Posted (02/02/2006) -
Team Sahlen started the 2006 Grand Am Cup season off with a victory in their Grand Sport (GS) Porsche 996s in the largest Grand Am Cup field ever. The team scored the 2003 and 2004 Grand Sport title and in both of those Championships the team started out the season with a victory at Daytona. The 2006 edition looked strong for Team Sahlen from the drop of the green flag. Young ace Eric Lux quickly grabbed the lead in the team's No. 44 Team Sahlen Porsche. Team Owner Joe Nonnamaker also ran a strong fifth place during his entire stint.
After qualifying fourth in the Porsche 996, Lux gained an early lead on the GS class. After battling it out for the first several laps, Lux passed the No. 55 Mustang on lap three and maintained position for the most of his stint. Espenlaub jumped behind the wheel to finish out the race for the duo and faced heated competition from former Team Sahlen driver, Craig Stanton. As the checkered flag fell Team Sahlen had withstood battles from both Stanton and factory BMW driver Bill Auberlen to take the win.
"It was good to run with Team Sahlen and great to run with Eric. After losing some spots on the restart I just kept my head down, made up time, and held off Bill Auberlen. It was a great experience and I was very impressed with the car," stated Espenlaub.
With his first professional win under his belt Eric Lux was extremely excited, "The car was good all through the race. It was great to run with Team Sahlen and to get this win. With the Nonnamakers and Joe Sahlen everything was just great," stated Lux.
Driver, Joe Sahlen, did double duty in the Grand-Am Cup season opener. Sahlen started the race in the Team Sahlen No. 43 Porsche with co-driver Will Nonnamaker. This is Sahlen's second season in the Grand-Am Cup after years of participation in motorsports. Sahlen and Nonnamaker will remain co-drivers for the 2006 season but in the Daytona race, Sahlen shared a ride with another up and coming young driving star.
After jumping out of the No. 43 car, Sahlen jumped behind the wheel of the Team Sahlen No. 42 car to take over for co-driver Derek Sabol. This was Sabol's first professional race and first race ever at the Daytona track. Sabol comes to the team from Lake Havasu, Arizona and plans a full season with Team Sahlen. Sabol has extensive karting experience and two years experience in formula cars.
A third young driving star took his spot behind the wheel of a Team Sahlen Porsche. Bryan Ortiz joined co-driver Victor Gonzalez, Jr. in the Team Sahlen No. 40 Porsche. Ortiz and Gonzalez first joined the team during 2005 at Virginia International Raceway, the site of the next Grand-Am Cup race.
After a strong run by Joe Nonnamaker, he handed the car off to his son, Wayne. At the exchange a pit lane mishap saw the team lose several laps to the leaders due to a failure of the team's jack to do its proper job. The result saw the No. 41 Team Sahlen Porsche 996 fall out of contention from a top five running spot. Wayne Nonnamaker commented on the race:
"We were able to see the ability of our team, my co-driver, and the No. 41 car early on. During a pit stop we had a problem with the car but the good news is our team pulled off a win despite the misfortune. Our team has the ability to perform well under pressure with five cars on track. To me that is very impressive and the win and is proof of that," stated Nonnamaker.
Team Sahlen enters the 2006 season with support from HRPWorld.com, GOJO, Kempthorn AutoMall, TheRaceSite.com, TheRaceMarket.com, Kempthorn Auto Mall, Racetech, Grassroots Motorsports, Selman and Associates, and Rembrandt Charms.