ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kent Whitaker, often called ‘the Deck Chef,’ is a sportswriter, culinary writer, and cookbook author with fourteen titles. He covers NASCAR, racing in general, Football, barbecue, grilling, and tailgating. You can visit him on “www.thedeckchef.com ” or on Facebook at “Kent Whitaker”
In case you’re not a die-hard Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series fan you may not know that NASCAR races in Europe! Yep, you read that correctly. NASCAR races across the pond and they’ve been doing so since 2012 with the formation of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
The ball started rolling several years before 2012 with the formation of the Racecar Euro-Series which raced under the banner of FJ Group – a race team out of France. Essentially, a race team wanted to try their hand at racing American style stock cars and invited their friends to come along for the ride. Participation grew as new teams started showing up for events.
Then, the number of teams grew and competition increased, the fans followed. The series grew to the point that the young American style racing series gained the approved of FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile). FIA is a legendary name in motorsports sanctioning and this partnership set the stage for NASCAR to join in on the fun.
Joining other NASCAR Countries and Cheerleaders
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series joined Canada and Mexico as countries outside of the United States that had officially NASCAR sanction series in 2012 and things started with a bang… actually with a cheer. One of the trademark looks of the Euro Series is that they love to combine other American themes into their race weekends.
You’ll see cheerleaders, NFL style football demonstrations, barbecue, beer tents, driver events, and live concerts. It’s easy to imagine that you’re walking around your local County Fair! Or, you may be reminded of the infield of Daytona or the Parking lots at Bristol Motor Speedway because of all of the NASCAR clothing and flags.
As for the cheerleaders, think of them as the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series having their own version of Victory Lane ladies or NASCAR Monster Energy Girls. The connections to the Euro Series and NASCAR in North America even goes further. Now, NASCAR drivers are showing up in Europe to climb behind the wheel of a NASCAR Euro Series car.
NASCAR Champion and Other Drivers Crossing the Pond
When Team FJ and FIA finalized an agreement with NASCAR because the series had grown in popularity with European race fans. NASCAR style rules and standards were put in place to more align with their North American Counterparts. The goal was to give European fans the most authentic, and competitive, stock car series possible. Who knew it would go even further?
As the Series has grown the connection to NASCAR in American has grown. The NASCAR Euro Champion is now part of the NASCAR Nights of Champions event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina. And, drivers from the states have taken notice.
One such driver is former NASCAR Cup Series Champion Bobby Labonte who has frequented the series with a full run in 2018. The growth of the series is something that Labonte touched on.
“The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is very successful and I really love the fact that NASCAR is present in many different countries,” Labonte said. “I think the Euro Series is a really good environment both to develop a NASCAR career and race at very competitive level with low costs. It will be fun to be able to get in a Euro NASCAR car.”
Labonte may be the first NASCAR Cup Series Champion to take part in a NWES race as a driver – but, he’s not the first North American NASCAR driver to pilot a NASCAR Euro Series car. Names such as Max Papis, Jeffery Earnhardt, Rick Crawford, and more have taken the green flag in NWES races. And, NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon served as the Grand Marshall for the finals in 2016.
Now it’s not uncommon for Euro Series drivers to appear stateside for NASCAR events. 2016 NWES Champion Stienes Longin has raced several times in the NASCAR Xfinity Series including racing during the season opener at Daytona. Other NWES drivers that have crossed the pong include international names such as Anthony Kumpen, Alon Day, and Frederic Gabillon. You can bet even more drivers will make the trip!
Making NASCAR a Global Series
Yes, the NASCAR Euro Series does have cheerleaders… which is amazingly awesome as the series taps into American sports culture. But, the series is spreading the brand of stock-car racing, which was born in the illegal world of moonshine runners, to a global audience. Now, European stock car races fans won’t have to watch delayed coverage or stay up all night to see a race across the globe. They can pack their cooler, grab their favorite driver hat or shirt, and head to the track for a race… in Europe!
Photo Credit: NWES