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2016 was another season to remember for the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. The official NASCAR European Series kept growing race after race. The new NWES car granted an unique show on track and the fantastic american-themed atmosphere surrounding NWES event all over Europe brought tens of thousands of fans and families to the track.
Anthony Kumpen won his second NASCAR Whelen Euro Series title in spectacular fashion at the end of a three-way battle with Frederic Gabillon and Alon Day, while his teammate Stienes Longin completed a PK Carsport sweep with a record-setting season in ELITE 2, but many drivers, teams and stories emerged during a memorable 2016 season. The competition among teams was stronger than ever, young talents like Gianmarco Ercoli, Thomas Ferrando and Ulysse Delsaux moved to the ELITE 1 Division and proved their talent against the best NASCAR drivers in Europe, while rookies like Riccardo Geltrude impressed in their first NWES season.
A total of 25 different drivers scored at least one top-5 in the the two divisions, highlighting once again the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series as one of the most competitive and well-balanced series in Europe.
Anthony Kumpen: after making his debut at the Daytona International Speedway in the NXS season opener back in February, the 2014 Champion knew he has to strive for perfection to return to the top in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. And so he did from the very first lap in Valencia to the last corner in Zolder. Kumpen won his second Championship in three years thanks to a career-best 5 wins, 2 poles, 10 top-5s and 12 top-10s. Celebrating in front of his crowd at his home track in Zolder, Belgium and receiving the NWES trophy from NASCAR Legend Jeff Gordon was the icing on the cake of what Kumpen defined “the best moment in my racing career”.
Frederic Gabillon (Special Performance): his second full season with the RDV Compétition team turned out to be his best yet in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. The Frenchman set a new NWES record by never finishing outside the top-5 in the season’s 12 races – his streak his currently at 13 consecutive top-5s, including the final race of 2015 – and took four wins and one pole en-route to the second runner-up points finish of his career. Gabillon’s strength in the final part of the races and a dominant form on ovals may not have been enough to win the title, but it definitely was a great ride.
Gabillon’s strength in the final part of the races and a dominant form on ovals may not have been enough to win the title, but it definitely was a great ride. Photo: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard
PK Carsport: the team led by Frank Steukers returned to top form in 2016 and raised the competition bar by a good measure. They won everything there was to win: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series title, ELITE 2 Division title and Teams Championship. PK Carsport won a total of 15 out of 24 races across the two division with three different drivers and added six poles, 31 top-5s and 40 top-10s to a dominant season. They will be the ones to beat in 2017, that’s for sure.
RDV Compétition and Brass Racing (Special Performance): if PK Carsport and CAAL Racing confirmed their position among the best teams in NWES, two squads vastly improved over 2015 and showed they can constantly battle for the win. RDV Compétition fielded three cars and the French team’s first NASCAR win came on oval at Venray. Thye went on to win a total of four races and one pole with Frederic Gabillon, placing the #3 Ford Mustang on the podium in the Teams Championship. Brass Racing on the other hand made an impressive effort to develop the #90 and #78 Ford Mustangs with the help of Marc Goossens. The work paid off pretty soon: Goossens gave the team his first NASCAR podium in Brands Hatch and another one in the Zolder Finals, while Jerry De Weerdt was able to win a strongly-contested Legend Trophy.
Top Breakthrough Performance Of The Year
Stienes Longin: after winning his first NASCAR race in 2015, Longin returned to the ELITE 2 Division and literally dominated the field, grabbing a record-setting eight wins and eleven top-5s on the way to the ELITE 2 Division title. The 25-year-old from Leuven, Belgium also netted 11 top-5s in 12 races. Longin’s huge points lead almost vanished when his car stood still on the grid at the beginning of the first race of the Circuit Zolder Finals, but he kept his cool, posted the fastest lap of the race despite finishing 24th and then dominated on Sunday to finally celebrate the title in Victory Lane.
Riccardo Geltrude (Special Performance): coming straight from karting, the 19-year-old Italian was exceptional in his first NASCAR season while racing in both NWES divisions. Geltrude scored his first top-10 in Valencia, his first ELITE 2 podium few weeks later in his oval debut at Venray and climbed on the ELITE 1 podium with a spectacular second-place finish at Tours Speedway. The same weekend also saw him grabbing his first career win with a perfect bump & run move on Thomas Ferrando and the Italian capped a spectacular 2016 by winning the Rookie Cup.
Brands Hatch ELITE 1 Round 6: the second race ELITE 1 race of the Brands Hatch American SpeedFest weekend started on a damp track and immediately became a classic as the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series drivers put up a fantastic race. Tension built up as two-time Junior Trophy winner Alon Day led all 30 laps fending off every attack brought by Frederic Gabillon. The Frenchman tried everything he could and on the last corner of the last lap he was able to go side-by-side with the Israeli and the two stormed towards the finish line trying to control their car. Day won by .132 seconds one of the most thrilling races in NWES history.
Valencia ELITE 1 Round 1: the season opener at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo of Valencia was a perfect example of the exciting racing the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series brought to the track in 2016 and set the tone for the entire season. Borja Garcia jumped to an early lead, but was soon caught by a group of battling drivers. Anthony Kumpen passed the Spaniard for the lead midway through the race, gained a little ground but had to defend from a charging Frederic. The Frenchman tried a last-lap move for the lead, but he had to settle for second by just two tenths of a second and Kumpen ended up celebrating his first win of the season.
The season opener at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo of Valencia was a perfect example of the exciting racing the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series brought to the track in 2016 Photo: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard