Best of 2016: Pinty’s Series

Best of 2016: Pinty’s Series

Lapcevich Steals Spotlight; Quebec Drivers Rack Up Wins

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The theme for the 2016 season for Canada’s national stock car championship was “welcome to the new era.”

It actually started in December of 2015, when NASCAR and Pinty’s Delicious Foods Inc. announced a six-year agreement for Pinty’s to become the entitlement sponsor of the series. And it carried through to September, when 16-year-old Cayden Lapcevich became the youngest driver to win a national or touring series championship in the history of NASCAR. While Lapcevich’s mark would be eclipsed a month later when Todd Gilliland won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West title, Lapcevich maintained plenty of spotlight with his amazing accomplishments.

He became the youngest driver to win a pole and then win a race in the series’ 10 seasons. The Grimsby, Ontario, driver wound up with three wins and a top 10 finish in each of the 12 races en route to becoming the youngest driver to win the championship and the first driver to win the Josten’s Rookie of the Year and series title in the same season.

Lapcevich’s success stole the thunder from a phenomenal season by Quebec drivers.

Andrew Ranger kicked off the season with a win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in a green-white-checkered finish, while Alex Tagliani — who missed the opener to run the Indianapolis 500 — won three of the next five races. Ranger also returned to Victory Lane at one of his home tracks, Circuit ICAR. Kevin LaCroix won two races and a pair of poles and finished runner-up to Lapcevich in the rookie of the year race. Another rising young star, Alex Labbe, won once and had three poles in his first full season in the series.

And, finally, Ontario’s Jason Hathaway closed an exceptional career in Victory Lane. Hathaway started all 121 races in series history, winning nine times. His last win came in the 2016 finale at Kawartha Speedway, where he announced he was stepping away from full-time competition.

Top Driver

Lapcevich: For a driver who hadn’t intended to run the full season, even halfway through the campaign while he had the championship points lead, Lapcevich put together a staggering 2016. After running just six races in 2015, Lapcevich opened the season with a fourth-place finish at CTMP, and then back-to-back runner-up finishes. After two straight eighth-place runs on road courses (ICAR and Toronto), Lapcevich turned it up a notch. Starting with the series’ annual trip out West, Lapcevich had three wins, a runner-up and two thirds in the last seven races. He finished with an average start of 7.8 and average finish of 3.4, while leading 383 laps and completing all 2,172.

WATCH: CAYDEN LAPCEVICH CHAMPION PROFILE | CAYDEN LAPCEVICH AWARDS SPEECH

Alex Tagliani (Honorable Mention): The open-wheel star turned stock-car standout produced his best Pinty’s Series season with a third-place finish in the championship standings despite missing the season opener. Tagliani won three times, had seven top fives in 11 starts and led a series-high 587 laps. He had an average start of 5.4 and average finish of 5.3, and was in the championship hunt for most of the season.

Top Team

DJ Kennington: While he was winless as a driver, two-time series champion DJ Kennington helped pilot his No. 17 as part of two cars under the Kennington banner to finish in the top six in the owners standings. In addition to DJ’s four top fives and 11 top 10s, Ranegr added two wins, five top fives and nine top 10s for the No. 27.

Scott Steckly (Honorable Mention): A year removed from his fourth drivers’ championship 2015, Scott Steckly stepped into the full-time role as a car owner and had a great deal of success. In addition to fielding the No. 18 for Tagliani and scoring three wins and seven top fives in 11 races to finish second in owners points under Colin Livingston, Steckly and Co. put the No. 22 on the track five times and had a fourth-place run with Donald Theetge at Autodrome Chaudiere. Theetge also won the pole in at Kawartha.

nps_best_2016_3_123016

The 2016 season saw seven first-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East winners in the first seven races, including NASCAR Next driver Tyler Dippel’s win at Mobile (Ala.) International Speedway. NASCAR via Getty Images

Breakthrough Performance

Cayden Lapcevich: Yet another honor for the 16-year-old from Ontario. After just one top five and an average finish of 11.3 in six starts in 2015, Lapcevich burst onto the NASCAR scene in a big way in 2016. The youngster was never worse than second in the points standings after the second race of the season and led the way the final four races.

Alex Labbe (Honorable Mention): In his first full season, the 23-year-old from St. Albert, Quebec, showed himself to be a threat to win the race nearly every time out and a legitimate championship contender. Labbe scored his first career win at Autodrome Chaudiere. Labbe won the pole in the season-opener at CTMP, and also at Chaudiere and Circuit ICAR. In addition to his victory, Labbe was second to Ranger at ICAR and had a pair of third-place finishes (Saskatoon and Kawartha). He led 239 laps and had an average finish of 8.0.  

Top Races

CRS Express 300, Autodrome Chaudiere, June 24: In what may have been the best race in the history of the series, the opening stages featured Labbe, Lapcevich and Andrew Ranger jockeying for the top spot and setting themselves up for the final dash to the finish. And what a wild closing laps they turned out to be. Labbe took the lead from Lapcevich with 21 laps to go with the first of nine lead changes in the closing laps, as the two young rising stars ran nearly door-to-door the entire time. Lapcevich slipped up in Turn 4 of the white-flag lapped trying to set up a last-gasp bump-and-run, and allowed Labbe to scored the win in front of his home province fans. The race featured a season-high 13 lead changes.

Lucas Oil 250, Autodrome St. Eustache, Sept. 10: This one Lapcevich got the win. The last driver to pit for tires, the Ontario teen held off Kennington and Mark Dilley on a green-white-checkered finish. Rain had washed out qualifying and led to Labbe and Lacroix swapping the lead over the first 50 laps before giving way to Kennington. Kennington led a race-high 90 laps, and the event featured 12 lead changes among six different drivers. Lacroix, Labbe, Dilley, Tagliani and Kennington all took their turns at the front before Lapcevich paced the final 13 laps and won by .406 seconds.

nps_best_2016_2_123016

Cayden Lapcevich (76) gets a nose under Alex Labbe as they battled for the win in the CRS Express 300 at Autodrome Chaudiere in June. Matt Hazlett/NASCAR via Getty Images

Best Of 2016: Whelen Euro Series

Best Of 2016: Whelen Euro Series

Kumpen Grabs Second Title, Longin Dominates The ELITE 2 Division

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. 

Top Driver

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”.

WATCH: ANTHONY KUMPEN CHAMPION PROFILE | ANTHONY KUMPEN AWARD SPEECH

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

Top Team

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.

Best Race

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

Best of 2016: K&N Pro Series West

Best of 2016: K&N Pro Series West

Gilliland Emerges On Top; Young Talent Continues To Blossom

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Todd Gilliland had a historic NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season.

The 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, broke a couple records en route to his 2016 title.

The NASCAR Next driver kicked-off his season by matching a 50-year-old record set by Dan Gurney and then ended the season by becoming the youngest champion in NASCAR, both national and touring series, history with six wins, 11 top fives and 13 top 10s.

Gilliland’s road to the championship wasn’t easy. Battling him throughout the entire season was K&N Pro Series West veteran Ryan Partridge. The 28-year-old Rancho Cucamonga, California, driver notched three wins, 10 top fives and 13 top 10s to challenge Gilliland for the title down to the very last race of the season.

Top Driver

Todd Gilliland: Todd Gilliland had the dream season. After he won his debut in the 2015 finale, the teenager kicked of the season winning the first four K&N Pro Series East and West races and kept his momentum going the remainder of the year. He sat a top the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West standings until June when a misfortune at  California’s Sonoma Raceway caused him to drop out of the top spot. He rebounded quickly, winning the next three races on the schedule. The NASCAR Next driver ended the year with six victories and top 10s in all but one of the 14 races. Gilliland led a total 564 laps throughout the season and had average start of 2.7 and an average finish of 4.0. He made some history along the way: He match Dan Gurney’s record by winning his first four career NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts, became the third driver in West Series history to win both the championship and the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the same season, and became the youngest champion of a national or touring series in NASCAR history. The son of David Gilliland and grandson of Butch Gilliland announced he will be competing in both the K&N Pro Series East and West in 2017.

WATCH: TODD GILLILAND CHAMPION PROFILE | TODD GILLILAND AWARDS SPEECH

Ryan Partridge (Honorable Mention): Ryan Partridge fell just short of a championship once again this year. His remarkable season produced three wins, five poles and top 10s in 13 of 14 events to finish 13-points behind Gilliland. The California driver started the season strong finishing in the runner-up position in the first three events. At the third race at Arizona’s Tucson Speedway, he scored his first win of the year after leading 127 laps of the 156 laps feature. He went on to win two more times, at Oregon’s Douglas County Speedway and California’s All American Speedway. Partridge completed all 1,879 laps this season and led the most laps with 794. He produced an average start of 3.1 and an average finish of 4.4. 

Top Team

Bill McAnally Racing: In their 26th season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Bill McAnally Racing had a phenomenal season. BMR earned eight victories, 33 top fives and 45 top 10s and the most important win of all: the championship title for the second consecutive year. In addition to the title, BMR drivers finished fourth, sixth and seventh in the standings. Their part-time driver finished 17th in the standings with six starts. Gilliland brought home wins at California’s Irwindale Speedway and Kern County Raceway Park, Idaho’s Stateline Speedway and Meridian Speedway, Iowa Speedway, and Washington’s Evergreen Speedway while the 2015 K&N West champion, Chris Eggleston took home victories at California’s Orange Show Speedway and his home track, Colorado National Speedway. Bill McAnally Racing, recently announced that Gilliland would be returning in 2017 to defend his title and that they’d be partnering with David Gilliland Racing for the K&N Pro Series East season.

Jefferson Pitts Racing (Honorable Mention): Jefferson Pitts Racing returned for their second season with Noah Gragson and Gracie Raz. While their season wasn’t as successful as their inaugural campaihn, they still were one of the top teams at the track week in and week out. JPR produced a total of two wins, 17 top fives and 23 top fives. Gragson took home both victories for the team when he swept the weekend at Utah Motorsports Park. The team also led a total of 182 laps in 2016.

Top Breakthrough Driver

Julia Landauer: The New York City driver had a stellar rookie season notching seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes to finish fourth in the championship standings. The 24-year-old Bill McAnally Racing driver joined her teammate Todd Gilliland in the history books this season, she tied the record for the highest finishing female in a race with her second place finish at Idaho’s Meridian Speedway. She also became the highest finishing female with her fourth-place finish in the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship standings. The NASCAR Next driver had an average start of 8.5 and an average finish 6.3 en route to her runner-up finish in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings to Gilliland.

nknps-west_best_2016_2_122816

Julia Landauer became the highest finishing female finisher in the history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with her fourth-place in the final championship standings. NASCAR via Getty Images

Riley Herbst (Honorable Mention): Like his Bill McAnally Racing teammates Gilliland and Landauer, Herbst, 17, from Las Vegas Nevada, had a great rookie season. Herbst finished seventh in the championship standings after tallying seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. He also finished fourth in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. Herbst, earned his best career finish with third-place runs at Iowa, Evergreen and Douglas County. He led 13 laps this season, all at Utah Motorsports Park, and produced an average start of 6.2 and an average finish of 7.6. 

Top Races

Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150, Stateline Speedway, June 11: The Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 was the first of three wins that gave  Todd Gilliland a commanding lead in the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship standings. Gilliland took the checkered flag after edging past fellow NASCAR Next driver, Noah Gragson, by mere inches.Gilliland crossed the finish line .004 seconds in front of the 17-year-old from Las Vegas, and it was the only lap the 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, led all night. Multiple cautions pushed the race to a second green-white-checkered finish and to 166 laps. Gragson led the final restart and was a nose ahead at the line taking the white flag. But Gilliland got a strong run off Turn 4 coming to the checkered, and powered forward despite having his car pinched against the outside wall by Gragson as they crossed under the flag stand.

Utah 110 presented by Ken Garff Volvo, Utah Motorsports Park, Sept. 10: Gragson’s win over Gilliland in the first Utah double-header race set the tone for his weekend sweep. After finishing second to Chase Elliott at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, the first road course on the K&N Pro Series West’s 2016 schedule, Gragon achieved redemption. The Las Vegas driver took the lead from Gilliland with nine laps to go to earn his first win of the season out west. The NASCAR Next driver started the race in fourth and spent most of the race behind Ryan Partridge and Gilliland, conserving his tires and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. His window opened when Partridge cut a tire with 13 laps to go and it continued when Gilliland made a mistake late in the race. Gragson capitalized on the error and bumped Gilliland out of they way to take the lead and cruise to Victory Lane. It was a banner year for the 17-year-old on road courses, he recorded two wins and a runner-up finish on the road courses out west and notched a victory at New Jersey Motorsports Park, one of three road courses on the K&N Pro Series East schedule.

nknps-east_best_2016_3_122816

Noah Gragson gets underneath Ryan Partridge en route to sweeping the road course doubleheader in September at Utah Motorsports Park. Jim Urquhart/NASCAR via Getty Images

Best of 2016: K&N Pro Series East

Best of 2016: K&N Pro Series East

Haley Takes Home The Title; First-Time Winners A Plenty

AYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Justin Haley’s consistency throughout the season earned him his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship title.

The 17-year-old from Winamac, Indiana, lifted the trophy at Delaware’s Dover International Speedway after collecting top-10 finishes in all 14 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East events.

Haley joined the elite list of previous K&N East Winners – such as Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez – after earning two wins, 13 top fives, 14 top 10s.

The 2016 champion wasn’t the only talented driver to shine in the series throughout the season.

Ranier Racing with MDM driver Kyle Benjamin challenged Haley the entire season for the top spot with the score finally being settled at Dover. The NASCAR Next alum scored three wins, including the finale at Dover, and finished just 22 points behind Haley.

The season was also highlighted by a remarkable number of first-time winners: The season’s first seven races featured drivers making their first trip to Victory Lane in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. There were also seven different pole winners in the first eight races.

Twenty-one different drivers earned top-five finishes this year while 40 different drivers produced top-10 finishes throughout the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season.

Top Driver

 Haley: Haley rebounded this year after a sixth-place finish in the K&N Pro Series East championship staqndings in 2015. He start of his season strong with a fifth-place finish in the season opener at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway. Three races into the year, Haley scored his first career victory at South Carolina’s historic Greenville Pickens Speedway and he didn’t finish outside of the top five for the remainder of the year. In his 14 starts, the champion completed all 1671 laps and led 216. He also compiled an average start of 5.1 and an average finish of 3.4. It was recently announced that Haley with compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2017 with GMS Racing.

WATCH: JUSTIN HALEY CHAMPION PROFILE | JUSTIN HALEY AWARDS SPEECH

Kyle Benjamin (Honorable Mention): The 19-year-old from Easley, South Carolina, fought Haley for the title until the end, and closed out the season with a win at Dover. The NASCAR Next alum notched three wins, nine top-five and 11 top-10 finishes throughout the season and led a total of 582 laps in 2016. Benjamin had an average start of 3.9 and an average finish of 5.7, while completing all but 11 laps this season.

Top Team

HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks: For the fourth consecutive year, Harry Scott has fielded the championship car. The multi-car team finished first, third, fourth and seventh in the 2016 championship standings and they took home a total of three victories, 16 top fives and 37 top 10s. They’re best finishes of the year occurred at Alabama’s Mobile International Raceway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway where they finished first, seventh, eighth and ninth, and third, sixth, seventh and 10th, respectively. 

Ranier Racing with MDM (Honorable Mention): In their inaugural season, they earned four wins, 14 top fives and 16 top 10s. Benjamin competed for the team full-time this season and finished runner-up in the championship standings. Spencer Davis piloted a car for the freshman team for the first seven races and earned the team’s first victory at Virginia’s Dominion Raceway in a photo finish for his first career victory.

nknps-east_best_2016_2_122816.jpg

The 2016 season saw seven first-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East winners in the first seven races, including NASCAR Next driver Tyler Dippel’s win at Mobile (Ala.) International Speedway. NASCAR via Getty Images

Breakthrough Performance

Spencer Davis: Spencer Davis started his rookie season with a bang, racing for trophy at the season opener at New Smyrna. Some late-race drama prevented him from taking home his first career win and settled for a runner-up finish instead. It didn’t deter the 18-year-old from Dawsonville, Georgia, who went on to earn two top-five finishes in the next two races. The NASCAR Next driver accumulated one win, five top fives and 7 top 10s in 13 starts this season and earned his first career win in dramatic fashion at Virginia’s Dominion Raceway. Davis edged Justin Haley in a photo finish to claim the checkered flag.

Dominique Van Wieringen (Honorable Mention): The 21-year-old from Amherstburg, Ontario, had quite the rookie season. She started the season at New Smyrna with a 10th place finish after qualifying third and continued to prove throughout the year that she could run fast. She tallied three top-five and five top-10 finishes throughout the year, earning her best career finish with a third at both Greenville Pickens Speedway and in the finale at Dover International Speedway. Van Weiringen led a total of 140 laps in 2016, including 88 laps in the series’ return to Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway. 

Top Races

ComServe Wireless 150, Dominion Raceway, May 30: The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East’s inaugural race at Dominion ended in a dramatic photo finish between Davis and Haley. After review, Davis walked away with the win, his first in the series, by a mere margin of .005 seconds. A restart on Lap 145, following the wreck that collected Kyle Benjamin, who was tied in points with Haley at the time, and third-place Ronnie Bassett, gave Haley one last shot at Davis. Davis and Haley made contact off Turn 4 coming to the checkered, and went across the finish line side-by-side.

Jet Tools 150, New Smyrna Speedway, Feb. 14: Todd Gilliland, the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion, won the East opener at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway after some late-race drama. The 16-year-old, then 15, from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, led at the start-finish line at the completion of Lap 150, the scheduled distance of the event, but racing continued for a subsequent lap due to a delay in displaying the proper flags from the flag stand. On the ensuing circuit, Ronnie Bassett Jr. crossed the finish line first after contact with race leaders Spencer Davis and Gilliland. However, per the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Rule Book and the event’s entry blank, the official finish of the race reverts to the completion of Lap 150. Davis was scored as the race runner-up with Bassett in third. Gilliland’s win also kicked-off a trend of new winners for the K&N Pro Series East that continued throughout the first half of the season. 

Spencer Davis (41) crossed the finish line at Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, Virginia, inches ahead of Justin Haley to take home the win. Matt Hazlett/NASCAR via Getty Images

Best of 2016: K&N Pro Series East

Best of 2016: K&N Pro Series East

Haley Takes Home The Title; First-Time Winners A Plenty

AYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Justin Haley’s consistency throughout the season earned him his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship title.

The 17-year-old from Winamac, Indiana, lifted the trophy at Delaware’s Dover International Speedway after collecting top-10 finishes in all 14 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East events.

Haley joined the elite list of previous K&N East Winners – such as Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez – after earning two wins, 13 top fives, 14 top 10s.

The 2016 champion wasn’t the only talented driver to shine in the series throughout the season.

Ranier Racing with MDM driver Kyle Benjamin challenged Haley the entire season for the top spot with the score finally being settled at Dover. The NASCAR Next alum scored three wins, including the finale at Dover, and finished just 22 points behind Haley.

The season was also highlighted by a remarkable number of first-time winners: The season’s first seven races featured drivers making their first trip to Victory Lane in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. There were also seven different pole winners in the first eight races.

Twenty-one different drivers earned top-five finishes this year while 40 different drivers produced top-10 finishes throughout the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season.

Top Driver

 Haley: Haley rebounded this year after a sixth-place finish in the K&N Pro Series East championship staqndings in 2015. He start of his season strong with a fifth-place finish in the season opener at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway. Three races into the year, Haley scored his first career victory at South Carolina’s historic Greenville Pickens Speedway and he didn’t finish outside of the top five for the remainder of the year. In his 14 starts, the champion completed all 1671 laps and led 216. He also compiled an average start of 5.1 and an average finish of 3.4. It was recently announced that Haley with compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2017 with GMS Racing.

WATCH: JUSTIN HALEY CHAMPION PROFILE | JUSTIN HALEY AWARDS SPEECH

Kyle Benjamin (Honorable Mention): The 19-year-old from Easley, South Carolina, fought Haley for the title until the end, and closed out the season with a win at Dover. The NASCAR Next alum notched three wins, nine top-five and 11 top-10 finishes throughout the season and led a total of 582 laps in 2016. Benjamin had an average start of 3.9 and an average finish of 5.7, while completing all but 11 laps this season.

Top Team

HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks: For the fourth consecutive year, Harry Scott has fielded the championship car. The multi-car team finished first, third, fourth and seventh in the 2016 championship standings and they took home a total of three victories, 16 top fives and 37 top 10s. They’re best finishes of the year occurred at Alabama’s Mobile International Raceway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway where they finished first, seventh, eighth and ninth, and third, sixth, seventh and 10th, respectively. 

Ranier Racing with MDM (Honorable Mention): In their inaugural season, they earned four wins, 14 top fives and 16 top 10s. Benjamin competed for the team full-time this season and finished runner-up in the championship standings. Spencer Davis piloted a car for the freshman team for the first seven races and earned the team’s first victory at Virginia’s Dominion Raceway in a photo finish for his first career victory.

nknps-east_best_2016_2_122816.jpg

The 2016 season saw seven first-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East winners in the first seven races, including NASCAR Next driver Tyler Dippel’s win at Mobile (Ala.) International Speedway. NASCAR via Getty Images

Breakthrough Performance

Spencer Davis: Spencer Davis started his rookie season with a bang, racing for trophy at the season opener at New Smyrna. Some late-race drama prevented him from taking home his first career win and settled for a runner-up finish instead. It didn’t deter the 18-year-old from Dawsonville, Georgia, who went on to earn two top-five finishes in the next two races. The NASCAR Next driver accumulated one win, five top fives and 7 top 10s in 13 starts this season and earned his first career win in dramatic fashion at Virginia’s Dominion Raceway. Davis edged Justin Haley in a photo finish to claim the checkered flag.

Dominique Van Wieringen (Honorable Mention): The 21-year-old from Amherstburg, Ontario, had quite the rookie season. She started the season at New Smyrna with a 10th place finish after qualifying third and continued to prove throughout the year that she could run fast. She tallied three top-five and five top-10 finishes throughout the year, earning her best career finish with a third at both Greenville Pickens Speedway and in the finale at Dover International Speedway. Van Weiringen led a total of 140 laps in 2016, including 88 laps in the series’ return to Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway. 

Top Races

ComServe Wireless 150, Dominion Raceway, May 30: The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East’s inaugural race at Dominion ended in a dramatic photo finish between Davis and Haley. After review, Davis walked away with the win, his first in the series, by a mere margin of .005 seconds. A restart on Lap 145, following the wreck that collected Kyle Benjamin, who was tied in points with Haley at the time, and third-place Ronnie Bassett, gave Haley one last shot at Davis. Davis and Haley made contact off Turn 4 coming to the checkered, and went across the finish line side-by-side.

Jet Tools 150, New Smyrna Speedway, Feb. 14: Todd Gilliland, the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion, won the East opener at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway after some late-race drama. The 16-year-old, then 15, from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, led at the start-finish line at the completion of Lap 150, the scheduled distance of the event, but racing continued for a subsequent lap due to a delay in displaying the proper flags from the flag stand. On the ensuing circuit, Ronnie Bassett Jr. crossed the finish line first after contact with race leaders Spencer Davis and Gilliland. However, per the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Rule Book and the event’s entry blank, the official finish of the race reverts to the completion of Lap 150. Davis was scored as the race runner-up with Bassett in third. Gilliland’s win also kicked-off a trend of new winners for the K&N Pro Series East that continued throughout the first half of the season. 

Spencer Davis (41) crossed the finish line at Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, Virginia, inches ahead of Justin Haley to take home the win. Matt Hazlett/NASCAR via Getty Images

CHAMPION’S PROFILE: Bowling Rolls To Title

CHAMPION’S PROFILE: Bowling Rolls To Title

Change of Plans Nets Virginian Whelen All-American Crown

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Fourteen. That was the amount of races that Matt Bowling originally intended to run in 2016.

He had no plans of chasing the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National championship and by no means expected to run nearly 50 races at eight different race tracks in four states.

Sometimes, however, plans change for the better.

That’s exactly what happened to Bowling, who captured his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National championship this year. He said a fast start to the year at his home track, Virginia’s South Boston Speedway, forced him to reconsider his planned schedule for the season.

“We really weren’t going for it. We were just going to run 14 races or so,” the 22-year-old native of Ridgefield, Virginia, said. “We started out really strong at South Boston and had a few wins pretty early. The national standings came out and we were leading, so we kind of kept that on our minds.

“We continued to have some success and we kept leading them. One thing led to another and we went to chasing it (the championship) pretty hard.”

Bowling ended up with 14 victories, 35 top fives and 42 top 10s in 49 starts at eight tracks across the Southeast aboard his No. 83 Ford that carried sponsorship from Hopkins Lumber, Bowling Logging & Chipping, Bandit Chippers, Bill Lemons, Clearway Logistics, Sellers Racing, Hedgecock Racing and Banks Racing Engines.

VIDEO: MATT BOWLING CHAMPION FEATURE

He also captured the track championship at South Boston Speedway and was crowned the Virginia champion on top of his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National championship.

He admitted that he never dreamed he’d have such a strong season, much less that he’d capture the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title.

“I was going to scale back my racing some this past year, but when you’re leading it like that it is hard to just quit. You’ve got to go for it. You may not get another opportunity at it,” Bowling said. “That was kind of our mindset. We went all in for it and we got it. It all worked out thankfully.”

While Bowling led the standings from start to finish this year, it by no means was a guarantee that he’d be the one standing at the podium accepting the trophy on Dec. 9 at the Charlotte Convention Center during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards.

Late in the year Bowling had to contend with a pair of challengers, 2010 national champion Keith Rocco and young Midwestern late model ace Ty Majeski. Both were having strong years and were making up ground on Bowling in the final weeks of the season.

“The competition I was up against in the nation, as far as Rocco and Majeski, they were tough. You knew they are going to win races. It put us in a position where we had to win too,” Bowling said. “I felt like any one of us could have got it there for awhile.”

Bowling credited a big weekend with two weeks left in the season that saw him pick up victories at Southern National Motorsports Park and East Carolina Motor Speedway in North Carolina with helping him beat Rocco and Majesty for the title.

“We had one good weekend there with two weekends left and they didn’t (win),” Bowling explained. “Thankfully we did because that last weekend we really didn’t have a good night.”

In the end Bowling won his first national championship by just six points over Rocco, with Majeski finishing third, only nine points behind Bowling at the conclusion of the season.

“That was kind of the weekend that won it for us,” Bowling said about his wins at Southern National and East Carolina. “It could have gone either way there for awhile, but thankfully it worked out.”

Now a national champion, Bowling said he plans to scale back his racing efforts next year and doesn’t plan to chase another national title. His hope is to move up the NASCAR ranks and chase championships in other divisions, but right now nothing is set in stone.

“I don’t think you’ll see me go after it again,” Bowling said. “As far as my career forward, I’m trying to find something so I can move up. That’s kind of where I’m at. 

“As far as the late model program, I’m planning to run a few races here and there and make sure my stuff is in pretty good order for the Martinsville late model race.”

Even if he never wins another championship, Bowling said he’ll always cherish the 2016 season and the success he had. His name will forever be in the record books as a NASCAR champion and no one will ever be able to take that away.

“It was a long year and a lot of hard work went into it, but I’ll definitely never forget it. It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” Bowling said. “It may (sink in) when I hang up the helmet. I don’t know.”

nwaas_champions_profile_matt-bowling_2_122716

CHAMPION’S PROFILE: Lapcevich Defies Odds

CHAMPION’S PROFILE: Lapcevich Defies Odds

Pinty’s Rookie Earns Canadian National Stock Car Racing Title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In a season filled with so many accomplishments and record-breaking achievements, 2016 may not played out the same if it wasn’t for the two early season races Cayden Lapcevich didn’t win.

And in the end, it got a 16-year-old from Grinsby, Ontario, to the very place he hoped he could reach back when he was just a little kid visiting the race track.

“Walking through the pits with my grandpa, and see all the hard work they were putting into it,” said Lapcevich. “I wanted to put an attempt at this and see what we’d accomplish.”

The first sign of what was to come was the NASCAR Pinty’s Series season opener at Ontario’s Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. It marked Lapcevich’s seventh career race — having run six in 2015 and preserving his rookie status — and third on the world-class oval. While Lapcevich’s early success, which would carry over to his championship season, would come on ovals, the path to a championship in Canada’s stock car national championship series always necessitates a certain amount of success on road courses.

While not often mentioned in the conversation of road-course aces, Cayden’s father Jeff was sneakily good at CTMP. The elder Lapcevich, who retired at the end of 2015, finished on the podium in five of his last six starts at CTMP. More importantly, he completed all 608 laps over 12 career starts on the 2.459-mile, 10-turn course.

Cayden followed a similar formula. After starting 11th, he stayed on course and out of trouble, and cleared the first hurdle with a fourth-place finish after a wild green-white-checkered finish.

There was no talk, though, of a championship run. In fact, the team didn’t plan to participate in the season’s second race on the tight quarter-mile at Quebec’s Autodrome Chaudiere.

Then the rain came.

The race at Chaudiere was washed out and pushed back to the end of June. Lapcevich made his next scheduled start at his home track of Sunset Speedway in Ontario. He recorded his first career pole and finished second to Alex Tagliani. 

VIDEO: CAYDEN LAPCEVICH’S CHAMPION FEATURE

The second definining moment of this remarkable run came next at Chaudiere.

After picking up a late sponsor for the event, Lapcevich made the trip to Quebec and nearly pulled off an improbable victory. Instead, he settled for second-place in what many observers on hand called the best race in the series’ 10-year history. Lapcevich and eventual winner Alex Labbe swapped the lead nine times in the last 21 laps, spending nearly the entire final portion side by side. Lapcevich’s performance was impressive. Not only did he run multiple lines in an early-race battle for the lead against two-time series champion Andrew Ranger, he again impressively saved enough for the end and his duel with Labbe. 

While he didn’t get his first victory, Lapcevich walked off with two important takeaways: the knowledge that he was incredibly close to breaking through and getting that initial win, and the championship points lead.

The rest of the season rolled from there like a fairy tale.

Solid top-10 runs on the road courses at Montreal’s Circuit ICAR and Toronto’s Exhibition Place that kept him in the title hunt. The last-minute decision to go West, fixing their car between races in the hotel parking lot with borrowed help. The first win at Saskatoon’s Wyant Group Raceway at the end of July, and subsequent wins at Riverside International Speedway in Nova Soctia and Quebec’s Autodrome St-Eustache, which firmly locked up the championship trophy.

“Once you get that first win, they come easier because you know what to do now,” said Lapcevich. “You know how to set yourself up, save the tires, save the brakes.

“That first one is just that race I’ll never forget.”

Three wins, two seconds and a third on the circuit’s six ovals. 

He still walked the razor-thin margin of having it all disappear.

“I knew if I wrecked a race car, I wouldn’t be back the next week, because it just wasn’t in the budget to fix it,” said Lapcevich. “When dad came over the radio and told me that I did it, and it wasn’t just a dream anymore,” said Lapcevich, “it was so rewarding at the end of Kawartha to finally lift that trophy and call ourselves champions.”

Becoming the youngest driver in NASCAR history to win a national series or touring series title, at 16 years, 10 months, 16 days. While it was a mark Todd Gilliland would break a month later with his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship, Lapcevich did a great deal of rewriting of the NASCAR Pinty’s Series record book. Youngest pole winner. Youngest race winner. Youngest points leader. Youngest champion.

He even got a unique excuse from school to do post-season interviews in Charlotte; his fellow classmates at Ontario’s South Lincoln High School were rewarded by getting to miss class for an assembly, where they got to watch Lapcevich ng one of them broadcast back to an assembly of his classmates .

 

 

And, finally, accepting his championship trophy and NASCAR ring from Mike Helton, the executive chairman of NASCAR, on the stage at the Grand Ballroom in Charlotte during December’s Grand Champions Touring Series Awards.

“We did not know if we’d be racing week to week,” said Lapcevich in his acceptance speech. “I had my family supporting me, friends who had my back, and sponsors stepping up when we needed them. And here we are on stage. I don’t know what will happen next year, but I didn’t know what would happen this year.”

nps_champions_profile_cayden-lapcevich_2_122616

Cayden Lapcevich is leading the new wave of young stars in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. Matthew Manor/NASCAR via Getty Images

CHAMPION’S PROFILE: Bowling Rolls To Title

CHAMPION’S PROFILE: Bowling Rolls To Title

Change of Plans Nets Virginian Whelen All-American Crown

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Fourteen. That was the amount of races that Matt Bowling originally intended to run in 2016.

He had no plans of chasing the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National championship and by no means expected to run nearly 50 races at eight different race tracks in four states.

Sometimes, however, plans change for the better.

That’s exactly what happened to Bowling, who captured his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National championship this year. He said a fast start to the year at his home track, Virginia’s South Boston Speedway, forced him to reconsider his planned schedule for the season.

“We really weren’t going for it. We were just going to run 14 races or so,” the 22-year-old native of Ridgefield, Virginia, said. “We started out really strong at South Boston and had a few wins pretty early. The national standings came out and we were leading, so we kind of kept that on our minds.

“We continued to have some success and we kept leading them. One thing led to another and we went to chasing it (the championship) pretty hard.”

Bowling ended up with 14 victories, 35 top fives and 42 top 10s in 49 starts at eight tracks across the Southeast aboard his No. 83 Ford that carried sponsorship from Hopkins Lumber, Bowling Logging & Chipping, Bandit Chippers, Bill Lemons, Clearway Logistics, Sellers Racing, Hedgecock Racing and Banks Racing Engines.

VIDEO: MATT BOWLING CHAMPION FEATURE

He also captured the track championship at South Boston Speedway and was crowned the Virginia champion on top of his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National championship.

He admitted that he never dreamed he’d have such a strong season, much less that he’d capture the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title.

“I was going to scale back my racing some this past year, but when you’re leading it like that it is hard to just quit. You’ve got to go for it. You may not get another opportunity at it,” Bowling said. “That was kind of our mindset. We went all in for it and we got it. It all worked out thankfully.”

While Bowling led the standings from start to finish this year, it by no means was a guarantee that he’d be the one standing at the podium accepting the trophy on Dec. 9 at the Charlotte Convention Center during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards.

Late in the year Bowling had to contend with a pair of challengers, 2010 national champion Keith Rocco and young Midwestern late model ace Ty Majeski. Both were having strong years and were making up ground on Bowling in the final weeks of the season.

“The competition I was up against in the nation, as far as Rocco and Majeski, they were tough. You knew they are going to win races. It put us in a position where we had to win too,” Bowling said. “I felt like any one of us could have got it there for awhile.”

Bowling credited a big weekend with two weeks left in the season that saw him pick up victories at Southern National Motorsports Park and East Carolina Motor Speedway in North Carolina with helping him beat Rocco and Majesty for the title.

“We had one good weekend there with two weekends left and they didn’t (win),” Bowling explained. “Thankfully we did because that last weekend we really didn’t have a good night.”

In the end Bowling won his first national championship by just six points over Rocco, with Majeski finishing third, only nine points behind Bowling at the conclusion of the season.

“That was kind of the weekend that won it for us,” Bowling said about his wins at Southern National and East Carolina. “It could have gone either way there for awhile, but thankfully it worked out.”

Now a national champion, Bowling said he plans to scale back his racing efforts next year and doesn’t plan to chase another national title. His hope is to move up the NASCAR ranks and chase championships in other divisions, but right now nothing is set in stone.

“I don’t think you’ll see me go after it again,” Bowling said. “As far as my career forward, I’m trying to find something so I can move up. That’s kind of where I’m at. 

“As far as the late model program, I’m planning to run a few races here and there and make sure my stuff is in pretty good order for the Martinsville late model race.”

Even if he never wins another championship, Bowling said he’ll always cherish the 2016 season and the success he had. His name will forever be in the record books as a NASCAR champion and no one will ever be able to take that away.

“It was a long year and a lot of hard work went into it, but I’ll definitely never forget it. It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” Bowling said. “It may (sink in) when I hang up the helmet. I don’t know.”

nwaas_champions_profile_matt-bowling_2_122716

CHAMPION’S PROFILE: Lapcevich Defies Odds

CHAMPION’S PROFILE: Lapcevich Defies Odds

Pinty’s Rookie Earns Canadian National Stock Car Racing Title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In a season filled with so many accomplishments and record-breaking achievements, 2016 may not played out the same if it wasn’t for the two early season races Cayden Lapcevich didn’t win.

And in the end, it got a 16-year-old from Grinsby, Ontario, to the very place he hoped he could reach back when he was just a little kid visiting the race track.

“Walking through the pits with my grandpa, and see all the hard work they were putting into it,” said Lapcevich. “I wanted to put an attempt at this and see what we’d accomplish.”

The first sign of what was to come was the NASCAR Pinty’s Series season opener at Ontario’s Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. It marked Lapcevich’s seventh career race — having run six in 2015 and preserving his rookie status — and third on the world-class oval. While Lapcevich’s early success, which would carry over to his championship season, would come on ovals, the path to a championship in Canada’s stock car national championship series always necessitates a certain amount of success on road courses.

While not often mentioned in the conversation of road-course aces, Cayden’s father Jeff was sneakily good at CTMP. The elder Lapcevich, who retired at the end of 2015, finished on the podium in five of his last six starts at CTMP. More importantly, he completed all 608 laps over 12 career starts on the 2.459-mile, 10-turn course.

Cayden followed a similar formula. After starting 11th, he stayed on course and out of trouble, and cleared the first hurdle with a fourth-place finish after a wild green-white-checkered finish.

There was no talk, though, of a championship run. In fact, the team didn’t plan to participate in the season’s second race on the tight quarter-mile at Quebec’s Autodrome Chaudiere.

Then the rain came.

The race at Chaudiere was washed out and pushed back to the end of June. Lapcevich made his next scheduled start at his home track of Sunset Speedway in Ontario. He recorded his first career pole and finished second to Alex Tagliani. 

VIDEO: CAYDEN LAPCEVICH’S CHAMPION FEATURE

The second definining moment of this remarkable run came next at Chaudiere.

After picking up a late sponsor for the event, Lapcevich made the trip to Quebec and nearly pulled off an improbable victory. Instead, he settled for second-place in what many observers on hand called the best race in the series’ 10-year history. Lapcevich and eventual winner Alex Labbe swapped the lead nine times in the last 21 laps, spending nearly the entire final portion side by side. Lapcevich’s performance was impressive. Not only did he run multiple lines in an early-race battle for the lead against two-time series champion Andrew Ranger, he again impressively saved enough for the end and his duel with Labbe. 

While he didn’t get his first victory, Lapcevich walked off with two important takeaways: the knowledge that he was incredibly close to breaking through and getting that initial win, and the championship points lead.

The rest of the season rolled from there like a fairy tale.

Solid top-10 runs on the road courses at Montreal’s Circuit ICAR and Toronto’s Exhibition Place that kept him in the title hunt. The last-minute decision to go West, fixing their car between races in the hotel parking lot with borrowed help. The first win at Saskatoon’s Wyant Group Raceway at the end of July, and subsequent wins at Riverside International Speedway in Nova Soctia and Quebec’s Autodrome St-Eustache, which firmly locked up the championship trophy.

“Once you get that first win, they come easier because you know what to do now,” said Lapcevich. “You know how to set yourself up, save the tires, save the brakes.

“That first one is just that race I’ll never forget.”

Three wins, two seconds and a third on the circuit’s six ovals. 

He still walked the razor-thin margin of having it all disappear.

“I knew if I wrecked a race car, I wouldn’t be back the next week, because it just wasn’t in the budget to fix it,” said Lapcevich. “When dad came over the radio and told me that I did it, and it wasn’t just a dream anymore,” said Lapcevich, “it was so rewarding at the end of Kawartha to finally lift that trophy and call ourselves champions.”

Becoming the youngest driver in NASCAR history to win a national series or touring series title, at 16 years, 10 months, 16 days. While it was a mark Todd Gilliland would break a month later with his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship, Lapcevich did a great deal of rewriting of the NASCAR Pinty’s Series record book. Youngest pole winner. Youngest race winner. Youngest points leader. Youngest champion.

He even got a unique excuse from school to do post-season interviews in Charlotte; his fellow classmates at Ontario’s South Lincoln High School were rewarded by getting to miss class for an assembly, where they got to watch Lapcevich ng one of them broadcast back to an assembly of his classmates .

 

 

And, finally, accepting his championship trophy and NASCAR ring from Mike Helton, the executive chairman of NASCAR, on the stage at the Grand Ballroom in Charlotte during December’s Grand Champions Touring Series Awards.

“We did not know if we’d be racing week to week,” said Lapcevich in his acceptance speech. “I had my family supporting me, friends who had my back, and sponsors stepping up when we needed them. And here we are on stage. I don’t know what will happen next year, but I didn’t know what would happen this year.”

nps_champions_profile_cayden-lapcevich_2_122616

Cayden Lapcevich is leading the new wave of young stars in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. Matthew Manor/NASCAR via Getty Images

CHAMPION’S PROFILE: Kumpen Striving For Perfection

CHAMPION’S PROFILE: Kumpen Striving For Perfection

Conquers Second Title Winning A Season-Long Three-Way Battle

There was only one goal in Anthony Kumpen’s mind since the end of the 2015 season and it was to win back the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Championship. To mark his name in the Whelen Hall Of Champions at the NASCAR Hall Of Fame and receive the NWES Champion’s ring from Mike Helton once again, the 2014 NWES Champion had to strive for perfection in every single detail all season long and so he did, winning one of the hardest fought battles in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series history. 

Those small details he and PK Carsport spent so much time and effort working on granted Kumpen a career-high 5 wins, two poles and a final margin of 11 points over a stratospheric Frederic Gabillon, who notched 12 top-5s in 12 races. PK Carsport also took the ELITE 2 Division title with a dominant performance by Stienes Longin and the Teams Championship with the #24 Chevrolet SS Kumpen shared with Gabriele Gardel.

“The title in 2014 was something special, but also something totally unexpected. We didn’t know exactly what it would mean. This time we knew exactly what was at stake and the only option was to win. There was no way we could allow ourselves to lose this Championship,” said Kumpen. “We didn’t win any title in 2015 we knew we had to raise the level this year. We did a great job, we came back stronger than ever and we made the difference. You cannot compare this to anything else, this was the best success in my racing career for sure.”

VIDEO: ANTHONY KUMPEN’S CHAMPION PROFILE

The Belgian’s season opened with his first NASCAR pole position and a win in Valencia in a race in which he resisted every attack brought by Gabillon until the finish line, setting the tone for the rest of the season: a three-way battle with Frederic Gabillon and Alon Day. Kumpen won once at Brands Hatch and Venray, while Gabillon triumphed at Venray and Day grabbed one win at Valencia and one at Brands Hatch. Two wins on the Tours Speedway oval in the final round of the regular season put Gabillon in the lead by a single point over Kumpen entering the summer break. 

“The turning point for us were the playoffs. We knew they would be determinant for the final outcome of the Championship and we spent the entire summer break working from early in the morning to late at night,” said Kumpen. “There’s very little you can do on the cars, it’s all in the details and the entire team worked really hard to make a difference. I also worked on myself and I lost several kilos in the summer break. I believe that we have been 2% or 3% better than Fred and Alon and that’s where we won it.” 

The 2014 Champion scored big in the Adria Semi Finals, winning one race and finishing second behind Day in the other to enter the Finals as the points leader on his home track: Circuit Zolder. In an event he strongly contributed to build and turned out to be a huge success, Kumpen won a decisive race on Saturday while Gabillon and Day lost most of their title hopes in an early contact that forced the Frenchman to a spectacular comeback. Kumpen started the final race of the season with the chance to control the points situation in front of his crowd and NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, who served as Grand Marshal and cheered for his Belgian friend, but everything became harder at the first corner.

“We got hit at the start and we had some technical issues due to it, so it all came down to keeping my car on track and finish in the top-10. It was hard and I did everything I could, I even lost second gear. My team gave me such a strong car and I have to thank them so much because I’m just a small part of the operation and without them I wouldn’t be the Champion today,” commented the 38-year-old. “Crossing the finish line and celebrating with my team and my fans was definitely the best moment of the season. Receiving the trophy from Jeff Gordon is a feeling I cannot describe. I have to thank everybody, from NASCAR to the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and Zolder and of course Fred Gabillon and Alon Day for making this season so great. Fred is a really good driver and a very nice guy and he was so fast. From time to time we were just a little bit better and that’s where we won the championship. Alon is a lot younger and has a bright future ahead of him.”

Kumpen is already looking forward to defend his NWES title in the 2017 season and to race in the US. His plans already include the NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway and the road course race at Mid-Ohio during the summer. 

“I will come back to NASCAR Whelen Euro Series for sure because I want to help the Series grow and give the chance to my competitors to beat the Champion on track and I will also try to race as many NXS races as possible, especially on road courses, where I think as European drivers we can really get some good results,” concluded the Hasselt-native, who posted a solid 26th place finish in his Daytona debut in February and has a 24th place at Phoenix in 2015 as his best result in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. 

The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series 2017 season will open on April 8-9 with the traditional Valencia NASCAR Fest, while Kumpen’s first NASCAR race of the season will be the NASCAR Xfinity Series PowerShares QQQ 300 on February 25th at the Daytona International Speedway.

 


NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

 

Print This Post Print This Post