Phoenix ProMotions Celebrates 20th Anniversary With Seventh Driver Championship
Phoenix ProMotions has become a force to be reckoned with in Grand American competition. The most entered team in the history of Grand American competition; the team has taken home wins in both the Grand Am Cup and Grand Am Rolex Series. In Grand American competition the team has been responsible for campaigns under the names of Planet Earth Motorsports campaign, TheRaceSite.com Racing, and HRPWorld.com Racing.
The full service professional race team and promotional firm has become well known for their recent success which includes four consecutive championships in Grand Am Cup competition. The team is currently owned by the Nonnamaker family, but its roots date to twenty years ago when it was founded by the Pate family during the formative days of professional street stock endurance racing.
In 1983 Bill and Phil Pate were leaving Nelson's Ledges in utter despair. The brothers had just finished a race in a less than desirable fashion and needed to breathe life in their one car Volkswagen effort. Knowing there was only one way to revive their effort was to start a new team.
The Pates knew the team needed to consist of a universal vision, one that could easily apply in any situation good or bad. They found this in the legend of the Phoenix, a mythical bird that would perish in flames and then rise from its ashes. The team name became Phoenix Racing. Twenty years later the name, vision, and driving determination still resonates throughout every member of the team. The story of the Phoenix team is a testimony of resilience and a dedication to produce a win among the most adverse circumstances.
The 1980's and SCCA were excellent launching pads for the Pates. The team saw early success in the SCCA Escort Endurance Challenge, the endurance based predecessor to World Challenge. Two championships in the early years of the series allowed the Pates to form a strong relationship with Volkswagen and Valvoline.
As SCCA transitioned the Escort series into the sprint based format of today's World Challenge series, the team moved into the IMSA Firestone Firehawk Series in 1989. In 1991 Bill Pate won the IMSA Touring Rising Star Award, one of five total for the team so far (Will Nonnamaker '96, Tony Nuzzo '02, Joe Nonnamaker '03, Craig Stanton '04).
Tragedy struck the team before the first race of the season in 1992. Pate was still campaigning the Volkswagen line of products and he had a strong new co-driver in Mark Kent. The team had high hope for the season but in an unfortunate accident while driving for different team, Kent lost his life.
With heavy hearts the team moved on. With no co-driver for himself, Bill Pate finally found himself a new co-driver in veteran Volkswagen racer, Joe Nonnamaker. The co-driver role of Nonnamaker and Pate would be one that would continue for ten seasons. Although the team tallied no wins for the '92 season, their three podiums and two poles were enough to pass through Mazda's radar. In 1993 the team was convinced to switch from Volkswagen to help Mazda develop their new MX-6 platform. Bill, hoping to alleviate some responsibilities as owner, sold the team. Nonnamaker, only a Phoenix driver for one year, purchased the team and moved the effort from Indiana to Ohio where the team is based to this day.
With the number of full time personnel that currently work on the Phoenix staff, it is hard to believe that in 1993 Nonnamaker hired on just one full time mechanic, Mike Thomas, who was kept very busy with the new Mazda MX-6's. Thomas joined the team from a competing Honda effort and currently fills the role of Crew Chief for the effort.
In addition to the team moving from Indiana to Ohio, the team name was changed from Phoenix Racing to Phoenix ProMotions to reflect the promotional opportunities that the company would provide. This promotional mindset continues today as the company is a full service promotional company that provides website solutions, internet marketing campaigns, public relations services, as well as Motorsport promotional opportunities.
While the team had found success by winning races with the Mazda, the team's heritage was in winning Championships and the team had suffered a drought in that department. It wasn't until 1997, ten years after their last title, that the team brought home another Championship by securing first in the Touring Team Championship.
The team almost won Joe Nonnamaker his first Driver's Championship in 1998 when bad luck struck the team in the final race and an errant car behind Joe took him out before he even got to the green flag.
In 1999 the team was further challenged by Mazda to develop the four door 626 sedan. While Joe took the season off his sons, Will and rookie driver Wayne, drove the large sedan. The championship title was a team battle between the Nonnamaker brothers and teammates, John Wymore and Dick Starita Two wins and fifteen podiums gave the Phoenix team 1st, 2nd 3rd, and 4th in the driver championship, their first Driver's Championship since 1987.
Entering the 2000 season the team saw their seven year relationship with Mazda come to an end. In its place the team took on the challenge of developing the new Chevrolet Corvette C5 and a pair of Acura Integras. General Motors provided some support and Acura offered an excellent contingency program that the team took full advantage of during the season.
The Corvette suffered through several mechanical problems while the team scored a podium and three poles from their efforts with the Integras. In 2001 Motorola pulled its sponsorship from road racing. Just as Motorola pulled away Grand American took over and renamed the series the Grand Am Cup.
Just as the 2001 season was a pivotal one for the entire sport of professional street stock endurance racing, the 2001 season was also a pivotal season for the team. While the Corvette would miss most of the season due to an injury to Joe Nonnamaker suffered during a practice wreck, the Acura end of the team built their momentum throughout the season. Strong partners in the form of GOJO and Orison Marketing helped support a season that saw the team score six wins, seventeen podiums, and twenty top five finishes that led to a team, and manufacturer's championship. In 2001 Will Nonnamaker won his second driver championship.
During 2002 the team split into two separate campaigns. The Corvette ran under Planet Earth Motorsports, a team dedicated to promoting environmentally sound racing. The Acuras ran under newfound partner HRPWorld.com.
Due to his role as owner of a trucking company Bill Pate once again had to decide upon his degree of involvement with the team. He became the at track team manager. This would be the first season since the team formed in 1984 that Bill didn't campaign the season as a driver.
Shane Lewis took over as Joe Nonnamaker's co-driver. The team won big at Phoenix International Raceway as Lewis and Nonnamaker drove to an overall victory in the Orison sponsored Planet Earth Corvette.
The Nonnamaker brothers meanwhile were racking up victories in their HRPWorld.com sponsored Acuras. The duo claimed four wins, thirteen podiums and once again took the driver's, team, and manufacturers championship. It was the second time that the brother's shared the title.
The momentum from 2002 continued into 2003 as Phoenix's track performance thrived. The team's finishing record was flawless for thirty-six entries. Not only did they have nine wins, twenty-three podiums, and four poles but they swept the Grand Sport championship titles. They walked away with the driver's, team and two manufacturer's championships.
For the first time since Wayne joined the professional driving ranks in 1999, the Nonnamaker brothers were split during the 2003 season. Wayne joined his father as a driver of the team's Orison Planet Earth Porsche 911 in the Grand Sport Class. Will remained as an Acura driver and teamed up with Howie Liebengood in the HRPWorld.com cars in the Sport Touring Class.
The Phoenix ProMotions effort scored nine wins, twenty three podiums, and they swept the Grand Sport Driver, Team, and Manufacturer's Championship. For Wayne it was his third title while it marked the first title for Joe. The season marked one of the most successful seasons any professional sportscar racing effort has ever had and it set a precedent of excellence for the team.
For the 2004 season the Phoenix effort would once again continue to campaign two separate classes, but the team traded in their Acura Integra for a trio of Grand American Rolex Porsche GT3 Cups. The Rolex cars would run under the Orison Planet Earth Motorsports name while the Grand Am Cup Grand Sport effort would run under TheRaceSite.com Racing.
In Rolex the team found strong success scoring two wins, two pole positions, and a third place finish in the Super Grand Sport Team Championship. The Grand Am Cup effort continued to rake in success as the team won six of the ten races and secured first and second in the Team Championship. Craig Stanton won the Driver's Championship driving for the team. This marked the fourth season in a row that a Phoenix Promotions effort won the Team, Driver's, and Manufacturer's Championship in Grand Am Cup.
From its humble origins in the formative years of professional street stock racing, the Phoenix effort has risen to the top of the sport. The results the team has scored in that twenty year span are incredible, but more amazing is that the majority of their success has come in the last four years. Starting in the 2001 season the team has scored 28 wins, 68 podiums, 4 Driver's Championships, 4 Team Championships, and 6 Manufacturer Championships.
Going past its 20th anniversary as a professional racing team, the effort hopes to continue its success. Phoenix ProMotions plans an assault on the Grand Am Cup Grand Sport Class and Grand Am Rolex GT Class with its stable of eight Porsches.