The following is a diary of the races that the Nonnamaker family took part in during this past weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. In their own words: We got the opportunity to experience one of the premiere road course facilities in North ...
The following is a diary of the races that the Nonnamaker family took part in during this past weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.
In their own words:
We got the opportunity to experience one of the premiere road course facilities in North America this past weekend. George Barber invested over $50 million in the brand new Barber Motorsports Park and it shows. Budgets always make doing a project easier, and had other road courses had this same budget they would likely have the same world class facility. That being said George Barber assembled a wonderful facility located in NASCAR country, Birmingham Alabama.
Doing test day proved to be a very valuable investment for our team. We had talked with our friends at SpeedSource Race Engineering before the weekend. They had previously tested at the track and from their comments Barber Motorsports Park appeared to be a very challenging track. Learning all the undulations of the track was a very challenging process. Alan Wilson was put in charge of laying out the track for George Barber. Wilson did an excellent job of using the elevation changes to create a track that was both challenging and easy for spectators to view the action. From many points the fans could see the cars three times per lap!
On Thursday night we watched the local newscast for the upcoming weather. Amazingly we saw four different newscasts that all had coverage of the upcoming race at Barber. The promotion of this event was second to none. That promotion meant that on Friday, which was only practice day, there were fans all around the track! We had to restock our fan card tripods several times a day and at any point we had free time we could chat with fans at the trailer and sign autographs.
Qualifying occurred on Saturday morning. Joe was kept busy with back to back qualifying sessions. First he put the #41 Planet Earth Motorsports Porsche 911 in fourth on the grid in Grand Sports II. Then he turned around and drove the #42 Integra for the first time all weekend. He turned a competitive time and learned how the car reacted to the demanding track.
Will's co-driver, Howie Liebengood, adapted to the track very quickly. He pulled off his first pole position with the team in the #43 Pennzoil / King Motorsports Acura Integra LS. It was his first pole since last fall when he took the GSII pole at Watkins Glen.
The Grand Sports race was scheduled for Saturday evening. Scattered thunderstorms were the name of the day for Saturday and we weren't sure what to expect as the field took the green flag. Joe was starting the #41 and had moved his way up to third on the opening lap. On the twelfth lap our race almost came to a quick halt. As dad was entering turn five the #45 Firebird being driven by Frank Del Vecchio made an optimistic move on our car under braking and collided with the left side of the car. I saw the video from an in car film behind the hit and it looked like Frank was very optimistic trying to use Firebird brakes to make that move on the Porsche. Not surprisingly Frank disagreed with our assessment. The races from Barber Motorsports Park will be televised on May 31st from 1-3 PM on Speed TV so catch the action and you can decide for yourselves.
Frank then went to the next corner and came into contact with another car. It wasn't clear if something had broken on the #45 after contact with our car, but after the second hit the #45 was immobilized and we knew a full course caution was about to fly. At the same time dad was trying to feel out the car and make sure nothing was broken. As he was doing this the overall leaders were coming up to pass him and put him a lap down. Not knowing if the car would turn when he made it to the next turn Joe powered down the straight. Thankfully the car turned in and after the full course came out we were able to pit for new left side wheels and still stay on the lead lap. The Fikse wheels took a major hit but like a good race wheel they still allowed the Hoosiers to hold air.
I got in on the pit stop and for the next hour Terry Borcheller and I chased each other. Borcheller pitted late in the race for fuel and when he was exiting the pits the transmission broke on him. The Bell Motorsports crew jacked up the car and went to work on fixing the machine. Unfortunately in their haste they forgot to put jack stands under the car and it collapsed on two crew members. A very scary moment but in the end the two suffered what were only minor injuries and they were back in action on Sunday to contribute to the team's Daytona Prototype win.
After Terry fell out of the race my job was fairly simple. Keep the car on the black stuff and don't do anything stupid. We accomplished that and we won our third Grand Sports II race in only the fourth event!
Sunday morning we had the Sports Touring race at 8:15 in the morning. That was way too early for me to be driving a race car so I convinced Joe to start the car. The weather called for scattered showers once again but unlike the GSII race we weren't lucky enough to have a dry race. The race was going to start with puddles on the ground but with the weather forecast we were unsure what that would mean for later in the race. We made the decision to go with a wet set up.
Howie Liebengood started the #43 for Will, which was our main focus this race. From pole position Howie stayed out of the puddles and on the black stuff until he turned the car over to Will. From there Will did the same until the final yellow of the race. On that yellow the field bunched up for an eight lap sprint to the end. Will and the #27 car were both near each other but when the green fell with eight to go Will was behind Beede. Despite a heroic chase Will finished just two tenths of a second behind Beede, our competition for the Championship.
After getting out of the #43 Howie jumped in the #44 to finish it for Ray Bailey. Howie did an excellent job under the wet and treacherous conditions to come home third with the car. I finished the #42 and limped it home to fourth with an engine miss caused by wet electronics.
Sunday afternoon we had our third race of the weekend. We raced our #40 and #41 Grand Sports II Porsche 911s with the Rolex Series, i.e. the big show. In this year of transition the Grand Am Rolex Series car counts aren't as high as Grand Am would like and our Grand Sports cars make an interesting addition to the race. Running in the GT class we expected to simply circulate for the 2 hr 45 min race. We started the #41 car but parked it after an hour. The #40 Porsche 911 ran the entire race. Dad started the car, I drove second, and Will drove the third stint. It was the first time that all three of us drove together in a professional race. By the end of the race we had moved into fifth place in the GT class! We were very pleased with that finish and want to thank Grand Am for inviting us to race with the big show.
Now we get two whole weekends off before we head west to California for our next race at California Speedway on June 8th. For the first time since Homestead the Grand Sports and Sports Touring classes will be combined for one race. Check back after that race for the next race report.