Posted (06/01/2017) -
2017 marks Will Nonnamaker’s Silver Anniversary of racing. A period of time that has seen Will race all over the United States, as well as adventures to Canada and as well to the South in Mexico and Dominican Republic. From economy cars such as a VW Golf in regional racing, and all the way to a Prototype racer in the Professional Ranks
Will reflects back on 25 years - “Its funny because I feel like I have been racing my whole life, it’s just that I didn’t start racing cars until I was 20. Before that I was always helping my Dad go racing. Whether that was cleaning cars, working on cars in the evening, and going to races all over the country. But still, to think back and realize that I have been able to get behind the wheel of a race car for over 25 years is amazing. Amazing because I have had the good fortune to make it through 25 years of racing and still be standing here. And amazing, because it is always a privilege not a given right that you will get to race from year to year.”
Will’s early days behind the wheel involved non motorized vehicles - Big Wheels. Will shares those early adventures – “When I was a kid I would race my Big Wheel so hard around the neighborhood, that I would break a Big Wheel about every year. I would even organize races with the neighbor kids, with qualifying races, races and a victory circle.”
It was not until Will was into College that we was finally able to get behind the wheel of a race car. Will elaborates on this story – “I when I turned 20, I decided that I just couldn’t wait any longer to go racing. But the problem was a familiar one, I had no money. In fact it was worse than that because I was a college student, with increasing college debt. But I was determined to go racing. So I decided to go to a Swap Meet for Go-Kart racers. My Dad & Mom came along to see what I was getting into. As my Dad saw that I would not be deterred from being a racing addict any longer, he decided that the best course of action was to at least get me into as safe of cars a possible. So we went and bought a used VW Golf off of Bill Pate to go racing. There was one stipulation though,,,I couldn’t wreck the car, because it was going to be my brother Wayne’s street car when he turned 16. Fortunately, I never wrecked the car, and indeed Wayne did drive the car all the way through College.”
His initial foray into Regional Racing saw Will awarded the Western Ohio SCCA Region Rookie of the Year Award. This was quickly followed by the NEOHIO SCCA Region ITS Champion award. Progressing forward, Will choose to go head 1st into the ranks of racing in a Professional Series. Will add reflection on this thought process - “Looking back, this is one of those decisions that wiser more mature heads might not have done. But call it exuberance or nativity of youth. Nevertheless, I went full tilt forward racing against season professionals. The good news is that you quickly figure out where you are good and where you are bad right away. There is no false sense of success here. But it certainly made me better in the long run to make this jump so quickly.”
After a few partial season of Professional Racing, Will’s 1st full pro season saw him awarded with the IMSA Continental Tire Series “Rising Star” Award. Will then soon followed this up with a string of Professional titles – 1999, 2001 and 2002 ST Class Continental Tire Series Champion.
From there Will evolved into the highest series of Professional Sports Car Racing – the Grand American ROLEX Series. It was in the GT class that Will was awarded the Bob Akin Award for being the top Non Professional Sportsman driver in the series.
The highest evolution to Will’s journey in Professional Sports Car racing was getting to race in the top Prototype class. Will shared what this experience was like – “It was always my dream to get to drive a prototype. Growing up, I always wondered what it would be like to drive a race car like that. Well I was able to achieve that dream and more. It was a true thrill to drive. As well I had the chance to compare myself to some of the best in the business. Drivers such as Simon Pagenaud, Dane Cameron and Bruno Junqueira drove in the same car as I did. I wasn’t as fast as them, but certainly learned how I compared to them.”
For 2017, Will will competing in long endurance races on 7 different weekends in 14 races amongst 3 different series with 2 different types of race cars. This type of variety will most certainly keep Will entertained and challenged as enters his 25th year of racing.
Will add’s his thoughts about the season ahead – “I am as excited about the 2017 season as I have ever been about any of the prior 24 years competing. As a team, we have set high some very ambitious goals for the season. And I am working very hard to get in shape and be prepared so that I can do my part to achieve these goals. If we are able to achieve these goals, it very possibly could be the highlight to my racing career to date.”
2017 Team Sahlen Campaign Partners
eEuroparts.com, 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, Forgeline Wheels, Alcon Rotors, Lamin-X, Optima Batteries, Mazdaspeed, MSI Racing Products, Winding Road Racing and TheRaceSite.com.