Team Sahlen continued to rise up the ranks of one of the fastest teams in the ROLEX GT ranks. Qualifying further established Team Sahlen as one to watch for, as Wayne Nonnamaker firmly placed the #42 RX-8 4th on the competitive GT grid. Joe Nonnamaker turned in a very solid performance, placing the #43 in 13th place on the grid.
At the start of the race, Wayne Nonnamaker firmly held his grasp on the Top 5 in the GT class. An early yellow at the 25 minute mark saw both Team Sahlen Mazdas pitting. The next yellow at the 40 minute mark was one that Team Sahlen would rather not have come. This is due to the fact that the Yellow was because of an incident caused by the #43 driven by Joe Nonnamaker. Joe was unfortunately bumped from behind as he went through high speed turn #3 sweeper.
Joe Nonnamaker relays his thoughts on the incident – “It was a heck of a hit. I went sideways, passenger door, into the guard rail. Thankfully SpeedSource builds a very strong car, and OK now. I have watched the reply many times on TV. It’s hard to say what quite happened wrong in the incident. But no matter what, it seemed awfully early in the race for such and overtaking maneuver. “
One positive note from Joe Nonnamaker’s wreck was the extensive extended amount of SPEED TV coverage received by Team Sahlen. The accident was replayed 5 times during the broadcast. The SPEED Center show that features the wrap up of all racing action for the weekend featured the wreck. Then at the end of the SPEED Center show, there is there “Fast 5” most interesting racing moments of the weekend, and the Nonnamaker incident was #5. Then to top it all off, during Dave Despain’s Wind Tunnel Show, the spinning #43 was featured during the “Eye Candy” montage music video.
Race strategy saw Wayne Nonnamaker stay out on track. This raised the #42 up to 3rd place in the GT field. The race then proceeded forward without a caution for quite some time, and the #42 then pitted under green. As luck would have it, just as the pit stop was completed, a full course caution came out. Thus all who had pitted at the 40 minute mark were able to catch back up and not loose a lap.
Memo Gidley finished off the race with the diligence of a true pro, keeping pace with the GT leaders on track, and in so doing setting the 5th fastest lap of the race – “It was a disappointing end result for Team Sahlen’s but the result is really not representative of the improvements we are making as a team on the #42 car. We unloaded with a set-up that was different then what we had run before and the car felt good straight away. In the limited amount of practice we continued to improve the car and came away with a solid race set-up. And in the race, we had the 5th fastest lap of the race and once again showed we have the speed to finish at the front. I feel #42 Sahlen’s Mazda RX8 is in position to podium…and the team is committed to make that happen. I can’t wait!”
One special promotional program that all Mazda team participated in at Barber Motorsports Park was an American Red Cross tie-in. Each GT Mazda team carried special American Red Cross branding on their fenders and hoods. The branding encouraged individuals to donate money to assist those in need in Japan due to the national disasters. The instructions detailed: Text REDCROSS to 90999 to Give $10
Standard Message and Data Rates May Apply.
“This will be the last real break in the season, before we get into the heart of the summer racing. The #43 has been stripped bare and sent down to Riley to get the chassis repaired after the big hit. Additionally, we have a couple of additional items we are working on to develop and test, to give us that little extra bit of speed to get to the front of the ROLEX GT grid. We are very close now, and we just have to put all the right pieces together. Additionally, we are working on some enhancements to our paddock appearance, including a new vinyl wrap on our support Trailer, and the attachment of a 2nd tent off of the other side of our main trailer.” – shared Team Manager Jay Chapman
The next race for Team Sahlen will be at Virginia International Raceway on May 14th. The race will be televised on SPEED TV.