Posted (03/16/2005) -
Team Sahlen arrived home late last night after its first race outside of the U.S. or Canada with two top ten finishes under their belt. The Miller Grand-Am Cup 200 proved to be a great experience for the team and despite cumbersome track and weather conditions all five of the Team Sahlen Grand Sport cars finished the race.
Temperatures hit 80 degrees in early morning and peaked in the 90's during the race creating a merciless battle with heat. This created some difficulties for the team but none that would leave a detrimental effect on the ending race results. In addition to the battle with the heat, the 1.6 mile Autodromo las Americas track offered its own challenges and obstacles drivers. Drivers maneuvered cautiously through the turns in the track to avoid a rocky off course occurrences.
With a thirty six car field, Team Sahlen was the largest effort to make the journey to the Dominican Republic with all five of their Grand Sport (GS) Porsche 996s in competition.
Starting off for Team Sahlen was Blake Rosser and David Murry. This was Rosser's first race with Team Sahlen but not for his partner. Murry drove with Team Sahlen during the 2004 Grand-Am Cup GS season. Rosser and Murry encountered some difficulties during qualifying which resulted position towards the back of the grid. After running as high as second during the race, the duo came home with a tenth place finish.
The No. 42 saw Joe Sahlen and Will Nonnamaker teamed up once again. After running as high as tenth during the race, Sahlen and Nonnamaker ended up fourteenth, seven spots better than their starting spot. This is their second race together this season and will be paired once again in Fontana at the California Speedway race.
Victor Gonzalez, Jr. of Puerto Rico joined Will Nonnamaker in the No. 44 car. Nonnamaker started the race for Gonzalez and ended for Sahlen in the agonizing heat. Gonzalez finished out the race incredibly strong and landed the No. 44 a seventh place finish, which was the top spot held by any Porsche team.
"You come into every race looking for a win and I wanted this one especially. I finished the race strong and overall I was pleased. I had a great car and great experience in my first Grand-Am Cup race in Santo Domingo. Driving for Team Sahlen is something that I always enjoy," stated Gonzalez.
Santo Domingo native, Rafael Marte Alvarez, and co-driver Victor Levy had a huge following at the Autodromo track. Their Auto Europa No. 41 car finished the race as huge crowd of family and friends greeted them with cheers in pit lane.
The Team Sahlen No. 40 car was the Porsche for Joe and Wayne Nonnamaker. Despite the intense heat in the car the two managed to finish the race in 25th position. The duo, who won the 2003 Grand Am Cup Grand Sport title together, suffered from a minor mechanical issue that kept them out of contention.
"It was a great experience for us to go down to the Dominican Republic. The fans down there are definitely passionate. They know who the drivers are and really cheer on their favorite. The people that attended this race have a great appreciation and love for sports car racing. It was a pretty cool thing to be a part of," stated Wayne Nonnamaker.
"I am proud of our team for such a strong showing at this race. Victor and Will did an excellent job placing the #44 as the top Porsche in the race. Last year I got the iron man title for my two solo drives in Rolex competition, but I think Will has stolen that title away from me with his drive at Santo Domingo. I am not sure how he handled this heat for three hours in the car."
Team Sahlen's competes in this year's Grand-Am Cup with support from Speed Group International, Auto Europa, HRPWorld.com, TheRaceSite.com, Hawk Performance, TheRaceMarket.com, Kempthorn Auto Mall, UNICHIP, Lamin-X, RaceTech, and Grassroots Motorsports.