The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series returns this week for the American SpeedFest, the third round of the 2019 season. Held on the 1.929 km long Indy Circuit layout of the legendary Brands Hatch circuit, American SpeedFest has been a staple of the Euro Series calendar, with Brands Hatch being the only track to have been in the calendar in all seasons of the Euro Series after the series received official NASCAR sanctioning status in 2012.
For the Elite 2 class last year, it was the year of first-time winners, as Memphis Racing, Florian Venturi, and Go Fas Racing scored their first NASCAR Whelen Euro Series victories last year here at Brands Hatch. Guillaume Deflandre brought the No. 77 Memphis Camaro to the team’s first victory – and Deflandre’s second – in the Saturday race, while Venturi and Go Fas brought home their first victory in the series on the Sunday race.
This year, 28 drivers are set to compete in the Elite 2 class for the seventh edition of the American SpeedFest. With four winners – Giorgio Maggi, Nicholas Risitano, Lasse Sørensen, and Florian Venturi – in four races already this season and still plenty of drivers waiting to score their first wins such as Myatt Snider, Andre Castro, Vittorio Ghirelli, and Justin Kunz, the 2019 edition of American SpeedFest is shaping up to bring the excitement and unpredictability of the Elite 2 class to a whole new level.
Current championship leader Giorgio Maggi will be looking to extend his championship lead from his closest rival, Racers Motorsport’s Vittorio Ghirelli. With only 5 points separating Maggi and Ghirelli in the championship right now, the 21-year old Swiss driver is hoping to score the maximum amount of points possible if he wants to extend his championship lead and potentially becoming the first repeat winner of 2019.
Vittorio Ghirelli is coming to Brands Hatch as one of the drivers that will be looking to both score their first win of 2019 and potentially extend the current streak of different race winners in consecutive races. Like Maggi, Ghirelli certainly has no problems with transitioning to stock car racing, and it is certain that he will be pushing his No. 9 Mustang to the absolute limit in order to stay close to Maggi in the championship.
Ghirelli’s teammate at Racers, Nicholas Risitano, had a somewhat underwhelming weekend last time out at Franciacorta. After setting the initial pace in the Friday Practice, he and the No. 8 Camaro’s performance faltered on subsequent days, as Risitano can only manage an 11th place result in Qualifying, a 7th place finish in Race 1, and a 16th place finish in Race 2. The 30-year old Italian will be hoping that he and the No. 8 team is able to rebound at Brands Hatch, a track where he finished 8th and 16th last year.
Both Myatt Snider and Andre Castro will come to Brands Hatch still looking for an opportunity to get their first win. Both drivers came painfully close to the victory once more in Franciacorta, especially for Castro as he was leading with 2 laps to go in the Saturday race when his No. 24 Camaro suffered a mechanical failure that would eventually hand the victory to Sørensen. This was then followed by yet another strong race in Sunday, although this time around Florian Venturi proved to be too strong and Castro had to contend with a second-place finish result for Race 2 at Franciacorta.
As for Snider, while he would eventually inherit second place after Castro’s retirement, he was already too far behind Sørensen to be able to challenge for the victory and he would ultimately struggled in the Sunday race, finishing just outside the Top 5 after a race-long battle with Justin Kunz and Bert Longin. Both Snider and Castro certainly had the pace to contend for the victory, but they would need to have a better luck if they want to finally score the elusive first win.
Speaking of luck, Florian Venturi is hoping that the lady Fortuna will be kind to him for the entirety of the Brands Hatch weekend. He had a week full of ups and downs last time out in Franciacorta, as he was forced to retire from the Saturday race while he was in the lead after his car suddenly failed on itself on lap 5 before he bounced back to dominate the Sunday race, winning by 15 seconds from Castro. However, with the Frenchman already 71 points behind Maggi in the championship, it will be a tough task for him to claw back the deficit that he currently had over the championship leaders.
Justin Kunz and Advait Deodhar, currently fourth and fifth in the championship, are looking as feisty as ever. A double top 10 finish for both drivers in Franciacorta left the two drivers seeking for more this time around. Kunz will stay in the No. 99 Dexwet-DF1 Camaro, while Deodhar will have his third team in three races this season as he is scheduled to drive for CAAL Racing’s No. 31 entry for Brands Hatch.
For Deodhar, the musical chairs that he had so far this season has certainly been intriguing, and perhaps rather confusing for some. Despite all of this however, he certainly proved his talent as he has scored 2 Top 5 finishes already despite having to drive for two different teams. With the CAAL Racing equipment arguably the strongest equipment that he would have in his career so far, expect the defending Elite Club champion to potentially score his first podium finish, with a chance of scoring an unlikely – but highly memorable and historic – victory at Brands Hatch certainly wouldn’t be out of the possibility realm this week.
Pierluigi Veronesi, currently third in the championship and having just celebrated his 31st birthday on May 25, is going to keep his goals honest for Brands Hatch. While he currently sat in third in the championship thanks to his consistent results when most of his rivals was hit by setbacks, he’s already 27 points behind Maggi and drivers such as Myatt Snider, Andre Castro, Justin Kunz, and Advait Deodhar are looking for a chance to claim the position that Veronesi currently have in the championship. A goal of a double top 10 finish and making the Superpole, just like his target in Franciacorta, would be the ideal goal for him this week.
The driver who surprised everyone at Franciacorta, Lasse Sørensen, will be back at the wheel of the No. 66 Dexwet-DF1 Camaro for Brands Hatch. He might have been a late signing for Dexwet-DF1, but the gamble by the Austrian team has certainly paid off as Sørensen was very fast from the get go and he would give the team their first win since Mathias Lauda’s famous Tours wet race victory. This week, Sørensen is looking to continue his podium finish streak as well as trying to earn as many points as he can to strengthen his case as a potential contender for the Elite 2 Drivers Championship title.
Scott Jeffs, Ben Creanor, and Shaun Hollamby will represent the home drivers for this year’s event. Jeffs certainly has been fast this season, as proven by his sixth-place finish at Valencia Race 1 and climbing from last to twelfth at Franciacorta Race 2. However, with Jeffs having been caught in two first-lap incidents already, a clean weekend for him and the No. 90 Braxx team would be the main goal that he would like to have for Brands Hatch.
As for Creanor, he too has shown himself to be able to contend well despite his relative inexperience and very young age. Having one finish and one DNF in the race weeks that he had participated so far, the series’ youngest-ever driver is hoping that he can at least made it to the checkered flag in both races for his home NASCAR GP at Brands Hatch.
In the opposite end of the spectrum, Shaun Hollamby is one of the series’ oldest drivers in the 2019 field, and while he may lack the pace that his younger compatriots have, he certainly had the consistency as unlike Jeffs and Creanor, Hollamby doesn’t have a DNF on his name just yet. Another double finish for the AmD Tuning team principal will be the ideal weekend for him, and he certainly would be chasing any opportunity that would potentially gave him his first Top 15 finish of the season in front of his home crowd.
Meanwhile for the Legend Trophy drivers, three-time Legend Trophy winner Jerry de Weerdt arrived in Brands Hatch as the leader of the Legend Trophy. With 4 Top 10 finishes here, Brands Hatch is certainly a track that has suited de Weerdt well, and he will be looking for every advantage that he would have if he wants to extend his lead from Mirco Schultis.
Just behind Schultis is Ian Eric Wadén, who had a very strong weekend in Franciacorta. Having barely missed the Top 10 on the Saturday race in Franciacorta, the Finn will be looking to potentially score his first Top 10 finish of the season at Brands Hatch. As for Michael Bleekemolen, the oldest driver in the field right now, he will be looking for a rebound after he had a considerably terrible weekend at Franciacorta, having caused the first red flag in Qualifying and was forced to retire in Race 2 after spinning out in the very first lap of the race.
There will be four driver changes this week. Series veteran Freddy Nordstrom will make a return this week for PK Carsport. Nordstrom, who will replace Bert Longin in the No. 11 Camaro and becoming the only driver to compete in all eight editions of Euro Series Brands Hatch race week, is looking as a strong candidate to potentially play spoilers and score a surprise victory this week.
As previously mentioned, Advait Deodhar will move to CAAL Racing to replace Moreno Di Silvestre in the No. 31 SS for Brands Hatch. Replacing Deodhar in the No. 64 Speedhouse SS will be Matthias Hauer, who will make his Elite 2 debut this week as well as making his return to the series for his first race since last year’s season finale at Zolder in the No. 44 CAAL Camry in the Elite 1 class.
Martin Doubek has been confirmed to not been able to take part in this year’s edition of American SpeedFest this week due to an injury, and Hendriks Motorsport has decided to withdraw Doubek’s entry after the team failed to find a driver to replace Doubek in the No. 7 Mustang. The team has confirmed that Doubek will be returning to the No. 7 Mustang next month for his home race, the inaugural NASCAR Whelen Euro Series race at Autodrom Most.
In addition, Jennifer Jo Cobb, who was initially scheduled to compete in Brands Hatch, will not compete due to complications regarding Racing-Total and Marko Stipp’s break-up. After we approached Jo Cobb due to concerns that we may have misreported our initial report regarding her absence in the Entry List, Jo Cobb revealed to us that Hubertus Heyman – the owner of Racing-Total – had contacted her to drive the No. 10 Camaro for what is now Marko Stipp Motorsport even though Racing-Total and Marko Stipp had split, which left her confused as she thought that Heyman and Stipp had broke their partnership. She would be in Brands Hatch this week to communicate with Heyman and Stipp to see what would be possible for her for the remainder of the season.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will hit the track for Round 5 and Round 6 of the 2019 season on 1 June and 2 June respectively. The green flag for this year’s edition of American SpeedFest will be waved at 4:58 PM local GMT on Saturday for Race 1, and at 4:23 PM local GMT on Sunday for Race 2.
All races for this season are going to be aired live on FansChoice.tv, Motorsport.tv, and the official Facebook page and YouTube channel of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Photos are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.