NWES • September 02, 2014
The 2014 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series regular season - which closed on July 19-20 at the Nürburgring - was highlighted by an electrifying mix of close competition, historical milestones and amazing action on track, gifting thousands of fans all around Europe with countless, unique emotions. The Series is now setting for the playoffs - beginning with the Semi-Finals in Italy on September 20-21 - which will award double points and promise to be even more suspenseful.
ELITE 1 Division: Big guys ready for money time!
With a starting grid more competitive than ever, reinforced by the addition of top international-caliber teams and drivers, the ELITE 1 division saw a record of 6 different winners in eight races, three of which won their first career NASCAR race, demonstrating the extreme balance reigning in the Euro NASCAR.
Four drivers are separated by just 10 points and 14 are inside the 100 points gap. With a maximum of 96 points awarded in each playoff race, nothing is decided yet and none of the top drivers can afford the slightest mistake in the last four races. Belgian Anthony Kumpen (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS) is leading the ELITE 1 Championship thanks to his great consistency, with a total of 318 points (39,75 points average, almost equivalent to a fourth place in every race), six top-5s and 8 top-10s.
Behind him, two-time champion Ander Vilarino (#2 TFT-Banco Santander Chevrolet SS) leads the charge with 3 wins and enters the play-offs as the winningest driver in the Series history with 16 trips to Victory Lane. Just one length behind Vilarino sits another Spanish driver: Borja Garcia (#1 Ford Autolix Competition Ford Mustang). The 31-year-old Valencia native won his first NASCAR race at the Nurburgring with a bold move on the fellow countryman that raised the tension between the two. Frederic Gabillon (#12 Still Racing Chevrolet Camaro) rounds up this extremely close quartet after recovering from the last place in the Valencia opener thanks to 6 top-5s in 7 races and closing the regular season with a dominating win at the Nurburgring.
Mathias Lauda (#66 DF-1 Racing by B66 Chevrolet Camaro) closes the top-5 with 23 points to recover on Kumpen after winning at Tours Speedway an historic race - the first ever NASCAR Whelen Euro Series oval race in the rain - with 3 spectacular passes on the outside in the last 10 laps on the renewed french circuit. The .403 mile track this year became a true NASCAR short track with the addition of a 10.5-degrees banking in turns 1 and 2. Two Italian teammates are leading the ELITE 1 division Trophies.
Eddie Cheever III (#51 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS), who won a thrilling Race 1 in Brands Hatch, leads the Junior "Jerome Sarran" Trophy, sits sixth in the standings, just 43 points behind Kumpen and, thanks to his 2 poles, is the best candidate to win the Race And Win Watches Pole Award at the end of the season.
Tenth in points, Fabrizio Armetta (#31 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) is on top of the Challenger Trophy classification.
ELITE 2 Division: Talented Rookies Rising!
The ELITE 2 division regular season was dominated by rookies. Four different drivers - Thomas Ferrando (#22 Overdrive-Buffalo Chevrolet Camaro), Denis Dupont (#32 RCP - Marc VDS Toyota Camry), Wilfried Boucenna (#22 Overdrive-Buffalo Chevrolet Camaro) and Neal Van Vaerenbergh (#11 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS) - won the first eight races, all sweeping the weekends, and all but Boucenna, the 2009 Series champion, are also in their first year in Euro NASCAR, competing for the Rookie Cup. Four rookies are also on top of the general classification.
The amazing 16-year old Thomas Ferrando (#22 Overdrive Chevrolet Camaro), who is part of the NWES developmental Young Drivers Program since the age of 14, took the points lead thanks to two hard-fought wins at the Nurburgring. The Frenchman has just two points separating him from Belgian Maxime Dumarey (#24 PK Carsport Chevrolet SS), who scored 6 top-5s and 8 top-10s in the regular season and never finishing worse than sixth. Philipp Lietz (#86 TB Renauer Motorsport Ford Mustang) made high-level consistency his best weapon in the regular season and steadily progressed lately to climb on the third step of the podium at the end of Race 2 in Germany. The Austrian is 25 points behind Ferrando.
The rookie quartet leading the championship is closed by Denis Dupont (#32 RCP - Marc VDS Toyota Camry), 21-years old from Belgium, who was extremely fast in the first four events and won the two Tours Speedway Races in his debut on an oval track. Italian Simone Laureti (#51 CAAL Racing Chevrolet SS) rounds up the top-5, 66 points behind Ferrando. Nine drivers sit inside the 100-points margin in the ELITE 2 division and the battle for all the Trophies is very tight. Marçal Melo (#82 Brazil Team Chevrolet SS) leads the Gentleman Trophy thanks to his sixth place in the general classification and his first NASCAR career podium, which he conquered at the Tours Speedway.
Twelve points behind the Brazilian sits Leonard Vernet (#7 TFT-Red Line Chevrolet SS), who leads the Legend Trophy classification, while Nathalie Maillet (#46 RCP - Marc VDS Toyota Camry) holds the lead in the Ladies Cup.
Expectations rise heading into the playoffs
If the Brands Hatch American SpeedFest and the Tours Speedway once again confirmed themselves as incredibly popular events, the addition of the inaugural Valencia NASCAR Fest and the Nurburgring 200 reaffirmed the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series as the fastest growing championship in Europe, setting the bar high for the last part of the season. Thousands of fans gathered in the grandstands in Spain, Great Britain, France and Germany, breathing the unique atmosphere of the NASCAR paddock and enjoying the close relationship with teams and drivers that the Euro NASCAR brings, together with all sorts of family entertainment in the paddock.
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