Alberto Panebianco: A little EuroNASCAR fan melted my heart
The 2021 NWES season was the first year of racing for Alberto Panebianco – The Italian can’t believe his luck yet
“It was my first year in racing and that means I’m living my dream,” Alberto Panebianco told ‘Leadlap.net’ after the 2021 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (NWES) season. The Italian made his debut with Not Only Motorsports in the 2021 EuroNASCAR 2 season and secured the rookie title. For the 25-year-old, the complete process of a race weekend was new, which is why his tenth place overall and victory in the Rookie Trophy are all the more impressive.
“So many things happen in the paddock, but one moment in Most melted my heart: it was the first time this year that we had fans in the paddock and on Sunday a family came to our pits.” What happened next shows the character that EuroNASCAR wants to create with its American-themed events across Europe.
“They were taking pictures and getting autographs. There was a little girl, she was very shy and hiding behind her dad’s legs. We took pictures and put her into the car. Her smile was the greatest gift! The father still wrote to me later on Instagram and told me how happy his daughter was jumping around the paddock later.”
That was one of the “greatest moments” for Panebianco off the track. “Six months before that moment, I was a fan myself, but now I’m suddenly the protagonist and race driver. I got the opportunity to race, to fulfill my dream and to live these moments with the fans.”
Panebianco satisfied with season’s progress
“It was a good season, as we won the Rookie Trophy and thus achieved our goal,” reported the racer from Venaria Reale. “I’m happy, but we could have done even better if we hadn’t had so much bad luck at the finale in Vallelunga. But we performed well all year and the team did a great job.”
A race driver’s first season is etched in the memory and Panebianco has collected many moments that he will remember for the rest of his life. There have been highs and lows, such as Italy, where Panebianco was unable to shift gears in one race and had to finish the race in second gear. The reason was that the gear stick had broken.
“I was trying to control myself and calculate how many points I needed to win the rookie classification,” Panebianco explained. “The adrenaline was rushing through my body and the pressure was so great, which is why I was crying under my helmet, thinking that all our hard work this year had not been rewarded. When my spotter told me a quick ‘I don’t know’ after the race, my blood froze.”
Debut season a roller coaster of emotions
But the downhill slide was followed by a real high: Panebianco stayed ahead of Leevi Lintukanto in the overall standings to win the Rookie Trophy, which he has had his sights set on all year. But it wasn’t just the wins and losses that Panebianco will remember about his first NWES season, but also the special, small details.
“Another moment I loved was at Brands Hatch,” the Italian continued. “I qualified in fourth place in my second event and that was in changing weather conditions. I also had no experience on the track. To be so far up the grid meant a lot to me.” He didn’t get a good start in the race, but bit his way into fourth position.
He lost his third place in the race due to a penalty, but Panebianco took with him the knowledge that he could keep up with the front runners. “The overtaking maneuver was a great moment for me,” reminisced the Not-Only Motorsport driver, who piloted the #89 Chevrolet Camaro. His results in the 2021 season were impressive: He scored two top-5 and six top-10 results and won the Rookie Trophy no less than four times.
But what’s next for Panebianco in the 2022 season? His first choice is Not Only Motorsports, the Italian team that entered the official European NASCAR series in 2020. “We are still working on the budget for next season,” the Italian said. “I want to compete again in the EuroNASCAR 2 championship and improve on this one. Hopefully we’ll make the podium and Victory Lane, but until the engines are fired up at Hockenheim in April, we won’t know.”