DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach at Daytona Int’l Speedway is a new challenge for all of the competitors, especially for Ander Vilarino, the 2012 Euro-Racecar NASCAR Touring Series champion.
Champions from each of NASCAR’s three international series – Euro-Racecar, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 and NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series – earned a guaranteed starting position in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour or NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model races, the short-track trifecta that makes up the UNOH Battle Of The Beach event.
Vilarino, from Donostia, Spain, will compete in the K&N Pro Series element in Florida in a car prepared by the new Exotics Racing by FJ team just recently set up by Jérôme and Anne Galpin, creators and organizers of Euro-NASCAR, in partnership with Romain Thiévin and David Perisset, owners of Exotics Racing based in Las Vegas and competitors in the European stock-car series. Thiévin was runner-up to Vilarino last season in the championship point standings.
The prestigious first-year event, which will be contested on a 0.4-mile oval on the backstretch at the “World Center Of Racing”, is set for Feb. 18-19. The short-track offering is new to the hallowed venue that also boasts a 2.5-mile high-banked superspeedway, a 3.56-mile road course, a 2.95-mile motorcycle track and a quarter-mile dirt track. The short track is a byproduct of the 2010 repaving project at the facility.
As a result of being situated on the backstretch, the short track will be virtually flat. While Vilarino’s experience on oval tracks is limited, he finished second to K&N Pro Series East regular Ben Kennedy at the inaugural Tours Speedway event, the first NASCAR oval race in Europe last July in France, run on a similar track.
“Tours Speedway gave me the opportunity to familiarize myself with the NASCAR rules in oval races, especially the restarts after the caution periods, which are very important,” Vilarino said. “After that, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s an oval or a road circuit. The car still has a steering wheel and four wheels. I’ve raced almost everywhere in my career and with the experience of Tours Speedway, I shouldn’t find it too tricky.”
Getting accustomed to the track or the car, which will be very similar to his No. 2 TFT-Banco Santander Chevrolet Camaro he races in Europe, won’t be Vilarino’s toughest task, but rather it will come from the competition.
“The difference comes from the level of my rivals as they all know this type of event,” said the Spaniard. “I go there with no pressure. The American drivers know this kind of track much better than me but it really doesn’t matter to me. I will go to do my best and I will give everything to try to win. No matter where you race, even if you change the series, the cars, the tracks, the objective always remains the same – to win the race.”
Not many European drivers have started a NASCAR race at the famed Daytona Int’l Speedway with all its history.
“In Europe, when you talk about racing in America, the circuits that always come up in the conversation are Daytona and Indianapolis. Racing there is like a dream come true,” he stated. “I’ve driven on F1 circuits, in Monte Carlo and Brazil, but Daytona will be the cherry on top – the greatest experience of my life.
“The UNOH Battle At The Beach is a big event for the NASCAR Touring Series and it’s an honor to be part of it. It’s the first race for a Spanish driver in a United States NASCAR event. A lot of firsts. I’m concentrated on the fact that I’ll have to get used to the car very quickly.”
At the UNOH Battle At The Beach, Vilarino will drive a Chevrolet Impala SS out of the Exotics Racing by FJ shop. It’s the same car driven to Victory Lane by Joey Logano in the 2010 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. Mike Olsen, the 2001 and 2006 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, will be the crew chief.