2012 marks the 40th Anniversary of racing for Ohio's Joe Nonnamaker. Joe will be driving the Team Sahlen #43 Mazda RX-8 at this weekend's ROLEX Sports Car Series EMCO Gear Classic event. When Joe started out in 1972, it was in a 1967 Corvette that he Solo raced around pylon cones in Ohio Shopping Mall parking lots as well as the Toledo Speedway. Even by Joe's own admission, this would not be the recommended path to getting into racing.
"The "67" Vette had tons of torque and power, little to no handling, and zilch for Brakes. This is not what you would consider ideal for running around a very tight circuit with little orange cones to get around. Additionally Toledo Speedway had tons of very scary concrete walls surrounding the whole facility. I decided soon enough that instead of driving such a fast car, with no safety equipment, that I might be better off switching gears to something with a roll cage and less torque." Shared Joe
Joe's foray into full door handle to door handle racing came at the time that the SCCA was starting the Showroom Stock class. And Joe's car of choice was the Ford Pinto, with tires the size of space savers of today. This 1st season in 1974 also marked Joe's 1st time racing at Mid-Ohio.
"Back in those days, Mid-Ohio did not quite look like it does today. Although it was always beautiful, that was in the pre-Trueman family era. This meant there was much less amenities as we have grown to be familiar with today. I never drove the track when it had the old dog leg in the back of the track. But even in 1974, there were trees between the keyhole and the back straightaway. I just remember how excited I was to be on the same track as those I had watched and admired in the old Trans Am and Can Am series of the 1960's."
In the beginning, Joe's very small race budget did not even allow for a trailer or tow vehicle. The very economical Showroom Stock class was developed for street titled cars. So racers could just drive their cars to the track, unloaded it and raced. This worked well until one fateful event at Waterford Hills in Michigan, where Joe inadvertently flipped the Pinto. Joe had to take a jack and pry up the roof. Then he put his helmet on with visor and drove the car back the 2 hour drive to Bowling Green.