Team Sahlen came to Round 2 of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 with high hopes. With the factor of being the Top Mazda in qualifying at the season opener at the ROLEX 24 Hours of Daytona, everyone at Team Sahlen was looking towards the 1st “Sprint Race” of the year with great expectations. Those expectations were reinforced by the aspect that Team Sahlen had tested at Homestead during the Official Grand American Fall 2010 Test.
The dawn of practice at Homestead saw Team Sahlen continue to be at the sharp end of the grid, while being one of the fastest Mazdas in the class. For practice session #1 & #2, Team Sahlen was 5th fastest (& 2nd Mazda). In practice session #3, the #42 was the fastest in the GT class. In qualifying, Wayne Nonnamaker backed this performance up with a fine 4th in GT (2nd Mazda). And in Warm-Up, the team was again slotted in 4th spot (1st Mazda).
“The SpeedSource build Mazda RX-8 was great in Qualifying. We ended up something like less than a tenth of a second off of the best Mazda. Everyone on Team Sahlen has worked so hard to get here. It is great. We came here with a specific schedule of new set up items for each session. And it all cumulated in how the Mazda performed in Qualifying.” Shared Wayne Nonnamaker
During the race, Team Sahlen worked hard to conserve the Continental Tires that were facing severe wear from the harsh Homestead Track surface. Wayne paced his tires at the beginning, losing a few spots, but overall taking care of the rubber underneath him. As the 1st Yellow flag came out at the 35 minute mark, the Team Sahlen pit crew sprang into action. With 3 cars in the event, Team Sahlen was fully prepared, and had 3 full pit crews to handle the job. #42, #43 and #49 all pitted under the yellow. Joe Nonnamaker and Joe Sahlen had done a fine job keeping good pace, and not losing a lap under the 1st span of green flag racing. Memo Gidley jumped into #42 to lead the charge. And Will Nonnamaker hopped into #49. Interestingly, Wayne Nonnamaker never went over the wall, having just got out of #42 and walked straight over to #43 to finish the race for his Dad, Joe Nonnamaker.
Memo drove a very steady race, running very comfortably in 4th place with 30 minutes to go, when a lapped car failed to brake, and took out the #42 Sahlen racer. Although no structural damage was caused, the tight confines of the GT racing caused Memo to fall back to 9th place, where he finished the race. The #43, finished by Wayne Nonnamaker, wrapped up the final Top 10 slot, with Will Nonnamaker pacing home in 12th place out of 19 in class.
“It was a very promising weekend for Team Sahlen’s at Homestead. We were top five in every practice session and I was very happy with the speed of our Sahlen’s Mazda RX8 race car. Wayne did a great job putting the #42 fourth in qualifying and I was very optimistic about the race. In the race, we had a great first pit stop that got us into the top five, and then I was able to work up to third place by the halfway mark of the race. I struggled with tire wear towards the end of my stint but we were still in a position for a good result. It was unfortunate that we had the muffler issue that brought us to the pit lane for repairs twice. However, I am very happy with how Team Sahlen is coming together and it is great to see us become contenders week in and week out. We have a lot of ideas how to make the #42 Sahlen’s Mazda RX8 even faster…I’m excited!”
The 9th place finish for the #42 kept Team Sahlen in 8th place in the ROLEX GT Team Championship. Furthermore, the #43 RX-8 rose up to 12th place in the standings.
Additionally, Wayne Nonnamaker continued to solidify his position at the top of the Bob Akin Sportsman Award in the GT class. As well, Wayne’s brother Will moved up to 4th in the standings. Also representing Team Sahlen in the Top 10 are Joe Nonnamaker (8th) and Joe Sahlen (10th)
The next event for Team Sahlen will be Round 3 of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 that is to be held at Barber Motorsports Park on April 9th. The race will be Televised live on SPEED TV.The 2011 Team Sahlen GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 is supported by Mazda, Mazdaspeed, HRPWorld.com, Cool Shirt, Racetech Seats, BBS, Racing Print Media, Alcon, Mothers Polish, EMCO, TheRaceSite.com, Western New York Flash, Grassroots Motorsports, Castrol Oil, Holliday Canopies, ASC Industries, Muscle Milk, Iannetti Design Ideas, CM Racing