05/03/2012 Homestead, Florida - The Miami Grand Prix turned into a deluge of rainstorm that seemed to never stop. The rains started on Friday night, and didn’t cease until Sunday after the race.
Before the rains did come though, the skies were blue and the track was dry. Thursday was an official Track Day, and Team Sahlen took advantage of this time to get in some testing. For the #42, the “Wayne and Dane Show” had a chance to try some new set up. For #43, a malfunctioning oil coupling saw the father and son duo of Joe & Will Nonnamaker loose precious track time. The good news is that the problem was noticed before a major mechanical failure, such as motor evolved.
Practice Day started just like Test Day; beautiful and sunny. The knowledge learned from Test Day parlayed over to practice day, as Team Sahlen’s #42 consistently improved each session out. This included a 3rd fastest time in Practice Session #2 and a 2nd fastest time in Practice Session #3. Making up for lost time, the #43 RX-8 worked hard to find a set up that would work on old tires. By the end of the day, Will Nonnamaker was able to turn laps in the high 1:22s on one hour old tires.
Things were looking good for Qualifying and the Race,,,,and then the rain came on Saturday, and the whole complexion of the weekend changed. Qualifying was rained out, and the grid was set on GT Points. This placed Team Sahlen in 8th and 12th on the GT grid.
The rains was so bad at the start of the race that both the green flag and yellow flag were waived at the same time. The fast lane in the pits was over 6” deep in water. Empty Water Bottles were floating in rivers around the track. Once the race officially went to green, competitors in both Daytona Prototype and GT had a hard time keeping their cars on the track.
“At the start, everyone was everywhere. The #88 and #57 both went off at the same time. I had the Turner car do a complete 360 degree spin in front of me. The spin seemed pretty amazing to me, and the SPEED crew must have felt the same was, as it made the #1 slot on the SPEED Report WOW factor. I kept my head down and tried to stay on the track. We got all the way up to the top 5 where we varied between 3rd and 5th depending upon the lap. When a caution came out at the 30 minute mark, we pitted and put Dane in. The crew did a fantastic job on the stop, as we jumped over both the Stevenson and Turner cars during the stop” – shared Wayne Nonnamaker
As Dane Cameron restarted, he found himself in 5th place, and soon rose up to 3rd place. A near miss with a Daytona Prototype saw Dane backwards, with no way to reright himself in the correct direction. This dropped the #42 Mazda back to 10th place.
Dane added his thoughts - “Homestead was such a challenging race for everyone, the weather was just awful so it was very satisfying to come away with our first podium of the year. The guys were fantastic on pitlane all day, we gained positions on every stop so a big thank you to them, this was definitely a team effort. Wayne had a great opening stint that gave us good track position which is key when visibility is so poor. We made a great strategic call on the last stop that vaulted us up the order to claim second. It was a great result to a very soggy day and helped us to close the gap in points heading into the busiest part of the season.”
Making that fantastic strategic call in the pits was Team Engineer Catherine Crawford Wallace - “Homestead was a rollercoaster ride for the Sahlen Team. We worked hard to a good dry setup and then spent two very soggy days in the rain. In the race we worked our way up to second, had a spin, then made a pit call that got us back up there for when the race was called. Better to be lucky than . . ., you know the rest!”
After the pit stops were made and Team Sahlen jumped from 10th to 2nd, the pack of rain soaked cars continued to trundle around the flooded track. At this point, Grand American made the wise decision to call the race 50 minutes early. This secured Team Sahlen in 2nd Place. The fantastic finish was also rewarding as it provided Mazda with key Manufacturer’s points in the hunt for the year end GT title. After Homestead, Mazda is now only 1 point out of 1st in the Manufacturer Title. The finish also bumped the #42 up to 7th in the Team Championship fight. Additionally, with Wayne’s excellent 2nd place finish, he has now resecured the lead in the Bob Akin Sportsman Award for GT Drivers. An award that Wayne won in 2011 and his brother Will captured in 2005.
The next event for Team Sahlen will the Global Barter 250 at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The event is only 2 weeks after the Miami Grand Prix. Thus providing a very short turn around at home for the Team Sahlen crew.
Check out the latest Team Sahlen news at: www.TeamSahlen.com
Miami GP 2012 - RACE GALLERY