After a breakout season with more competition and action than ever, the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series goes into its final round of the season, at Circuit Zolder in Belgium, with two-time series champion Ander Vilarino looking to take a third title and a whole host of rivals aiming to stop him.
Vilarino (#2 TFT-Banco Santander Chevrolet SS) enters the final weekend with a 35-point margin over CAAL Racing’s Nicolò Rocca, but with 192 points still on the table across the two double-point races this weekend, a huge chasing pack remains in touching distance of glory. Romain Iannetta (#7 TFT Chevrolet SS), Frederic Gabillon (#3 Tepac RDV Compétition Ford Mustang) and 2014 Champion Anthony Kumpen (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS) are all within 60 points of Vilarino, and Alon Day (#54 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS), Eddie Cheever III (#51 CAAL Racing Toyota Camry), Florian Renauer (#5 Dexwet Renauer Team Ford Mustang) and Philipp Lietz (#67 GDL Racing Ford Mustang), are all within a further 20 points back, leaving a whopping nine drivers in mathematical contention for the top prize in European stock car racing.
Of the runners and riders, it’s hard to imagine Vilarino being dislodged at the last hurdle, and he won’t lack for motivation – having already won the championship twice, he was beaten by the slimmest of margins last year by Kumpen, who enjoyed an appearance at NASCAR’s Night of Champions event in Charlotte, North Carolina at the end of last year as a result of his championship success and since then has earned several opportunities in the major American divisions of NASCAR, including a three-race program in the second-tier Xfinity Series this season. With the opportunities afforded to European drivers to make it in America increasing by the year, Vilarino will be hungry to put himself back at the forefront and seize an elusive chance at glory on both sides of the Atlantic.
But this season has been a watershed one for the EuroNASCAR series, with enormous crowds at each event (including an estimated 50,000 fans at the American Speedfest at Brands Hatch in June) and an increasing oval presence on the calender with the addition of a weekend at Raceway Venray, slowly bringing it more into line with other NASCAR touring series in Canada and Mexico. And the talent roster has stepped up appropriately; the series has been ferociously competitive in 2015 with a wider variety of race winners than ever. CAAL Racing have made huge strides this season, putting all three of their drivers in title contention with consistently strong performances – Day swept both semi-final races at Autodromo dell’Umbria – and TFT’s Iannetta has also enjoyed a breakout year, taking a great victory under huge pressure in Race 1 at Brands Hatch.
Over in the ELITE 2 Division, the title battle is if anything even closer. Three drivers – Lietz, Salvador Tineo Arroyo (#51 CAAL Racing Toyota Camry) and breakout star Thomas Ferrando (#37 Knauf Racing Team Ford Mustang) – are separated by a mere 10 points, and Gianmarco Ercoli (#9 Double T by MRT Nocentini Chevrolet Camaro) and Stienes Longin (#11 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS) are within 26 points. And titles remain to be decided in the Teams’ Championship, with Lietz leading the #3 RDV Compétition Gabillon-Delsaux duo by 29 points and the #2 TFT Chevrolet Camaro driven by Vilarino and Leonard Vernet, and in the Junior “Jerome Sarran” Trophy, where Rocca holds a 38-points advantage on team-mate Day. The Rookie Cup is a triple-threat scrap between Tineo Arroyo, Longin and Renauer, with the Spaniard holding a 19 points margin, while just one point separates the two main contenders for the Lady Cup: Carole Perrin (#54 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) and Francesca Linossi (#99 GDL Racing Ford Mustang). Gabriela Arantes Prado (#21 Record News Racing Chevrolet Camaro) sits third among the ladies and leads the Gentleman Trophy by a mere 5 points on Jerry De Weerdt (#78 Brass Racing Ford Mustang).
All the four races from the EuroNASCAR American Festival Circuit Zolder will be streamed live on Fanschoice.tv – www.bit.ly/nweslive – with the following schedule:
- Saturday October 3, 1:30 PM CET – ELITE 1 Final 1
- Saturday October 3, 5:00 PM CET – ELITE 2 Final 1
- Sunday October 4, 11:15 AM CET – ELITE 2 Final 2
- Sunday October 4, 3:45 PM CET – ELITE 1 Final 2
For years, NASCAR in Europe seemed a pipe dream, but after a year of awesome racing and continued growth for NASCAR’s youngest touring series, it seems fitting that we’re set for a finale of such magnitude, spectacle and unpredictability. The battle for the prime EuroNASCAR ELITE 1 Division title will be hard-fought, and whoever prevails will attract the eyes of America, and the very top echelons of NASCAR itself.
And if Vilarino emerges on the other side with a third EuroNASCAR title in his grasp, he will seal his place in the pantheon of NASCAR touring series greats.