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Team Sahlen celebrates 40th Anniversary in Endurance Sports Car

17 January 2024

By Will Nonnamaker

Team Sahlen, presented by honeybeeBase.com, is celebrating their 40th year of competing in Sports Car racing. In particular, the Ohio based team has always competed in Endurance events, ranging from 3 hours to 25 hours. This unique style of racing requires a total team effort from the drivers, to the crew, to the strategists, engineers, all the way to the ones keeping everyone fed for the long events.

There have been ebbs and flows to the adventures for the team through 4 decades of racing. There has been great success and heart breaking losses. But just like the Endurance Racing that Team Sahlen competes within, the true heart of the team is the perseverance to survive and move forward each year, seeking the next challenge. And this determination and love of the sport has seen the team reach the ruby milestone of 40 years in 2024.

Fast Facts:

• 64 Race Cars spread across 9 different manufacturers.

• 55 Racetracks competed on, including epic tracks such as Daytona, Sebring, Road America and Watkins Glen

• 161 Drivers, including drivers with IndyCar experience: Simon Pagenaud, Dane Cameron, James Jakes, Herm Johnson, Memo Gidley and Bruno Junqueira

• 9 different series competed within, including the Grand American ROLEX Series.

• Raced in 27 states and 4 different countries

Joe Nonnamaker shared his thoughts – “To think that this team started back in 1984 and is still racing in Endurance Sports Car Racing to this day is truly amazing. If there was an endurance series for sports cars in the last 4 decades, our team has most likely competed within it. To have been around at the beginning during the 80s when showroom stock street car racing started exploding was an experience we will never forget. Taking cars off the dealership floor and trying to make them last 24 hours was a quite an undertaking. Then as the team grew, to expand into the elite level of the IMSA ROLEX series with the fire breathing GT and Prototype racers was legendary. That is the top of the top of endurance sports car racing, and we competed and had good success at that level. And now to come full circle and be racing within Sportsman Endurance Sports Car with such organizations as the Tire Rack – ChampCar Endurance Series. This series represents all that is great and fantastic about just going out and driving your car as fast as you can against the competition and against the clock.”

It all started in 1984, when brothers Bill & Phil Pate decided to start a team to enter the inaugural season of the SCCA Endurance Series. In that season, the team’s VW Rabbit swept to victory in all 4 races in the SSB Class enroute to the championship. This was followed again in 1987 with another SSB Class championship.

In the 90's the team worked to develop the Mazda MX6. Then in 1997 the team broke through and succeeded in securing the IMSA SpeedVision Cup Endurance Series Touring Class Championship. This was then followed up in 1999, with the team now racing Mazda’s 626 model to the Motorola Cup Touring Class title. This year saw the brother pairing of Wayne & Will Nonnamaker bring home the Driver title.

As the 2000s started, the team took on the new challenge of competing in 2 different classes of racing all in the same weekend. This bold direction started with a campaign of a Chevrolet Corvette and 2 Acura Integras. The team was able to achieve success in 2001 with both brands. The Corvette was able to win Overall at the Phoenix round, enroute to assisting Chevrolet securing the Grand-Am Cup SGS Manufacturer Title. And with the Acura Integras, the team secured the Touring Class Team, Manufacturer and Team Championships. This success continued into 2002, as the team secured another Touring class Team, Manufacturer and Team Championship. Will & Wayne Nonnamaker were the recipients of the driver’s title in both of these seasons.

Next the team moved up to the GS class in the Grand Am Cup and secured the Team, Manufacturer and Team Championship in both 2003 & 2004, racing Porsche 911s. For 2003, Joe & Wayne Nonnamaker secured the driver’s title, and in 2004 the title was secured by Craig Stanton. At this same time, the team transitioned to the Grand American ROLEX series competition. Additionally, in 2005 Will Nonnamaker drove to the inaugural Grand American ROLEX GT Class “Bob Akin” Sportsman Award presented to the top finishing non pro rated driver in the series.

The 2005 season was also very special as it saw the start of a brand new chapter in the team, that continues to this day. This chapter was partnering of the Sahlen & Nonnamaker families. The team took on the moniker of Team Sahlen. And through the years this brand identity has become synonymous with a hard-working family oriented team focused on excellence in preparation and success on track.

Joe Sahlen shared his thoughts – “I never imagined in 2005, when I sat there at the press conference in Daytona with Will introducing our campaign, that the journey would be so amazing and last for over a next decade and half. I have had the thrills of seeing a Sahlen’s racer leading the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen to seeing our Prototype sitting on Pole Position overall in ROLEX race. Personally, I have been able to race at so many amazing tracks. And the success we have had as a team in the last 10 years racing in the Sportsman Endurance Sports Car series has been just incomparable to what I could ever dream.”

For 2013, the team made their biggest leap by competing in the Prototype class of the GrandAmerican ROLEX Series. The team was successful in leading many races, securing 2 Pole Positions. Most importantly Wayne Nonnamaker won the Grand American ROLEX Prototype “Jim Trueman” Sportsman Award. In the 19 year history of the Sportsman Awards, Wayne is the only driver to this day to have won both the GT “Bob Akin” and Prototype “Jim Trueman” Awards.

Recently the team made a full-time transition to enter Sportsman level Endurance Sports Car Racing. This included the series of the Summit Racing – American Endurance Racing series, World Racing League presented by Hagerty, and the Tire Rack – ChampCar Endurance series. The team achieved a very unique distinction of winning OVERALL in each of these 3 Endurance Series in 3 consecutive seasons.

Will Nonnamaker shared his thoughts on the future – “Looking back on the last 40 years is just amazing. I know the dedication that we have all had to make to reach the ruby celebration. Beyond just the Nonnamaker and Sahlen families, there have been hundreds of crew members whom have made the sacrifices to make all of this possible. I think what inspires me the most though is not reflecting on the past, but imagining what the future unwritten script leading up to 50 years will look like. What is the next series we will venture into, like the 24 Hours of Lemons? What is the next race car we will build?”

For 2024, Team Sahlen will be competing in the Tire Rack – ChampCar Endurance Series in their Porsche Boxsters. The events will include such historic tracks as Daytona, Sebring, Mid-Ohio and Road America. Also included in this schedule will be the 8th running of the Sahlen's Champyard DOG

2024 Team Sahlen Campaign Partners:

honeybeeBase.com, Malco Products, Porsche Beachwood, ECS Tuning, Tarett Engineering, Guard Transmission, HubstandsPRO, Maxima Racing Oil, Pagid Brakes, NGK Spark Plugs, CM Racing Products, Grassroots Motorsports Magazine, Design Engineering Inc., Hard Brakes, Forgeline Wheels, Optima Batteries, All-Fit Automotive, Winding Road Racing, & Capri Tools.

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