Posted (04/29/2016) -
Team Sahlen had extra pressure entering the Inaugural event of the American Endurance Racing season, the race being sponsored as the Sahlen’s Sports Car Springfest at the Glen.
The Friday practice and qualifying was a very wet affair. The morning sessions were almost entirely in the rain. Then when the afternoon started, the track was open for qualifying times. Team Sahlen saw a brief window of time between 1 and 1:30 pm when the track would be dry. Wayne and Will Nonnamaker took advantage of this brief reprise in the rain to put down a time. Their times were good enough for 1st and 2nd on the grid. The rest of the day through 4 pm was full rain down pour. Fortunately for all the 78 race cars, including Team Sahlen’s #41 & #43, the track provided an extra hour of time until 5 pm. Thus this allowed all the drivers to get some dry laps in before the race. This extra time saw some of the more powerful cars in the series to lay down some impressive lap times. Team Sahlen fought hard and still secured 3rd and 4th on the grid.
Friday night was the Sahlen’s Tailgate Party. The entire paddock was served up Sahlen’s Hot Dog’s and Saugages. The grilling of the dogs was by Joe and Billy Sahlen, with Anita Sahlen assisting on serving. All 400+ in attendance were served in an amazing brief 2 hours of time.
Come Saturday morning, the skies were overcast, with a damp fog causing extra condensation coming down. The Temperature was around 35 degrees. This weather created for a very eerily start to the 9 hour event. Wayne & Will spent the early pace laps aggressively warming up their tires and brakes. This focused effort paid off as the race went to green flag. Wayne and Will had a great start, and came out of turn one in 1st and 2nd place. As the race ran through the 1st half of the race, the #43 and #41 stabilized in 1st and 4th place respectively. One difficulty that was faced in the race was a timing & scoring issue situation caused the repaving of the Watkins Glen International Circuit. The pit road timing loop was not working. This placed the American Endurance Racing staff into a bit of a quandary, as they had to manually add back in each car’s pit stop laps. This at times caused a bit of confusion. Fortunately, it appeared that all pit laps were manually corrected by hand by the conclusion of the race.
As the race headed into the 2nd half of the 9 hours, the intensity of the Top 4 increased. The #43 had a lap lead on the #28 BMW M3. Wayne Nonnamaker was laying down some amazing times, equaling sports car champion Randy Pobst’s times in the #28. Eventually Randy was able to make the pass to get back on the lead lap. But as the hours wound down, the #43 was able to hold onto the lead, eventually taking the checkered flag under caution, just ahead of the #28.
“Wayne did amazing job today. His stints at the end of the race were truly mesmerizing. He was laying down times that were equal to those of cars with 75 to 100 more horsepower. It really feels good to be back in victory circle on the top step. The competition was great today, and all the racers on track were super clean, without any contact that I can speak of.” – shared Wayne’s co-drive Joe Nonnamaker
The #41 was having a battle of its own for the last podium spot with the #364 Chevrolet Corvette. The battle see sawed back and forth throughout the last 2 hours of the race. Leading up last 20 minutes of the race, #41 had the advantage. In the end, Joe Sahlen and Will Nonnamaker had to be content with knowing they were only 10 car lengths back from the last podium spot. (And only one lap down to the leaders.)
Sunday’s morning was bright and sunny, with the weather creeping into the 60s. The early 1st half of the race saw the #41 & #43 Team Sahlen racers mixing it up for the lead with the #28 BMW. At one point at the 6 hour mark, the #43 had established a 1 lap margin on the field. Then in the 7th hour, a suspension bushing bolt broke. Although the Team Sahlen crew valiantly fixed the missing bolt problem in only 15 minutes, the side step to the garages meant the #43 was out of contention for the win, but was able to battle to the end to secure 9th place overall.
This challenge for overall victory then fell to the #41 Team Sahlen racer, driven by Joe Sahlen and Will Nonnamaker. Although the #41 finished a lap down on Saturday, on this 2nd day of action, Joe & Will took the fight to the #28 BMW. All the way up to the checkered flag the 2 cars battled. At the end of the 9 hour race, only 22 seconds separated the two racers.
Joe Sahlen, who finished #41 on Sunday, shared his thoughts - “What a fantastic race and a fantastic weekend. I really had a lot of fun out all there on track racing with the American Endurance Racing competitors. Watkins Glen International did a really marvelous job on the repaving of the track. It was super smooth all around the course. My hats off to Michael Printup and his entire staff for taking a great track and making it even better.”
At the end of the weekend the #43 & #41 were awarded 2nd and 3rd combined overall results for the 2 combined races. On the podium, the entire Team Sahlen crew and drivers collected for a group photo, with a sign reading “Get Well Kate”.
Will Nonnamaker shared the meaning to the sign – “Our long time engineer Catherine Crawford recently was diagnosed with a Brain Tumor while on vacation in Italy. Thankfully she was able to finally come back to the states earlier this month. Everyone here is praying for here steady and quick recovery, and we just wanted to give her a shout out to let her know that we were thinking of her and dedicating this weekend to her.”
2016 Team Sahlen Campaign Partners:
Tarett Engineering, Guard Transmission, Porsche of Beachwood, Pittsburgh International Race Complex, HubstandsPRO, Brothers Grimm Landscaping, NGK Spark Plugs, CM Racing Products, Mothers Polishes, Grassroots Motorsports Magazine, Design Engineering Inc., Hard Brakes, Alcon Rotors, Lamin-X, Optima Batteries, Mazdaspeed and TheRaceSite.com.