In the late 2000s, NASCAR was seeking a new international audience for its world-class racing product. The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series was formed to give the open wheel-saturated European continent some stock car flavor.
Since 2009, the Euro Series has crisscrossed the continent showcasing dazzling driving talent and a brand new style of racing on some of the continent’s most prestigious road courses.
NASCAR’s foray into Europe has opened the door for some Europeans to have a viable path into the top three national series of NASCAR in America.
Loris Hezemans is one of the latest to do so. The 2019 Euro champion is set to make his NASCAR Xfinity Series oval debut in Saturday’s (March 13) Call 811 Before You Dig 200, driving the No. 13 Reaume Brothers Racing/MBM Motorsports Chevrolet at Phoenix Raceway.
The 23-year-old Dane made his first NXS start at Road America in 2019 but will be focusing on ovals this season. The Phoenix contest will mark the first of Hezemans’ two confirmed starts this season, the other at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Hezemans is not the only Euro champion to have made national series starts in America. Two-time champions Anthony Kumpen and Alon Day along with 2013 Elite 2 Division champion Anthony Gandon have each made several starts in America.
Day has had the most diverse resume, having made sporadic starts in all three NASCAR national series between 2016 and 2018. Day posted a best finish of 13th in the Xfinity Series at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2016. Day also became the first Israeli driver to make a NASCAR national start.
Kumpen has won 10 times on the Euro circuit and claimed its championship in 2014 and 2016. The success garnered him six NXS starts between 2015 and 2017. The Belgian also made two ARCA Menards Series East starts in 2015.
Through a partnership between Euro and the American NASCAR sanctioning body, Gandon was brought to the United States in 2013 to compete at two NXS road courses. The Frenchman’s Rick Ware Racing entry carried sponsorship from the Euro Series.
Veteran NWES driver Marc Goossens competed on American road courses before the Euro Series was even formed. Goossens’ two Cup Series starts came at Watkins Glen International in 2006 and Sonoma Raceway in 2007.
Jacques Villeneuve has competed in nearly every form of motorsport, from sports cars to open-wheel to stock cars. Villeneuve ran the full 2019 Euro season and was a highly touted road course ringer in America between 2007 and 2013.
However, drivers crossing the ocean has also gone the other direction as well.
Former drivers Rick Crawford, Victor Gonzalez Jr., Kevin O’Connell, Dale Quarterley, Stephen Young and JF Dumoulin have done the same.
2011 Cup Rookie of the Year Max Papis has also made starts in his home continent. The Italian competed part time in both Euro divisions in 2012.
The 2021 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series begins on May 15 at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Spain.