caution near the end would have allowed us to stretch it to the end. But that never came, so we were forced to pit with a lap to go. I am proud of our guys, they never gave up and had faith until the end that we could contend. Now we are headed back home for a quick rebuild on the Mazdas, before heading to Montreal on Tuesday.” – Emphasized Jay Chapman, Team Manager

The one big positive for the day was the fact that the #42 machine was able to continue on after the incident with the DP. Had the Mazda not been able to finish the race, Wayne Nonnamaker would not have been able to score precious Bob Akin Sportsman points towards the year end championship that he is still leading with only 2 races remaining.

The #49 and #43 Team Sahlen Mazdas finished 16th and 18th respectively GT class. Beyond the fine accomplishment of finishing the race, both Mazdas also came home without a scratch which will be important in the short turn around before Montreal.

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Series GRANDAM
Tags grand-am, mazda, nonnamaker, sahlen, watkins glen