DEERWOOD -- As 16-year-old Trent Snyder sat next to his father, Steve, in the kitchen at their rural Deerwood home, he was asked what his long-term racing goal is.
After finishing his late model rookie season this year as one of the top three racers 27 times in 31 starts, he may have a bright future.
Trent, wearing a No Fear black T-shirt and sporting a haircut that could pass for a Marine, said, "Hopefully (NASCAR Winston Cup racing) I guess."
Trent, a Crosby-Ironton High School junior, won four NASCAR late model features and 12 heat races in his 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix GT on his way to finishing second in season points at the Fergus Falls and Sauk Centre speedways.
Trent (88) pulled ahead of veteran Nate Thiesse of Brainerd in a race at the Sauk Centre Speedway this season. Trent defeated Thiesse, who won three features in five starts at the speedway this season, in a heat race once.
"We've had people tell us now that they feel like they've watched the next Jeff Gordon race," Steve said.
Veteran Nate Thiesse of Brainerd has raced against Trent and said Snyder has potential.
"Not so much in his driving, just the way he acts and carries himself and his demeanor," said the 26-year-old Thiesse, who won three late model features in five starts at Sauk Centre this season.
Last weekend, Snyder was once again impressive. In his first Super Late Model Midwest All-Star Racing Series event at Marshfield, Wis., he won his heat race after qualifying 25th in a field of 28. He went on to place fourth in one of the two qualifiers after starting ninth. The top four racers in each qualifier advanced to the feature to complete the field of 20. The top 12 qualifiers advanced to the 100-lap feature.
Trent didn't look like a 16-year old with his helmet on in the cockpit of his racer.
In the feature race, Trent started last and was working his way up through the 20-car field until blowing a tire on the 30th lap. He still finished in 14th place, one lap Some of Trent's success lies in his seven years of experience. At age 12, he won the 12-13-year-old State Junior II Dirt Go-Cart Championship points title. Two years later, he won the Men's Light State Go-Cart Dirt Championship points title. And, last year he won the 5/8-scale Legends Class National Rookie of the Year honors on his way to finishing 15th in national points among 650 racers. He raced his Legends car, a 1937 Chevrolet Coupe with a fiberglass body powered by a 1,200 cubic-centimeter motorcycle motor, in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and North Carolina. Gordon, who recently won his 52nd career NASCAR Winston Cup race, raced in the Legends class but never won.
Snyder's late model racer has a 525-horsepower B & B special concept motor (NASCAR Winston Cup racers have motors with more than 600 horsepower). The Snyders purchased the used motor for $28,000. A new one would cost another $20,000.
Racing is in Snyder's genes. Steve raced in the I-500 snowmobile race from 1973 until 1980 behind the handlebars of a Polaris, Scorpion and John Deere. His best finish was seventh.
Trent's late grandfather, Bud "Wild Willy" also raced Midgets after World War II in Seattle, Nebraska, California and he later raced professional hydroplane boats. An uncle, Ron Snyder of Dodge Center, also was among the top 10 national Wissota Super Stock racers.
Trent discussed his last race with his father, Steve, at their home. Steve said he has been told that Trent could become the next Jeff Gordon.
Trent began his career at 9 racing a snowmobile in the Heartland Cross Country circuit, finishing third overall in his class (up to 340 cubic centimeters) in 1995.
But when his mother, Pam, was killed in a snowmobile accident two miles east of Crosby the same year he unhooked his racing throttle tether switch for good. Steve said his family told him "to get Trent off a snowmobile and do it now."
The elder Snyder said when Trent does become a NASCAR racer, he will dedicate his wins to his mother's memory just like he observed a NASCAR racer on television do after Pam died.
"He feels he has an unfair advantage because things happen for him and they're always positive," Steve said of Trent's feelings on his mother's death.
Trent did admit he was nervous in his first event, a go-cart race.
"Wild. He never (took his foot off the accelerator)," Steve said. "I had to holler inside his helmet, 'You've got to let off for the corner.' I never ever told him to drive faster, never once. It's always, 'Trent, sometimes slower is faster.'"
Trent did crash racing go-carts. His go-cart flipped 5 1/2 times in the air before touching the ground.
This was his only bad crash except for last July at Fergus Falls, the only time he didn't finish a race this season. As he was beginning to take the lead, two other racers tangled, one hit the wall and ricocheted into Trent's car.
Steve said once Trent was hit, his car went airborne, spun around and landed facing the traffic.
"It was a horrendous crash," Steve said. "He never saw it coming."
Steve said the crash knocked the two-way radio out so he lost communication with Trent. Once the track announcer said Trent was moving around in the car Steve was relieved.
Trent said the impact jerked the steering wheel from his hands and spun his car around.
"I was just holding on," he said.
-- Steve is Trent's spotter, Trent's classmate Jay Godfrey is his crew chief and his brother, Travis, is his tire man and videographer.
-- Trent's sponsors include Jean Ross Eyeware, Iron Range Autobody of Ironton and Lambert Waterwells of Emily.
-- Trent's plans next year are to compete in Remax, MARS and Central Wisconsin Racing Association sanctioned races in Wisconsin.
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