Team Sahlen celebrates 40th Anniversary in Endurance Sports Car

Team Sahlen, presented by, 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.

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 SSC Class enroute to the championship.  This was followed up in 1987 with securing the SCCA Escort Endurance Series SSB Class championship  The drivers leading the charge in this season were Alistair Oag and Peter Schwartzott. The team continued competing in Volkswagens throughout the 80s, including the Golf, GTI, Scirocco and Corrado.   As the team entered the 90’s, the Nonnamaker family joined the team.  This included Joe Nonnamaker as driver, along with Kris Nonnamaker heading up the Timing & Scoring and Meal Prep for the crew.  Additionally, Joe’s 2 sons, Wayne & Will, were a part of the weekend pit crew.  In the years to come, Wayne & Will would take their turns behind the wheel driving, leading to even further on-track success.

As Volkswagen ceased their Motorsports division, the team sought out a new manufacturer to partner with to rise to the front of the grid.  A connection with fellow competitor John Torok resulted in a partnership with Mazda.  Mazda was ready to introduce their brand new MX6 model, and the team was chosen to lead the charge on track in the IMSA Firestone Firehawk Endurance Series.  This year of 1993 was also significant as it saw Lead Mechanic Mike Thomas join the team full time.  Mike became the heart and soul of race car prep for the team through the next 30 years.  Even as Mike retired to Florida in 2015, he has continued to be a weekend warrior at the team’s races.

As the team worked to develop the MX6, the team continued to move to the sharp end of the grid.  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 Staton.   At this same time, the team transitioned to the Grand American ROLEX series competition.  Winning 2 times, the team assisted Porsche securing the 2004 and 2005 GT Manufacturer Championships.  Uniquely, the 2 Class Victories were secured by solo drives by Wayne Nonnamaker, with his Mid-Ohio victory being named the ROLEX raced of the year. And then after Wayne’s achievement, the Grand American ROLEX series made a ruling to ban solo drives in the series.  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.”

Over the next few years, the team continued racing in the Grand American ROLEX and Grand-Am Cup.  The race cars competed in where quite the eclectic collection of automobiles: Porsche GT3 Cup, Porsche 911, Dodge SRT4, Chevrolet Corvette and Pontiac GTO.  This period of time saw Team Sahlen grow their ability to develop and then race a variety of equipment. 

In 2009, the Team made a return to partnering with Mazda.  The team entered 3 Mazda RX8s in the ROLEX series and a combination of RX8s and Mazdaspeed3 in the Grand Am Cup.  The team focused hard to assist Mazda in rising to the top of the GT class, cumulating in the 2010 GT Manufacturer’s title.  And then in 2011, Wayne Nonnamaker followed in his brother’s footsteps in securing that season’s Grand American ROLEX GT Class “Bob Akin” Sportsman Award.  The team also expanded their Mazda campaign in this season, by entering their 1st Tire Rack – ChampCar Endurance Series event with their Mazda RX7, securing 11th out of 77 entries in the Nelson Ledges Longest Longest Day 25 hour and 25 minutes event. To cap off the Mazda campaign, the team secured the ROLEX GT Class Victory at the 2012 Mazda Raceway – Laguna Seca. 

Wayne Nonnamaker shared his thoughts on this historic day – “I will never forget that day as long as I live.  To be able to deliver that one last victory to Mazda was so special.  The joy and excitement of the whole team in victory circle could hardly be contained.  This win was even more poignant and memorable as this was the last professional victory by a Rotary engine and it occurred at the track sponsored by Mazda.”

Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen

For 2013, the team made their biggest leap by competing in the Prototype class of the Grand-American ROLEX Series.  The team entered 2 BMW Powered – Riley Chassis.  Although the team was brand new to the Prototype category facing very stiff competition, the season was a successful venture.  The team secured 2 Pole Positions and led several races throughout the year. And in the end, Wayne Nonnamaker secured 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.

In 2014, the team entered 2 Porsche Caymans in the IMSA Continental Tire Endurance Championship.  In the team’s 1st year, their Caymans secured 2nd in the ST Championship along with assisting Porsche secure the Manufacturer Title.

Then in 2015, a full-time transition was made 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.  To race in these 3 series, the team employed a vast array of racers: Mazda RX7s, Porsche Cayman 2.9L, Porsche Cayman GT4 PDKs, Audi R8 GT3 Ultra and Porsche Boxsters.  With the Porsche PDK, the team was able to secure the very 1st Endurance victory for the Porsche Automatic Transmission in the world.  And with the Audi R8, the team was the 1st to win an Endurance race with a GT3 racer on 200W rated tires.

In 2022, the team celebrated their 8th straight season securing an Overall Victory in the Summit Racing – American Endurance Racing series. The victories in that season secured the team the honor of being the all-time OVERALL Victory leader in the series at 21 wins.  And in 2023, the team has secured 6 OVERALL Victories in the Tire Rack – ChampCar Endurance Championship, enroute to the team’s 8th straight season securing an Overall Victory in the series.  This overall tally of 21 victories places the team 2nd all time in the series in victories.

The future for team will see a further effort to continue to strive for excellence on track will still having maximum fun and enjoyment.  The journey is far from done, with many mountains to still climb and endurance series to race in.

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 Sahlens’ Champyard DOG at the Glen. 

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Team Sahlen All Time Statistics:

12 Driver Championships

12 Manufacturer Championships

7 Team Championships

125 Victories

325 Podiums

105 Fastest Race Laps

55 Pole Positions

2024 Team Sahlen Campaign Partners:, 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.