Acura Integra GS-R @WHO: 2001 Driver Champion Will Nonnamaker and Team Champion Planet Earth Motorsports WHAT: The 2001 Season for the Grand Am Cup concluded with Planet Earth Motorsports driver Will Nonnamaker taking the victory as the Planet...
Acura Integra GS-R @WHO: 2001 Driver Champion Will Nonnamaker and Team Champion Planet Earth Motorsports
WHAT: The 2001 Season for the Grand Am Cup concluded with Planet Earth Motorsports driver Will Nonnamaker taking the victory as the Planet Earth Motorsports effort took Team and Manufacturer's Championship home.
Coming into the race weekend, the biggest concern for winning the Triple Crown Championship (Driver's, Team, and Manufacturer's Championship) was the Manufacturer's Championship as Planet Earth needed a second place finish in order to ensure that they would claim the Manufacturer's Championship for Acura.
In order to help ensure the second place for Acura, and the 13th place finish that Will Nonnamaker needed in order to win the Driver's Championship, hotshoe Shane Lewis was brought into the team to start the #42 Orison Marketing Acura Integra.
Due to the race being postponed from a September 17th race date (due to the events that occurred on September 11th), there was no qualifying. Based on the number of points each car had scored during the year, Shane Lewis and Wayne Nonnamaker would start the #42 and #41 Integras up front, while rookie sensation Gator Mitchell would have to start the #43 FLA OJ Integra farther back in the field in ninth place.
From watching Mitchell at the start of the race, you couldn't tell that he had only seven races in his entire career. Mitchell quickly moved up into third place, holding that position for several laps. Mitchell soon found a comfortable pace and settled into fourth place for the first hour of the race.
Up front, Shane Lewis was running away from the field, putting 40 seconds between he and second place before a driveshaft broke ninety minutes into the race ending what looked like a sure victory.
With Lewis out, Wayne Nonnamaker was left to battle the Honda of America Racing Team (HART) Acura Integra GS-R. After hounding the HART car for the first ninety minutes of the race, Nonnamaker made his move when Lewis retired.
When the HART Integra, now running in second palce, ran into problems of their own, the #43 Integra being handled by Mitchell moved into second place. For a young rookie with very little experience, Mitchell was running up in second at his hometrack.
At the pitstop, Wayne Nonnamaker and Gator got out of the Integras, and they were replaced by Will Nonnamaker and Joe Nonnamaker respectively. The crew on the Planet Earth Motorsports team did their normal efficient job, and the cars went back out in 1-2 format after everyone had done their pitstops.
As the race progressed, the biggest challenge for Will Nonnamaker, who was leading in the #41 Integra, was his father Joe Nonnamaker, who was twenty seconds behind him. With the entire race running under green flag conditions, the #41 and #43 Integras never got bunched up again, and the two finished first and second twenty seconds apart.
For the winning effort of brothers Will and Wayne Nonnamaker, the Daytona win sealed Will's Driver Championship, his second in the last three years. "It's going to be about three weeks before I wipe this smile off my face," said Wayne Nonnamaker. "It's been great. To finish one-two at the last two races of the season is fantastic."
Will Nonnamaker added that: "it was great to be able to give Acura its first ever Championship in the Compact class since its inception [in professional sports car street stock endurance racing] in 1985. We want to thank our partners for their support in the 2001 season: US Filter, Orison Marketing, GOJO, Acura, and Comptech Sport."
Finishing second was a great finish for the drivers of the #43 Integra. The race was the first back for Joe Nonnamaker since he broke his neck at Homestead in March.
"Gator did a great job starting the car," said Joe Nonnamaker. "I really like the Daytona track, and it is great to be out here driving with my boys."
Crew Chief Mike Thomas commented on the race, saying: "It was too bad what happened to Shane. He had a great start, and was doing exactly what we asked of him. In the end, we still got first and second. Now we can go back and start working on our cars for the 2002 season."
The win gave the Team their second Triple Crown Championship, and first one since 1987. The Manufacturer's Championship was the first one for Acura in Compact since the class' inception into professional street stock endurance racing in 1987. The Planet Earth Motorsports effort was the only team to score points for Acura the entire year.
On a final note, "we would like to send a get well to Michael Guel," said Team Administrator, cook, Chief of Timing and Scoring, and Joe's wife Kris Nonnamaker. "He broke his arm in the pits, and we hope he heals well. We visited him in the hospital after the race and his spirits were high."