John Pentelei-Molnar celebrated his birthday by nailing the start and going on to lead from wire-to-wire to easily win the 944 Spec Championship race. All second-place finisher Charles Sharp could do was hope that Pentelei-Molnar had a mechanical failure, which never happened.
Pentelei-Molnar came into the Championship race on Sunday morning having picked up a first- and third-place finish in qualifying races, so he knew his Porsche would be competitive. By the second lap, Pentelei-Molnar had a 5-second lead and stretched it even further by lap 13. The lead was so large it was a little worrisome for Pentelei-Molnar.
“I kept coming around, going another lap, another lap and then the ghosts start talking to you,” he said. “You’re like Ok, ‘Is that a noise?’ Every little tire mark and you’re just waiting. I got to tell you the last couple of races we had a couple of failures mechanically.”
Sharp, who had earned pole position for the flying start, owned second place from start to finish but was busy fending off John Niedernhofer for 14 laps until Marcelo Vine slipped into third-place for a spot on the podium.
“John (Pentelei-Molnar) and I are usually really, really close,” Sharp said after a champagne celebration. “I had to back off a hair. I couldn’t hold the same speed, there was just too much dust on the track. But it was a great race and a lot of fun.”
Vine’s third place was the highest finish he’s had at a national championships. Vine said once he saw Pentelei-Molnar jump to the big lead, he knew they were racing for second and third place.
“There were five people going for three spots and my job was to get one of those three spots,” said Vine, who previously had seventh- and eighth-place finishes in national championship races. “I noticed John got a really good start and I had to fall back because I was side by side with John Niedernhofer. I thought, ‘You know it’s a 40-minute race, let me pull in right behind him, pace this thing and see what happens.’”
Vine, however, was DQ’d after the race, moving Thomas Atteberry into third.
Pentelei-Molnar was clearly in a celebratory mood as he exchanged high-fives and hugs with his fellow racers before climbing up to the top spot on the podium.
“It’s my birthday today, so it’s a great present. It’s the best present,” Pentelei-Molnar said. “It just shows that you can be on the other side of 50 and still do something with your life.”— Gregg Mansfield