Team Sahlen had an amazing weekend at Montreal. The end result for the weekend was a 3rdand 10th place finish. But the full story of the weekend was the entire Team Sahlen crew coming together to focus upon engineering and setting up the Mazda RX-8s for the full race pace.
In practice sessions 1, 2 & 3, the highest Team Sahlen was 7th place. Thus for Qualifying, the team was hoping to get into the Fast Five in GT. Wayne Nonnamaker was able to provide one of his stunning drives, and placed the #43 in the 4th slot on the grid. Joe Nonnamaker put in his fastest time of the weekend in Qualifying, while driving on 1 hour old tires, in preparation for saving a 3rd set for the race.
“We had been working on set up all the way up to Qualifying. So we didn’t know really what we had. I put it all on the line, and we came up with a fantastic 4th slot on the grid. It’s nice to be so far up the grid so that you don’t have so much GT traffic ahead of you at the start.” – shared Wayne Nonnamaker
For the race, the skies were blue with a cool Canadian wind keeping the temperature just right for the racers and fans. Due to the late finishing CASCAR event, the ROLEX cars rolled up to the pits and had one of their quickest pre-grid.
At the start of the race, both Team Sahlen Mazdas survived the early hectic pace and door banging. Wayne Nonnamaker settled into 5th place, while Joe Nonnamaker kept check with the Top Ten. At the 17 minute mark, a full course caution came out. Team Sahlen choose to split their strategies and have just Joe Nonnamaker in the #42 come in to top off with fuel. Another full course caution came out at the 45 minute mark. Both Team Sahlen Mazdas came into the pits, and changed drivers. Dane Cameron replaced Wayne Nonnamaker, and Will Nonnamaker jumped in behind his Dad.
Joe Nonnamaker shared his thoughts when he got out of the car – “I really enjoyed my time behind the wheel. Once you get used to all the walls around here, Montreal is a real fun track. The #42 Mazda ran perfect all weekend, and I had lots of track time to get used to the place. I am looking forward to coming back here next year in the Daytona Prototypes.”
On the restart, the GT field found themselves in a jumble as the #59 tagged a Mazda for the 2nd race in a row. Unlike the prior race at Watkins Glen, Team Sahlen was fortunate to not be the designated RX-8 this time. Dane Cameron came through the blaze of the turn 1 mix up and started pouring on the laps. Each lap was at qualifying pace.
With the length of time left in the race more than the fuel window, all GT cars were in a position to have to pit again. Team Sahlen choose to wait as long as possible before pitting, placing Dane in the lead for 2 laps. When Dane did finally come into the pits, the Team Sahlen crew did a fantastic job getting the #43 in and out of the pits, and back on track in 3rdplace. Dane maintained this position until the end of the race. This finish provided Team Sahlen with their 2nd podium of the year.
Dane shared his thoughts post race – “Finishing third in Montreal almost felt like a win for us. We had a pretty rough couple of races so it felt great to reward all of Team Sahlen's hard work with a podium. All the mazdas had been struggling a little bit for outright speed all weekend long so we did not expect a podium, but we never gave up, pushed like crazy and things fell our way.”
Will Nonnamaker drove an error free race and placed the #42 in 10th for its 2nd straight Top Ten – “I enjoy this place every time we come here. Its amazing how long that back straightaway is,,,then you have to slow down for the tight chicane. Tenth place is a great finish for the #42 and hopefully we can keep that trend up for the remaining 2 events of the season”
Wayne Nonnamaker’s 3rd place finish pushed into 2nd place in the Bob Akin Sportsman Award Standings, behind Emil Assentato. Additionally, both the #42 (7th) and the #43 (9th) are comfortably in the Top Ten in the GT points standings.
The next event for Team Sahlen will be on September 9th at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Source: Team Sahlen