The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series attracts many gentleman drivers in the EuroNASCAR 2 division and the Legend Trophy has established itself as a must-see competition. The special classification for drivers aged 40 and over is a guarantee for amazing battles and a competitive fight for the title. In the 2023 NWES season, Melvin de Groot and Claudio Cappelli fought a phenomenal duel for the Legend Trophy, which was decided in the final race of the season in favor of Team Bleekemolen’s de Groot. The Dutchman successfully defended his title and lifted the trophy in the air for the second year in a row.
De Groot missed the season opener at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia and had no margin for error during the regular season. After the NASCAR GP Germany, all drivers dropped their two worst results and the Dutchman finally got rid of the zeros on his tally, jumping back to second, 30 points behind Cappelli. This paved the way for the Team Bleekemolen driver to defend his title at the Circuit Zolder, but the 46-year-old had to squeeze out every tenth of a second to beat his Italian rival in an epic battle for the Legend Trophy.
1st: Melvin de Groot (344 points)
After a late start to the season at the Indy Circuit of Brands Hatch, de Groot chased down his Legend Trophy rivals to have a chance to defend the title he won in 2022. It took the Dutchman some time to get back on top of the standings with two Legend Trophy wins – one at the Brands Hatch Circuit and one at the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben. He entered the EuroNASCAR Finals 30 points behind the leader, as Cappelli had five wins in the special classification at that point and the Italian looked like the dominant force. With double points on the line in Belgium, de Groot went all-in for the title.
The Dutchman scored his fourth overall podium in third place at Circuit Zolder on Saturday, closing the gap on Cappelli, who led laps in the race but dropped down the order with technical on his #18 Ford Mustang. The Team Bleekemolen driver in the #69 Ford Mustang took advantage of his struggling rival and set up a spectacular finale on Sunday. With a fifth-place finish, de Groot overtook Cappelli, who finished tenth in the final race of the NWES season, in the Legend Trophy standings to take the title with a total of four wins in the special classification at the end of 2023. With two Legend Trophy overall wins, de Groot is second in the all-time standings behind Jerry de Weerdt, who has won the special classification three times.
2nd: Claudio Cappelli (-10)
Race Art Technology provided Cappelli with a powerful machine for the 2023 NWES season. Strong of the experience gathered in 2022, at the start of his second NWES season the man with the famous beard put the #18 Ford Mustang on top of the Legend Trophy standings three times in the first five races. Legend Trophy race wins at Valencia, Brands Hatch, Most and Oschersleben made the Robecco D’Oglio native the season’s top contender, but problems in Saturday’s EuroNASCAR 2 Final 1 caused him to stumble in the standings. In the end, Cappelli had to settle for second place despite a phenomenal 2023 season.
3rd: Roberto Benedetti (-26)
CAAL Racing’s Roberto Benedetti teamed up with NWES veteran Max Lanza, and the Italian was a dark horse in the battle for the Legend Trophy. At the Autodrom Most, Benedetti scored his sole win in the Special Classification, finishing a strong tenth overall. The 48-year-old has shown a good pace aboard his #88 Chevrolet Camaro, increasing his pace at each event. Seven top-10 and one top-5 finishes highlighted a good season for Benedetti, who rounded out the Legend Trophy podium at Circuit Zolder in Belgium.
Featured image by NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Nina Weinbrenner