Posted (10/12/2017) -
Team Sahlen presented by honeybeeBase.com returned to the ChumpCar World Series event at Pittsburgh Grand Prix with the disappointment of the 2016 race on their mind. At this race, Team Sahlen was leading the 7 hour endure when an unfortunately exhaust failure denied victory for the Mazda Rotary Rocket. Although the team was still able to net a 3rd Place Overall and 1st in B Class, the memory of the one that got away stayed with Team Sahlen throughout the last year.
Car Chief Tony Artino shared his thoughts - “It’s always tough to lose a close race, but it’s even more difficult when you have a failure with only 3 laps left in a 7 hour event. We really wanted to come back to the Pittsburgh Grand Prix event and have another shot at overall victory. We worked extra hard in the off season to work on our reliability so that we could be in contention throughout these long endurance events.”
Friday was a test and tune session for ChumpCar racers. Team Sahlen took advantage of the day to shake down the Rotary Rocket Mazdas. As well, new Team Sahlen driver Patrick Emerling was able to get some valuable seat time behind the wheel in his 1st foray into road racing. Although the day was mixed with intermittent rain, the day was a success with high hopes for upcoming races.
Saturday’s 8 hour enduro started at 9 am with clear skies and dry track. Starting for Team Sahlen was Joe Sahlen in the #943 “Mustard, Joe Nonnamaker in #942 “Ketchup” and Wayne Nonnamaker in #941 “Charcoal”. At the end of the 1st hour, all three Mazdas where running in the Top 10 overall. As the race entered the 2nd hour, “Mustard” developed an intermittent electrical miss. Despite several attempts to remedy the situation, the decision was made to withdraw “Mustard” from the race. Murphy’s Law took full effect an hour later as “Ketchup” then developed ground to a halt on track with engine issues. This placed Team Sahlen with one sole entry for the day, #941 “Charcoal”. The entire focus and attention was put to ensuring a solid finish for “Charcoal”. Patrick Emerling pulled two shifts, while Joe Sahlen and Will Nonnamaker each drove a single shift. Consistent & clean laps saw “Charcoal” continue to move up the timing monitor. As the race drew to a close, “Charcoal” had risen all the way up to 4th Overall and 1st in the B Class out of 66 entries.
Will Nonnamaker shared his thoughts after the race – “What a fantastic result for good old reliable “Charcoal”. This is the original Mazda RX7 we built in 2011. It has been through a lot of races through the years, and just keeps coming through with great runs. I have to give a shout out to our newest driver, Patrick Emerling. He has proven to be a fast driver, with his recent Modified victory at Bristol as proof. But endurance road racing in a Chump Car Mazda is a totally different race craft. At the end of the day though, Patrick adjusted very well, learned the roops, turned in some very fast laps without any off road excursions or contact on track. His efforts in those two stints greatly assisted in the team winning in Class B today.”
While half of the Team Sahlen crew was focused in the pits assisting in securing the Class B victory with “Charcoal”, several of the crew were back in the garage working feverishly to try and fix “Ketchup” with the motor from “Mustard”. The hope was to get the car fixed and running for Sunday’s race. The crew was so efficient, that Joe Nonnamaker was able to take “Ketchup” out on track at the end of Saturday’s race to ensure the Rotary Rocket was ready to go for Sunday.
Late night showers saw Sunday dawn with very cloudy skies and a very damp track. Knowing that the event was a 7 hour race, starting drivers Joe Sahlen and Patrick Emerling took the smart approach to be cautious in traffic, to ensure that any off road exursions or car to car contact would lead to an unnecessary early pit stop.
As the race entered hours 2 through 5, the competition faced difficulties both on track and in the pits. Alternatively, Team Sahlen’s “Ketchup” and “Charcoal” racers were running clean lap after clean lap. Emphatically, “Ketchup” was making significant gains on the competition. These gains saw “Ketchup” in the lead overall in the race with a 2 lap lead. Now it was just a matter of ensuring that nothing went wrong with the #942 Rotary Rocket. With this reality in mind, the Team Sahlen crew put extra attention to looking the car over during the last pit stop. Several items were tightened and checked, and then Joe Sahlen was sent on his way to finish the race. Joe then did an excellent job running solid laps, while also staying away from traffic. The 7 hour mark arrived with “Ketchup” receiving the checkered flag with a very redemptive victory. “Charcoal” completed day 2 in 10th place overall and 3rd in B Class.
Joe Sahlen shared his thoughts after the race – “What a fantastic race. The crew worked so hard on Saturday to get “Ketchup” running again. I was very cautious at the start, knowing this was a 7 hour race. The car was solid all day. All the development and at track testing on set up really paid off today. The car handled and braked great. I love racing in ChumpCar. The competition is really good, and to win Overall is a big achievement.”
Pittsburgh Grand Prix Race Results
Team Sahlen’s next event will be with American Endurance Racing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on October 20th – 22nd. There will be an 8 ½ hour race on both Saturday and Sunday. Team Sahlen will be racing their Porsche Caymans at the race in hopes to secure overall victory.
2017 Team Sahlen Campaign Partners
honeybeeBase.com, eEuroparts.com, Tarett Engineering, Guard Transmission, Porsche of Beachwood, Pittsburgh International Race Complex, HubstandsPRO, Brothers Grimm Landscaping, Optima Battery, Winding Road Racing, NGK Spark Plugs, CM Racing Products, Maxima Racing Oil, Mothers Polishes, Grassroots Motorsports Magazine, Design Engineering Inc., Hard Brakes, Forgeline Wheels, Alcon Rotors, LaminX, MSI Racing Products