Team Sahlen Leads Miller: Strategy almost wins the event

MillerSahlenIn a perfect book end to the season, Team Sahlen finished in 7th place at the Season finale of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.  This matches up with the start to the season where Team Sahlen finished in 7th place at the season opening ROLEX 24 at Daytona.

The race weekend started off very well with Team Sahlen placing both Mazda in the top 5 in the early parts of Practice Session 1.  The ever changing track conditions at Utah saw the team work hard on set up to find the right combination.  This continued all the way up through Qualifying and into the morning warm-up.  This work paid off with the 2nd fastest RX-8 time in the last session before the race.

For the start of the race, Wayne Nonnamaker had placed the #43 Mazda in 8th position and Joe Nonnamaker secured 14th with the #42 RX-8.

At the start of the race, Wayne drove a very strong and steady pace, trailing the #70 SpeedSource Mazda by only a few car lengths during the entire opening stint. Memo Gidley replaced Wayne in the driver’s seat at the 45 minute mark.   As the race progressed, Team Sahlen saw an opening for a unique strategy call.

“During yellow flag periods at the long Miller Motorsports Park track, it is very difficult for the GT cars to catch up to the back of the pace car pack, especially if there is a wave by situation.  This was the situation that all GT cars found themselves in at the hour and fifteen minute to go mark.  We realized that with a full green race, we couldn’t make the end of the race if we pitted then for fuel anyways, so we took the chance and stayed out.  This got us a 45 second lead on the rest of the pack on the restart.  Then with an hour to go we pitted for fuel and tires when we could make it home to the end of the race.  This put us back in 10th place, but we were done with our fueling, and the rest of the GT pack ahead would have to stop for fuel.  It was all looking good, until 2 late race yellows allowed the GT cars to stretch their fuel till the end.” – stated Jay Chapman, Team Manager

During the late race yellows, the GT pack bunched up, and this allowed Memo Gidley to race hard and improve Team Sahlen’s position in track all the way up to 7th place at the finish.

Due to the absence of Joe Sahlen; Joe & Will Nonnamaker teamed together in the #42 Mazda RX-8 for the entire race. Their consistent pace during the 2 hour and 45 minute race saw them work through the 17 GT Car field to finish in 12th place.

“It was a really fun race. I started, and Will got in and did the middle stint of the race.  Then for the last run the checkered, I finished off the race.  It was really fun out there.  The Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8 handled great.” – shared Joe Nonnamaker

For the season, Team Sahlen’s #43 and #42 finished in 13th and 14th spot in the GT Team Championship, despite having missed two events during the year.

Additionally, Team Sahlen’s Wayne Nonnamaker finished in 3rd Place in the GT class Bob Akin Sportsman Award.  Team Sahlen drivers also filled up spots in the Top 10 standings: Will Nonnamaker – 5th, Joe Nonnamaker – 6th, & Joe Sahlen – 10th.

“The great news for 2010 was that Mazda was able to win the ROLEX GT Manufacturer’s crown after many years of trying.  Hopefully Team Sahlen can be of even greater assistance in 2011 to be there to garner valuable points for Mazda in their desire to repeat as Manufacturer Champions.” – stated Will Nonnamaker

With the season concluded, Team Sahlen now heads into full Test mode in preparations for the 2011 season.  This includes several tests at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and as well as the October Grand American Test at Virginia International Raceway.