In a race that would be unbelievable if it was scripted, Ben Kennedy, the great grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. took victory in the first oval race to run under NASCAR rules in Europe.
The EURO-RACECAR NASCAR Touring Series Michelin 100 at Tours Speedway took place under conditions that would normally see a NASCAR race postponed with a wet track. The grandstands were packed by an expectant crowd and they weren’t disappointed with what they saw, giving the drivers a standing ovation at the finish.
Kennedy started the race from seventh on grid and by lap 50 of 100 had worked his way up the field and passed Javier Villa and Romain Fournillier to take the lead. Two caution periods would threaten to disrupt Kennedy’s historic charge but the young American who finished 13th in points in his first full season of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East competition would drive a strong race to take the victory.
“It’s amazing because this is my first Victory Lane appearance in a NASCAR discipline,” he said. “I had everything to learn from coming here; car, circuit, and tyres! The competition is very tight and the drivers are of a very high standard, something that makes this victory even more special. EURO-RACECAR has done a great job and the excellent atmosphere and spirit have done NASCAR justice. It really makes me want to return.”
Meanwhile the rest of the field battled hard with pole-sitter Romain Fournillier defending against the chasing pack of Ander Vilarino, Yvan Muller and Romain ThiÃ©vin, the challenge would prove too strong and he would finish the race in sixth position.
Series newcomer Yann Zimmer took a sensational rookie victory fighting his way up from 19th place on the grid right on the tail of the second placed battle between Dimitri Enjalgbert, Romain ThiÃ©vin, and Antoine Lioen. Victory in the Challenger Trophy went to Bruno Cosin who finised seventh overall.
NASCAR Touring Series Director Richard Buck, who was in attendance, was left with a very positive view of the race. “I have experienced an extraordinary event,” he said. “I am proud to have witnessed the first oval race in France but, to be honest, am a little relieved too as I was concerned about Ben driving here, even if he did a great job. A member of the France family winning his first NASCAR race in France; what could have been better?!”
The Open final saw pole-sitter Vincent Gonneau lead the way for the first 25 laps before Frederick Johais took the lead at the halfway stage. “It’s great to impose myself at home because of the Guest list,” said the Touraine resident. “It has been eight years since I last raced!”
Simon Escallier pushed hard in third and at one point made it up to second place on a restart on lap 39 before conceding the place once again, he would finish the race with his third consecutive top three finish ahead of Philippe Marie and Pascal Renaudat who was the first of the Legend class home. The top 10 was completed by Alain Grand, Gerald Corman, Joseph Cozella, Joaquin GabarrÃ³n and David Perisset.