Posted (10/06/2015) -
Team Sahlen worked feverously during the summer months to build 2 brand new Mazda RX-7 race cars for the Chump Car Endurance Series. All the way up 9 pm the day before practice started at Pittsburgh International Raceway, the crew was still busy building the 2 race cars to compliment the already built Mazda RX-7. Finally the cars were done and loaded on the trailer. Fortunately, the Pittsburgh track is only about 1 ½ away from the Team Sahlen shop, therefore making for a short drive that night.
With having 3 Chump Car Mazda RX-7s, Team Sahlen choose to have some real fun with the cars. The previously built #141 that was black was named Charcoal. The 2 new RX-7s were vinyled in Red (#142) and Yellow (#143) and named Ketchup & Mustard accordingly. Along with the working “Fueled by Hot Dogs” on the sides of the rotary rockets, this made for a fan favorite amongst the spectators and competitors alike.
The Friday Test Day saw the 1st laps on the track ever for Ketchup & Mustard. Amazingly, there was very little sorting out or mechanical issues with either car. Ketchup had a couple of wiring issues that caused the motor to miss. This miss was never actually cured the entire race weekend. The crew had run out of time to put a freshened up Rotary Motor in Mustard. Therefore, this yellow racer was stuck with its original 130,000+ motor. The motor was certainly showing its age on test day, as it was going through 2 quarts of oil an hour. The decision was made to limit Mustard’s test day time, in hopes this might lengthen the time #143 could make it through Saturday/Sunday 16 hour enduro. And just for extra assistance, a can of barleak was poured into the motor to hope for good endurance.
Also on test day, Team Sahlen had brought 1 of their Porsche Caymans. The team is planning a race with the Caymans in 3 weeks at Mid-Ohio in the American Endurance Racing series. Within this series, 200 wear rating tires are mandated, so the team was using this time to get some experience on the Caymans. The test went well with the new tires, with no rubbing or unusual wear in the Porsche.
The Saturday race started at 8 am, with the drivers meeting at 7 am. This early start meant that there was zero time to think about the race to come. This was probably a good thing, since it was not only very cold out, but raining as well. Team Sahlen choose to start the race on rain tires. This decision proved to be a smart one, as the race stayed wet almost the entire 8 hours of the Saturday portion of the race. The early stages of the race saw a few transponder issues with all 3 cars, that caused for some laps lost. Not a major problem, but one that did cause frustration in the heat of the moment.
All three Team Sahlen racers made it through the end of the 8 hours on Saturday. At the conclusion of the day, Chump Car Officials had all race cars park on the front pit straight. The cars then were left there overnight, with no work to be done on the cars by the crews. This was a bit unusual, but worked very well as it was a fair rule for all teams to have to follow, and it allowed the crews to have the evening off. For dinner, Team Sahlen attended the Chump Car Chumpionship Banquet that was held in the Pittsburgh International Raceway Hospitality Suite.
Come Sunday morning, the skies had cleared, and the track was dry. Team Sahlen went to work trying to make up for the few mishaps from Saturday. All three cars pace was very good, with the seasoned and well sorted #141 Charcoal being able to make the most ground on track. Joe Sahlen and Wayne Nonnamaker were sharing the driving chores in this racer. The both drove a very competitive race, especially Sunday. This resulted in the 3rd fastest race lap of the race, and a 5th place finish. This was a very good showing, with this event being the Eastern Region Chumpionship Event, with the best of the best in Chump Car at the race.
The crew was never quite able to solve the electrical miss in #142 Ketchup all race long. But this didn’t stop Joe & Will Nonnamaker from pushing hard lap after lap, getting the most of the car they could despite the stuttering acceleration. This persistence resulted in a 13th place finish out of the 51 entrants.
Perhaps the most amazing story of all was that of #143 Mustard. On Saturday, the crew had continued to add 2 quarts of oil every 2 hours. Then come Sunday, the crew poured another can of barleak in the motor. This seemed to help, but still the oil seemed to be just seething out of the motor. As the 15 hour mark was reached, the crew was pouring a gallon of oil in every hour. So much oil was used, that the crew ran out of standard oil and was forced to put Tractor rotella oil in. But the worn out 130,000+ mile rotary motor wouldn’t give up, and made it to the end. Jacob Grimm and Will Nonnamaker had persevered, and netted an amazing 9th place finish.
“I want to thank the crew for the amazing job they did in getting all three of these cars ready for the race. We ask a lot of them, and they worked extra hard to get us here. We came here with 2 out of the 3 cars being absolutely brand new. And in the end, we finished all three and ran a combined 48 hours.” – shared Will Nonnamaker
Wayne Nonnamaker added – “What a truly fun experience. This is only my 2nd Chump Car race ever, and I had a blast. Jumping back and forth between the two cars, I think I drove something like 12 combined hours. This was my 1st time racing on the newly extended Pittsburgh International Raceway track. I have to say the Stout family did a fantastic job with this extension. I look forward to coming back and driving at this track again in the years to come.”
2015 Team Sahlen Campaign Partners:
Tarett Engineering, Guard Transmission, Forgeline, Porsche of Beachwood, Pittsburgh International Race Complex, HubstandsPRO, MSI Racing Products, Brothers Grimm Landscaping, NGK Spark Plugs, CM Racing Products, Mothers Polishes, Grassroots Motorsports Magazine, Maxima Oil, CV Products, Design Engineering Inc., Hella, Hard Brakes, Penske Shocks, Alcon Rotors, Lamin-X, Optima Batteries and TheRaceSite.com.