Team Sahlen entered the 2019 Sahlen’s Champyard DOG at the Glen with high hopes of securing the OVERALL victory, as well as class successes. The challenge would come in many forms. 1st off, there would be over 100 cars starting the race on the historic and popular 3.4 mile Watkins Glen International circuit. Additionally, the Saturday and Sunday races would each be 7 hours in length. Lastly, the team would be entering 3 different types of race cars in three different classes for the weekend. And one of those cars would be the brand new built Porsche Boxster that would compete in the C Class for the ChampCar Victory.
Team Sahlen Sporting Director Will Nonnamaker shared the adventure of building a new race car – “We made a decision in January as a team that we would pursue building a Porsche Boxster for the Tire Rack ChampCar Endurance Series. We targeted the Sahlen’s Champyard DOG at the Glen event on Memorial Day weekend event as our goal date. Even though that date seemed like a long way off, we knew that the timeline to complete a build a brand-new race car would be tight. But the crew did an amazing job, and we were even able to shake down the new Boxster at nearby Dragway 42 before heading to Watkins Glen.”
The Friday practice saw all 3 race cars turning laps, giving the 6 drivers much needed track time. That evening saw the team host the annual “Sahlen’s Tailgate Party” featuring chargrilled Sahlen’s Hot Dogs for all racers at the track. Over 1000 hot dogs were served up to hungry Crew, Drivers and Series Officials.
Saturday dawned beautiful sunny skies as the centurion field of racers took the green flag. Experience over many years of Endurance racing told the Team Sahlen drivers that the 1st portion of a long race is a time to be extra cautious. This wisdom proved to be fortuitous, as there were over 4 cautions in the 1st 90 minutes of the race. As the race rolled along, Team Sahlen continued to make progress up the running order. The #945 Porsche Cayman, running in the EC class, made a push for the lead, where it would remain for the majority of the 7 hour event, in route to the OVERALL Victory for the day.
The #942 Porsche Boxster, on its debut race, surprised all at Team Sahlen by encountering zero 1st race “teething problems”. As the final hour of the race rolled along, the new Boxster just kept moving up the running order, rising from 9th to 4th…just one spot off the podium in its debut race.
Joe Sahlen shared his experience after the Saturday race – “The crew did a fantastic job on building the Boxster. The car handled very well right out of the box, which can always be difficult with a new race car. There is still more we have to work on, but I am super happy with the debut for our new ChampCar racer.”
The #941 Mazda was having an excellent run up through 6 hours, when it ran out of gas 200 yards from the pits. This unfortunate luck cost the Rotary Rocket a chance at victory. The crew did not give up and still secured 2nd place in the B Class.
A terrible storm blew through over Saturday night, that then made way for very sunny skies on Sunday morning. The temperatures even rose up into a warm, but comfortable 75 degrees. Although there were a few less cars than the day before, Sunday still saw 97 cars take the green flag.
Team Sahlen’s #945 was running just as strong as the day before and continued its charge to the front of the pack. Only pit stops for fuel derailed the Cayman from leading the pack. No missteps, unscheduled pit stops, off track extrusions or incidents on track resulted in an Overall Victory by a 1 lap margin.
The brand-new Boxster continued its solid debut weekend by performing excellently all day. The #942 battled throughout the 1st 6 hours of the event to stay on the lead lap of the ChampCar battle. A late race caution saw Wayne Nonnamaker sneak back on to the leader’s lap. This opportunity was all that Wayne needed to put the charge on to chase for the victory. Wayne was closing steadily, lap after lap, on the 2 leading teammate Mitsubishi’s of Tuttle Racing. As the checkered flag flew, Wayne settled for 3rd place, having narrowed the gap down less than a minute to the lead. In a bit of irony, the leader ran out of gas on the cool off lap.
Wayne Nonnamaker shared his excitement after Sunday’s Sahlen’s Champyard DOG at the Glen – “Wow, how much fun was the race today! Competing on the track with 100 race cars all at the same time for 7 solid hours. Then for the ChampCar victory to come down to only 60 seconds separating 1st through 3rd place. This is what makes the Tire Rack ChampCar Endurance Series one of the best Sportsman Road Racing series in the country.”
The #941 Mazda was on pace to duplicate its strong Saturday run until a ½ hour to go in the race, when the transmission let go. A rather unfortunate end to the weekend to the Rotary Rocket named “Charcoal”. But being one of the longest running race cars in the ChampCar Series dating back to 2011, the well veteran race car will be back for more action in the future.