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Discover EuroNASCAR (Part 1): The history of NWES

The development of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is a unique success story in the European motorsports landscape. Rarely has a racing series gone through such a fast and fascinating growth as EuroNASCAR. That’s why we look back on more than ten years of V8 thunder and Pure Racing.

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Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

The green flag over what would eventually become the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series was waved in 2008 when Team FJ, in the person of NWES President and CEO Jerome Galpin and his wife, NWES COO Anne Galpin, founded the Racecar Series with the goal to bring the American racing spirit to Europe. In the beginning, the V8 cars only raced in France, on famous tracks like the Le Mans and Dijon. The first season, articulating over six meetings in 2009, saw Lucas Lasserre win the ELITE Division, while Wilfried Boucenna took the OPEN Division and the overall championship.

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Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

In 2010 the series was internationalised under FIA sanctioning and renamed as the Euro Racecar Series. The first race outside France took place at the iconic Nurburgring in Germany. Lucas Lasserre grabbed the checkered flag in one of the races and notched two more wins to take the title. More international tracks were added to the series’ six-event calendar in 2011, the likes of Zandvoort in the Netherlands and Brands Hatch in Great Britain. Motorsport legend Eric Helary was the ELITE Champion at the end of the season.

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Lucas Lasserre celebrating the 2010 title | Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

In 2012, the series reached an historic milestone: TeamFJ announced a partnership with NASCAR, and the series became the official European NASCAR championship and held the first NASCAR events on European soil under the Euro Racecar NASCAR Touring Series name. The 2012 season was more international than ever before: the series visited four different countries and six different tracks: Nogaro (France), Brands Hatch (UK), Spa (Belgium), Tours (France), Valencia (Spain) and Le Mans (France).

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Ben Kennedy after winning the first NASCAR oval race in Europe | Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

History was made at Tours Speedway, an exciting short track oval built by Team FJ in the centre of the French city of Tours. Ben Kennedy, the current Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at NASCAR and grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France, took the win in the first ever NASCAR oval race in Europe.

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Ander Vilarino with his 3 Champion rings at the NASCAR banquet in Charlotte, NC. | Credits: Getty Images for NASCAR

The first European NASCAR Champion was Ander Vilarino, who still is one of the most successful EuroNASCAR drivers in history. The Spaniard secured the title three times in his career: in 2012, 2013 and 2015. With 22 victories, Vilarino also topped the all-time winners leaderboard for several years.

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Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

In 2013 the championship reached another historic milestone. With the arrival of title sponsor Whelen Engineering, the series became the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. A long-term agreement was announced under the Tour Eiffel.

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Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

In 2014 Anthony Kumpen and his team PK Carsport secured the title. The Belgian repeated the feat in the 2016 season, which is why he is also one of the top drivers in NWES history. Kumpen was also among the drivers from Europe who used the NWES as a bridge to the USA. In his career, the Belgian amassed six starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, including one at the famous Daytona International Speedway. Now, Kumpen is acting as the team owner/manager of PK Carsport. The 2014 season also saw the first EuroNASCAR oval race under the rain. At Tours Speedway, France, Mathias Lauda won the historic event in a DF1 Racing car.

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Anthony Kumpen in NASCAR Xfinity Series at Daytona International Speedway | Credits: Getty Images for NASCAR

2017 marked the beginning of the Alon Day era. The Israeli won the NWES title two years in a row with CAAL Racing and made history by becoming the first EuroNASCAR driver to race in the NASCAR Cup Series. He made two starts in the Cup Series: at Sonoma in 2017 and at Richmond in 2018. He also took part in NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR NASCAR Truck Series races.

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Alon Day in the NASCAR Cup Series | Credits: Getty Images for NASCAR

More than 25 NWES drivers benefited from the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series position in the NASCAR ladder to race in the US over the years. Ander Vilarino, Frederic Gabillon, Thomas Ferrando and Ulysse Delsaux – both Frenchmen were EuroNASCAR 2 champions – raced in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, Justin Kunz has a NASCAR Gander & RV Outdoors Truck Series start in Mosport in his resume, Jerry De Weerdt started in the ARCA race in Daytona and the new two-time NWES champion Loris Hezemans competed in several NASCAR Xfinity Series races. But these are just a few examples that prove that the NWES is the perfect bridge to the USA for European drivers.

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Bobby Labonte at Brands Hatch. Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

The 2018 season not only stood out for the impressive performances of Alon Day, but also for another important milestone in the series’ young history. A legendary NASCAR champion and member of the NASCAR Hall Of Fame set off for Europe to fight for points in the EuroNASCAR PRO championship. 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte drove at all six race weekends for veteran team RDV Competition. Jennifer Jo Cobb, Max Papis, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Julia Landauer, Myatt Snider are all among the American NASCAR drivers who raced in EuroNASCAR. The series also took part in exchanges between International NASCAR championships, welcoming JF Dumoulin from Canada and Ruben Garcia Jr. from Mexico.

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Frederic Gabillon in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. | Credits: Dumoulin Competition

The year 2019 was not only the tenth anniversary of the series, but also went down in history as the first season with seven events were held in seven European countries. The start of the season was in Valencia, followed by Franciacorta in Italy. The next stop was Brands Hatch in Great Britain, before the first trip East for NWES at the Autodrom Most in the Czech Republic celebrated a strong debut.

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

The regular season ended at the Raceway Venray, the half mile oval in the Netherlands. In the playoffs the series traveled to Hockenheim in Germany for the Semi Finals and then to Circuit Zolder in Belgium, where the NWES champions and Trophy winners were crowned. Loris Hezemans came out of it as the youngest champion in EuroNASCAR history.

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Loris Hezemans celebrating his first championship at the NASCAR Hall Of Fame. Credits: Getty Images for NASCAR

In 2020, Day moved to PK Carsport and became an official Monster Energy athlete. In the team of his former arch-rival Kumpen, Day completed a fantastic season to grab the 2020 Championship thanks to four wins over the course of a pandemic-shortened 10-race campaign. Lasse Soerensen, who won the 2019 EuroNASCAR 2 Championship, ended up second after a strong year with DF1 Racing. With his third title, Day tied Vilarino’s all-time record and at the same time passed the Spaniard at the top of the all-time wins leaderboard.

Alon Day after winning his record-tying third title. Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

A new tire supplier entered the series: Hoosier! In addition to that, NWES visited Automotodrom Grobnik and Vallelunga for the second time since their debut in 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hockenheim in Germany was forced into a two-year break, but the legendary venue will be hosting the season opener of the 2022 season and celebrate its comeback.

Day moved back to his old love CAAL Racing in 2021. Despite three wins, the Israeli was not able to defend his title and become the first four-time NWES Champion. It was Loris Hezemans who clinched his second title in the very last race of the season in an exciting all-out battle between Loris Hezemans, Vittorio Ghirelli, Gianmarco Ercoli and Lucas Lasserre, becoming the youngest two-time EuroNASCAR PRO Champion in history. In addition, Hendriks Motorsport Team became the first one to win all three NWES titles: EuroNASCAR PRO (Loris Hezemans), EuroNASCAR 2 (Martin Doubek) and Teams Championship (#7 Ford Mustang).

Loris Hezemans (left) and Martin Doubek (right). Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

In addition, Hezemans’ father Toine and his business partner Ernst Berg formed a new NASCAR Cup Series organization in the US called Team Hezeberg – the first US NASCAR team with roots in EuroNASCAR. NWES Champion Loris Hezemans will continue to compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and is set for his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022.

Back to Europe: An important contract extension was announced during the year 2019: NASCAR and TeamFJ extended their agreement until 2030 and made a long-term commitment to EuroNASCAR. This commitment is the cornerstone for further growth and success. The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series has become the most exciting touring car series in Europe, but the success story will certainly continue …