Racing in the Midwest in late October can bring all kinds of weather. This can range from beautiful skies and 70 degree weather to 20 degrees and snow. For this year’s American Endurance Racing event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the weather was somewhere in between. There was no snow…but the weather was far from comfortable. On Saturday morning, the temperatures were in the high 30s, with a damp track…that had potential for ice patches left from overnight, especially on the painted curbing.
Team Sahlen’s #41, and #49 entries took a precautious start to the race. This was a positive thing as the track conditions were as treacherous as they appeared and sport tires do not grip in these conditions. Many racers even found themselves spinning in straight lines down the back straightway.
Wayne Nonnamaker shared his thoughts on the conditions – “It was very diabolic. Cars were spinning everywhere. And you could not just take it easy, because you had to keep pressing hard to ensure you kept heat in the tires. There is no way to properly mentally prepare for these conditions. You just have to go out and keep a focused effort to both stay cautious while also pressing hard.”
As the race settled into the 1st hour, Team Sahlen found themselves sitting in 2nd and 3rd Overall. All seemed well, but racing has a terrible way of bringing you back to reality. For Team Sahlen this resulted in 1st the #41 “Lunatic going to the garage with a malfunctioning ABS brake system. The crew did a fantastic job, limiting the time off track to 15 minutes. Then soon thereafter, the #41 entry came into the pits with an electrical gremlin that resulted in extended time in the garage to diagnose.
As the race reached the 3 hour mark, the #41 Cayman found itself in 40th overall, many laps down to the front runners. But with over 5 hours to go in the endure, there were many more laps to complete before it was over. So Team Sahlen buckled down and worked to have solid pit stops and lay down quick lap after quick lap. This dedicated effort saw Team Sahlen rise to 4th in Class 5 and 7th overall with 1 hour to go in the race. This is when the 2nd and final full course caution for the race came out. This allowed for #41 to receive a wave by to get back on the same lap as the Porsche that was positioned in 3rd place for Class 5.
The race went back to green with less than an hour to go. The 3rd Place Porsche was at the front of the pack, and the Team Sahlen #41 entry was at the tail end of the field. This presented a rather big challenge for Will Nonnamaker who was slotted in the final stint of the race.
The Photo Finish
Will Nonnamaker shared how the final laps of the Saturday race unfolded – “I knew that it was going to be a big challenge to get up to the Porsche for 3rd Place. We had to work our way through about 40 cars on track, while the Porsche had clear track in front of them. In the 1st couple of laps, we were losing time.
Then once we got into open track, the gap started to decrease. Then with just 15 minutes to go, it started to rain intermittently on different parts of the track. I took some rather adventurous risks in slick conditions to get right up on the Porsche. I was able to complete the pass off of the back straightaway. Then on the final lap, I got caught up passing some competitors, and this allowed the Porsche to slip back by me. Amazingly, the Porsche caught traffic in the very last turn, and this allowed me to slip to secure 3rd place in Class 5 by just a few feet.”
Sunday dawned with continued overcast skies and with even colder conditions, with temperatures in the low 30s. Team Sahlen started their #41 & #43 Porsche Caymans hoping to secure the top step on the Podium.
The gameplan unfolded well early in the races, as Wayne Nonnamaker led the race with #43 “Pepper”. But again, racing has a cruel way of bringing back reality, and soon “Pepper” was in the pits with a Fuel Pump issue. This left the chore of securing the overall victory to #41 “Lunatic”. And the task would be a momentous one, with the Ferrari 458 Challenge racer that one Saturday, leading the field. Team Sahlen knew that only way to challenge was to have perfect pit stops and lay down monstrous lap after monstrous lap in hopes of staying with the Ferrari.
As the race moved forward, the pace of #41 “Saucy” allowed Team Sahlen to rise up to all challenges that the Ferrari and the BMW competitors could throw at them. As the race wound down in the final hours, the #41 Cayman was surprisingly in 1st Place Overall by a 5+ lap margin.
Combined with the 3rd place on Saturday, Team Sahlen’s Saturday victory secured the Top OVERALL Weekend honors in the American Endurance Series at Mid-Ohio.
Wayne Nonnamaker shared his thoughts after the Sunday race – “It is always a challenge to win Overall in the American Endurance Racing series. Having such a strong competitor as a Ferrari 458 Challenge means we need to be on the top of our game to come out on top. I am proud of our team for their dedicated effort. We decided Saturday night to make some big set up changes, and they worked until 10 at night to get everything done for today’s race. Their efforts last night as well as their excellent pit stops today was the difference maker for our success.”
Photos courtesy of Ryan Bloomfield of RDBloomfield Photography LLC