The balance in the battle for the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series title swung towards Alon Day in the EuroNASCAR PRO Final 1 at Automotodrom Grobnik. After 17 thrilling laps of pure racing, Day took the victory just 0.219 seconds ahead of his closest rival Gianmarco Ercoli, who trailed the whole race long right on the back bumper of the PK Carsport Camaro. With his fifth win of the season, Day is now 16 points ahead of Ercoli in the overall NWES standings.
The 32nd EuroNASCAR PRO victory in Day’s career wasn’t an easy one: the pole sitter defended his lead at the start and wrestled his #24 Chevrolet Camaro through the first corners. Ercoli overtook Patrick Lemarie in turn 1 to slot into second place, right behind the championship leader. Despite never letting the gap exceed the one second mark, the CAAL Racing driver never found a way to attack Day for first. The Israeli crossed the finish line in the lead to win the first of two double-point finals in Croatia.
“He was there the whole time, he was pushing really hard and I knew this was about the championship. I still need to catch my breath, that was a tough race! I’m very happy to start on the first row tomorrow. Congratulations to Giorgio for having the pole position and to Ercoli, he pushed me to the limit. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to finish the job, for now we’re focused on tomorrow,” said Day after the hard-fought battle.
“I started very good and I think I’m faster than Alon, but the yellow flag came out in the moment I could overtake him. It isn’t good for the championship but it isn’t finished. Tomorrow we have Race 2. The setup of my car is very fast and tomorrow everything is still possible, so I stay soft and will hold it for tomorrow,” said Ercoli after the race.
With 16 points separating Day and Ercoli ahead of the 2022 NWES finale, the calculation is easy: If Day finishes inside in the top-5 on Sunday, he’s going to be the first ever four-time EuroNASCAR Champion in history. Ercoli is in a must-win situation and the Italian needs some help from Lady Luck, as Day has to finish sixth or worse to lose the championship battle. With Giorgio Maggi finishing fourth – and winning the Junior Trophy – the Swiss still has a theoretical chance to win the title as he’s 40 points behind Day.
Patrick Lemarie, who started second, had a very solid race in third place. The Frenchman wanted to keep himself out of the championship battle and not interfere with the duel of Day and Ercoli. He settled for third to bring home his first podium in the 2022 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season. At the age of 54 years and 265 days, Lemarie became the oldest podium finisher in EuroNASCAR PRO history.
Liam Hezemans, who ended up second in the Junior Trophy classification for drivers aged 25 and under, rounded out the top-5. Romain Iannetta followed in sixth right ahead of Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, who kept his spot inside the top-10 despite a 10-second penalty for a false restart. Henri Tuomaala topped the Challenger Trophy ranks for bronze and silver drivers in eighth right ahead of Alexander Graff, who stormed from 16th on the grid to ninth to collect the eight bonus points for the most passes. Second in the Challenger Trophy, Claudio Cappelli ended up eleventh right behind Marc Goossens.
Nicolo Rocca had to bury his title hopes after an involuntary trip in the gavel trap. The Italian was behind Vittorio Ghirelli, who was battling with Maggi. Ghirelli lost a car part and the #36 Camaro’s engine suddenly caught fire. The Italian went off track and Rocca slipped on the fluids lost by Ghirelli’s car. Goossens also went off-road for a short period but managed to recover in strong fashion. The Belgian was later involved in an intense battle with his Speedhouse teammate Graff in the closing stages of the race. There was also one caution to recover the stranded cars of Dario Caso and Martin Doubek.
With the EuroNASCAR PRO Final 2 coming up on Sunday at 1:45 pm CET to decide the championship battle, the EuroNASCAR 2 drivers will be in action on Saturday at 4:15 pm CET. All Finals will be broadcast live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and several TV services from all around the world.