In 1989 Joe was looking to get back into racing after a short sabatical to focus on business. Joe rented a ride in a Honda CRX in the Firestone Firehawk Series and really liked the endurance racing format. The teamwork involved, the strategy involved, and the planning involved all interested Joe.
In 1991 Joe looked to run a expanded schedule of races. He intially drove a one off ride with Bill Pate in the Phoenix Promotions VW Golfs. At this time the Nonnamakers did not own the Phoenix team as they do now. The Phoenix VW's were full for most of the 91 season except for the one Sebring ride that Joe ran. That left him with driving for TC Kline Racing for the remainder of the 91 season. Joe got some experience with the Firehawk Series and began to sharpen his rusty driving skills.
As the 1992 season started, Joe was looking for a place to land. With the Phoenix Promotions team full for the year, Joe signed with Mallard Bay Motorsports, a Mazda RX-7 effort. After two races Joe saw that the Phoenix Promotions team with Pate needed a driver (their driver had been tragically lost in a racing accident while not driving for the team). Joe signed with Phoenix for the remainder of the season and scored a best finish of second that year.
As the 1993 season was approaching, the Nonnamakers took on ownership of the Phoenix effort. The team scrapped the Volkswagens and worked with Mazda Motorsports to begin the development of the new Mazda MX-6. The car came along nicely and the team scored several podium finishes the first season. Joe continued with Pate as his co-driver, a partnership that would last until the end of the 2001 season (almost nine years).
In 1994 IMSA made a move that allowed the BMW 325 into the Touring Class. The Mazda MX-6 was simply outclassed and there was little hope of the car performing against the BMW that had nearly forty more horsepwer and much better handling characteristics. With no remedy in sight from the sanctioning body, Joe decided to cut the team's losses midway through the season and the team skipped the last two races.
With the BMW 325 moved into the faster Sports class for 1995, the Mazda MX-6 once again stood a chance. With partial backing from Mazda Joe and Bill took home a win and six podium finishes. Joe also scored two pole positions that season, the first two of his professional career.
Continuing with Mazda support, Joe and Bill took home two wins and seven podiums. The Mazda was continuing to develop. Two bad races in 1996 were all that kept Joe from challenging for his first pro title.
The Mazda partnership continued into the 1997 season and Joe scored four wins with the now fully developed Mazda MX-6. The only thing that kept Joe and Bill from making a serious challenge for the Championship was a frozen brake caliper at Las Vegas. Dissappointed, Joe went into the 1997 off season motivated to score the title in 1998.
Mazda saw that the Mazda MX-6 was fully developed and now comissioned the team to begin development of the Mzda 626. While Joe and Bill ran the MX-6 the entire season, work was done on the four door 626 to develop and test it for the 1999 season.
After a near miss with the title in 1997, Joe really wanted the Championship in 1998. Three wins helped push Joe towards the title. However, the Championship was lost on the first lap of the last race. There was a major wreck in front of Joe. Slowing up to avoid the carnage, Joe was rear ended by another car. Broken but not giving up, the team fixed the car enough for Joe to climb back to third before the transmission gave way. Joe ended up tied for the Championship, but lost it on the tie-breaker, number of wins.