NASCAR sanctioned series continues impressive growth throughout Europe
Motorsport.com Germany editor Mario Fritzsche recently caught up with NASCAR Whelen Euro Series owner and CEO Jerome Galpin for an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com to talk about the state of the series and the upcoming 2017 season for the only NASCAR-sanctioned series in Europe.
The series opens its season on April 8 at Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain.
What is the current state of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series just before start of 2017 season?
Galpin: The series is growing day by day. As you can see here in Daytona the potential of stock car racing and NASCAR is huge. We can measure every day that fans, drivers, teams, sponsors are really excited by this form of racing. I think we are just 20 or 25 percent of the way. The sport has a great future. We are blessed to have all the guys here at NASCAR supporting us and helping us in every level of the sport. The future is bright. Just flat out!
What was it like having your defending champion, Anthony Kumpen, running the Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway?
Galpin: Yes. It’s part of his prize to be the champion. We offer the opportunity to our drivers to race in the U.S. We brought Anthony here in Daytona. Last year, Alon Day was elected to the NASCAR Next program to do five races in the U.S. He will come back this year. Anthony should also be back this summer to run some road course races. Arianna Casoli, our Lady Cup winner, tested also in February with Mike Skinner to get some coaching. We try to bring as many drivers as we can. It’s kind of a student exchange programme to help the sport grow in Europe. We try to make the ocean a little bit smaller.
What are your thoughts on having Hockenheimring in Germany for the first time on the schedule this year?
Galpin: We are super excited about that. When the people from the Hockenheimring came to us and said they’d like us to race on their track it was like a dream. For us, it started with a small French series. Now we’re racing at Brands Hatch, Valencia and now Hockenheim. This track is a big part of the European racing history. For us, it’s just amazing to be able to race on this track. The people at Hockenheim, Mr. Bensemann and Mr. Seiler, are big fans of NASCAR. They are really willing to build our event as we are doing it at Valencia, Brands Hatch, Venray and so on as a great American-themed festival. It should be a lot of fun for the whole family. We have high expectations for the Hockenheim event. We can’t wait to be there.
Is the contract with Hockenheim for one year or longer term?
Glapin: It’s scheduled to be long-term contract, because we and our friends at the Hockenheimring think that one year doesn’t make sense. But the Hockenheimring is a big thing. So we decided to see what happens in the first year and then move forward with the partnership. I hope, Hockenheim will be the home of NASCAR in Germany for many years.
What are the chances for the new Racepark Meppen to be on the schedule in the future?
Galpin: We keep in touch with Harry Maessen, the owner of the track. Obviously, he is doing great things for the sport by building oval tracks in Europe. Not only oval tracks, but especially ones that are the right size for us. At the moment we have to follow our trend to grow the series step by step. So we are not in a hurry to rush anything there. But the track is being built. Harry will have some races there. After that we will investigate and once we are ready to go we will go there. At the moment our strategy is to run a good NASCAR event in, let’s say, the seven or eight major European countries. We will get a great event in Germany this year. With all events we will have a very good footprint which is our mid-term goal.”
Are there certain race tracks in mind where you would like to have a race?
Galpin: We want to work with the people who have the right mind for this. We want to make an event for the fans, for the whole family. We want to see smiles on their faces. For NASCAR racing, whether you race at Daytona or Bristol or Watkins Glen, the spirit of the sport is important. The track itself is not that important. You can have great races on every kind of track. It’s more about the spirit and the will to build a great event for the fans.
Tours Speedway in France is not on the schedule this year. Besides Meppen, are there plans for other ovals on the schedule in coming years?
Galpin: Last year, we had great races in Tours. The fans were there and the promotion was there. For this year, the promotion in the paddock and so on was missing. We were a bit confused and a bit disappointed by that. The same applies to our teams. So we said: ‘Look, even if Tours is our baby… If the promoter of the event is not able to bring promotion like it is supposed to be, we have to find another way.’ That’s when the Hockenheim opportunity arose. At the moment, we are discussing to bring Tours back on the calendar for next year. Meppen is an option, too. In general, oval racing is a great part of the championship. For sure, we will work to have at least a second oval on the schedule.”
What is your prediction for the 2017 season?
Galpin: The big guys like Anthony or Alon are coming back. Borja Garcia will be there. Marc Goossens has rediscovered the championship. Last year, he had some clashes with the IMSA calendar. This year, he will only have one clash. With a joker race he will be able to contend for the championship. So, Marc will be a factor for sure. We also have some good newcomers. I see a good ten drivers fighting hard for the championship. It will be cool.