SCC: US Filter-Planet Earth Motorsports Daytona race report

US Filter - Planet Earth Motorsports took three podiums in the first race of the year as the ...

US Filter - Planet Earth Motorsports took three podiums in the first race of the year as the #43 GOJO Chevrolet Corvette took second in the Super Grand Sports class and the #42 and #41 Comptech Sport - Planet Earth Motorsports Acura Integra GS-Rs took home second and third in the C2K Class.

US Filter - Planet Earth Motorsports took three podiums in the first race of the year as the #43 GOJO Chevrolet Corvette took second in the Super Grand Sports class and the #42 and #41 Comptech Sport - Planet Earth Motorsports Acura Integra GS-Rs took home second and third in the C2K Class.

Super Grand Sports

The US Filter - Planet Earth Motorsports started the week out testing at Roebling Road in Savannah, GA. The GOJO - Chevrolet Corvette drivers Joe Nonnamaker and Bill Pate put the car through pre-season testing to work out any small problems that the car might have.

"We came to Savannah to test the car, and it all went very well," said Pate. "We have some new brake parts that we wanted to test, and they worked great from the moment we put them on the car." The parts that Pate alluded to are brand new StopTech calipers and rotors that the team used throughout the weekend.

Practice went well with the #43 GOJO - Corvette claiming first overall honors in the second practice session. For 2001, the Grand Am Cup has changed their rules for qualifying and the driver who is going to start the race now has to qualify the car. Nonnamaker put the car in third place on the grid.

The race saw Nonnamaker pace himself in third place just ten to fifteen seconds behind the leading #11 Corvette being driven by Devon Powell. Nonnamaker pitted under a yellow one hour into the two-hour race to hand the car over to Pate.

After Pate took over, he never fell further back than fourth place as he made a late race charge to move from fourth to second in the last ten laps. "We had some luck today as we were able to avoid some of the problems that the other guys encountered," said Pate. "This gives us a good start to the season, and with Chevrolet getting first, second, and third, it really gives Chevrolet a jump in the Manufacturers Championship over Ford, Dodge, Porsche, and Saleen."

"We were running some new parts on the Corvette," said the ecstatic team owner, Joe Nonnamaker. "We had StopTech brake calipers and rotors on the car and Performance Friction brake pads on the car. It was the best braking Bill and I have ever experienced. Daytona is traditionally tough on brakes as there are such high speeds at the track. Throughout the entire race, the Corvette stopped the car from 170 mph to 60 mph without any brake fade, and we just barely wore our pads."

<B>C2K</B>

For the Comptech Sport Acura Integras, the Daytona event marked the beginning of a season long battle for the Manufacturer Championship. In order to prep for this, the Acuras were taken to Roebling Road in Savannah where brothers Wayne and Will Nonnamaker tested them.

"The cars are much like they were last year," said Will Nonnamaker. "[Crew Chief] Mike [Thomas] has turned out the best cars we have ever started a season with. Mike went through the cars from top to bottom making sure everything was perfect for this season, and he and his crew have these Comptech Sport - Acuras looking great."

At Daytona, Qualifying went well for the US Filter - Planet Earth Motorsports team. World Challenge Touring Rookie of the Year Neal Sapp put the Comptech Sport #42 Acura Integra on the pole. "The car felt great," said Sapp of his qualifying run. "I really appreciate the Nonnamakers inviting me to co-drive with them. We got some lucky breaks in traffic."

Qualifying did not go as well for the #41 Acura being qualified by Wayne Nonnamaker. From the time the car left the pits, a malfunctioning fuel injector kept the motor from running right, and the young Nonnamaker was forced to settle for starting spot at the back of the grid. "It was frustrating to have the problem in qualifying because I was looking forward to drafting with Neal Sapp and qualifying together. Even though I had problems in qualifying, Neal was able to draft with HART and the #42 Acura got the pole. That was the idea behind bringing in pro drivers, so that even if the #41 Comptech Sport Integra has problems, we still have a car up front challenging for poles and wins."

They say races can't be won on the first turn, but for Wayne Nonnamaker in the #41 Integra, he had 23 cars to get around before he could catch up to the leading cars in his class, so a good start was imperative. "I knew that we had to get around a lot of cars on the first lap, but I didn't expect the start to go as well as it did," said Nonnamaker. "Coming out of turn six on the first lap I had already passed twenty cars and had moved from seventh to third in class," said Wayne Nonnamaker. "Sometimes you just get lucky and find holes in the traffic, and that is what happened today."

At the one-hour mark Sapp and Wayne Nonnamaker were running first and third when they turned their cars over to 2000 Porsche Cup Champion of the world, Mike Fitzgerald, and 1999 Touring Champion Will Nonnamaker. Due to pitting a lap earlier than Nonnamaker, Fitzgerald came out of the pits in second place twenty seconds ahead of Nonnamaker. Fitzgerald and Nonnamaker remained in second and third straight through to the checkered flag to take home the second and third podium for the team this weekend.

"This is a great way to start off the season," said Mike Thomas. "It is really helpful that Comptech Sport, US Filter, GOJO, and Orison Marketing L.L.C. have supported us in our goal of winning the Manufacturers Championship for Acura. It was because of them that we are going to be able to field two professional level Acuras Integras throughout the season, which will allow us to challenge for the Manufacturer's and Team Championship as well as the Driver's Championship."

The next race for the Grand Am Cup will be March 1-4 at Homestead Miami Speedway held as a support event to both the Rolex Grand Am Series and the NASCAR Crafstman Truck Series.

-Wayne Nonnamaker

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Mike Thomas , Wayne Nonnamaker , Will Nonnamaker , Joe Nonnamaker , Bill Pate , Devon Powell
Teams HART