As the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series opens its season under the most auspicious of circumstances, a new entrant is preparing to cross the pond to take part in the action.
In a deal announced on Tuesday, Myatt Snider, who earned Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series last season, will compete full-time in the ELITE 2 Division of the NWES, running for both the classification title and for the rookie trophy.
The season for both the ELITE 1 and ELITE 2 Divisions opens this weekend (April 13-14) in Valencia, Spain, where Snider will get the chance to test his road course skills behind the wheel of the No. 48 Racing Engineering Ford Mustang owned by Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon.
Snider will share the No. 48 car with Ander Vilarino, who returns after a three-year hiatus to seek his fourth NWES title in the ELITE 1 Division.
“I’m going to Valencia with an open mind,” said the 24-year-old from Charlotte, N.C., the son of NBC Sports pit reporter Marty Snider. “Despite having raced some road courses when I was a kid, I raced mostly on ovals after that, and going back to road courses is definitely cool. I’m going in with an open mind but of course I want to perform because I’m a competitive guy and I want to win.
“I am with a great team like Racing Engineering, and I will share the car with a multiple champion, so I think winning is definitely a realistic expectation. I just have to get into the right mindset and see what these cars are capable of.”
Snider is one of 14 rookies who will take the green flag in the ELITE 2 Division. By way of contrast, the ELITE 1 grid is a cavalcade of champions. Israeli driver Alon Day is going for his third straight title, but he’ll have plenty of competition from the likes of Vilarino and former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve, who is competing full-time for Go Fas Racing.
In addition, the starting field at Valencia will include 2000 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte in a one-off appearance in the No. 70 Chevrolet, as well as Ruben Garcia Jr., who earned his spot in a driver swap program as NASCAR Peak Mexico Series champion.
Another full-time driver to watch is Frederic Gabillon, who has finished second in the ELITE 1 standings three times.
The Valencia field will feature a record 33 cars with 57 drivers from 20 different countries. In addition to the drivers mentioned above, 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Christophe Bouchut will take the green this weekend.
The ELITE 1 field has an enormous collective history of success in the division. Nine of the drivers have won at least one race in ELITE 1, and four others are former ELITE 2 winners.
Now in its 11th season, the NWES is the fastest growing series in Europe. With the addition of a seventh event in Most, Czech Republic, both divisions will feature 13 races this year. With a new tire supplier (General Tire), enhancements to the cars (tires, shocks and a new spoiler) and longer ELITE 1 races, the NWES likely will enjoy the most competitive season in its history.
The Racing Engineering team for which Snider will drive is new to the series this years, as is Team Bleekemolen, which boasts a successful history in touring cars. And though Snider will get a baptism by fire of sorts in the unpredictable ELITE 2 Division, he’s looking forward to the experience.
“I think it will be a lot of fun to race in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series,” Snider said. “It will be my first-ever chance to race in Europe, and that’s not an opportunity you get very often.
“It is going to be an interesting change of pace, and it is a fantastic opportunity to take on this challenge with a such a top-level team as Racing Engineering. I’m really excited.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!