The fourth annual NASA Western States Championships presented by Toyo Tires is attracting past champions looking to add to their trophy shelves.
This year’s event takes place October 6-8 at Thunderhill Raceway.
In 944 Spec, last year’s champion John Pentelei Molnar is hoping to repeat the Championship he earned last year at Buttonwillow Raceway. He has been dialing in his Porsche 944 and staying on top of maintenance and repairs. To prepare himself, Pentelei Molnar flew up to Thunderhill, a track he had never turned a wheel on, to drive the track in a borrowed car.
“I spent the day orienting myself to the track, certainly not at racing speed, but to get the technical side of things, understand where things are,” Pentelei Molnar said. “You can only learn so much from watching a video. You’ve got to get out there and actually drive around.”
He said he’s looking forward to the competition, a group of racers he’s familiar with. He faced most of them last year in his Championship win.
“There are a lot of good drivers, as we know,” he said. “Charlie Sharp is always real fast and certainly Thomas Atteberry can be really quick, and there’s a lot of good guys. On any given weekend, there’s a lot of guys who can really hook up at a track and find a way to go real fast. I’ve always found at a lot of these races that it’s whoever makes the least amount of mistakes. I’ve won and lost a lot of races based on that alone.”
In NASA’s signature NP01 class, Brian Lock is the returning Western States Champion in a NASA Prototype. Lock has logged a ton of time at Thunderhill Raceway, but has not driven the NP01 this season.
“Well, the NP01 has proven to be really reliable. We solved all the teething issues the car had initially, so we’re doing a whole lot of nothing as far as car preparation goes,” Lock said. “I’ve driven at Thunderhill in all but maybe four of the 25-hour races since its inception, so I don’t know how many thousands of laps I have at Thunderhill.”
A resident of Northern California, Lock and his team are better prepared than they were last year. Their Championship-winning effort came together in the last couple of weeks leading up to the event. This year, he and the Valkyrie Autosport team will be ready.
“Everything just kind of fell into place last year. Our car setup was just dynamite, and fast in the places we needed to be fast,” Lock said. “Thunderhill races a lot better than Buttonwillow, so I look forward to a lot more lead changes, I hope.”