At the age of just 22 years old, Dexwet-DF1 Racing’s Justin Kunz is already considered as a veteran driver in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. The 2019 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season marked Kunz’s fourth full-season campaign in the series as he embarks on a new challenge with Dexwet-DF1 Racing in the Elite 2 class, a season that Kunz described as an up and down season in a press release released by his media team yesterday.
Kunz started his season on a low note after he was classified in 22nd place in the first race of the season at Valencia after he received a drive-through penalty late in the race. He then rebounded in the Sunday race at Valencia as he fought back from 13th on the grid to finish in 9th place, his first Top 10 finish of the season.
At Franciacorta, Kunz scored his best finish result of the season in the Saturday race as he scored his first Top 5 finish of the season in 4th place, just 0.592 seconds off the podium. He followed this with a 7th place finish on Race 2 to put himself in a position to fight for the championship.
“The start of the season wasn’t perfect, but then we had a strong weekend in Italy,” said Kunz, who a start in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series with Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing at Mosport last year. “I lost important points to the top in Spain but caught up in Italy. Franciacorta is a technically demanding track and I’m happy to have achieved such good results on such demanding track.”
Brands Hatch would prove to be a trickier weekend for the Appenweier-born driver. In Race 1, a race that saw Kunz’s teammate – and eventual Elite 2 champion – Lasse Sørensen famously won from last on the grid, Kunz recovered from an early drive-through penalty for jumping the restart to secure an 8th place finish. His woes then continued in Race 2 as he struggled to find pace in the No. 99 Dexwet-DF1 Chevrolet Camaro and would eventually finish outside of the Top 10 in 14th place.
Kunz would prove to be stronger in the series’ first ever visit to the Autodrom Most as he secured a double Top 10 finish – including his second Top 5 finish of the season in Race 1 – before he struggled once again in the series’ only oval race of the season at Venray. Unlike in 2018 where he managed to score his first career podium finish at Tours Speedway, Kunz struggled heavily at Venray as would finish the race in 11th place, 3 laps down from race winner Vittorio Ghirelli.
He would finish the regular season in 7th place with 228 points, 50 points behind regular season winner Giorgio Maggi.
“I’m not really satisfied with the regular season because I want to get involved in the title fight,” Kunz explains. “However, we lacked consistency and were always unlucky. Our pace was good and I proved that I could keep up at the top, but the small setbacks meant that the other drivers are building a gap in front of us in the overall standings.”
His home race at Hockenheim, however, would prove to be a disaster. Guillaume Deflandre’s last-lap engine failure in the Saturday Elite 1 race would force Kunz to not start the Saturday Elite 2 race – the second DNS of his career – after the team was unable to change the engine of the No. 99 Camaro in time before the start of the Elite 2 race. Mechanical problems would continue to affect Kunz’s weekend as he’s noticeably off the pace in the Sunday Elite 2 race and would only finish the race in 21st place, effectively ending his championship hopes for this year.
Zolder would prove to be another up and down weekend for him. In Race 1, Kunz was running in the battle for the Top 5 finishing positions for the majority of the race and would eventually claim a 5th place finish after Advait Deodhar received a post-race penalty for an unsafe rejoin and defending on Kunz in the last lap of the race.
Later in the weekend, despite starting from 5th place on the grid in Race 2, Kunz struggled to find pace in the wet conditions as he would close out the 2019 season with an 11th place finish in Race 2. Kunz finished his season in 9th place in the overall Elite 2 standings with 406 points, 167 points behind teammate and series champion Lasse Sørensen.
“Overall, it was a season with ups and downs,” said Kunz on his views of his 2019 season campaign. “The good results give me hope to be able to fight for the EuroNASCAR 2 title, but the technical problems has to stop for that to happen. I also have to work on consistency, which is enormously important in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. Currently I’m working on starting in the NWES in the 2020 season as well. I thank the team, the sponsors and my fans for the great support.”
The 2020 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season will start on 25-26 April with the 7th edition of the Valencia NASCAR Fest at Circuit Ricardo Tormo and will once again consists of 13 races across 7 rounds in 7 of Europe’s best race tracks.
Providing there are no changes in the broadcasting side of things, all qualifying and races for the 2020 season will be streamed live on FansChoice.tv, Motorsport.tv, and the official Facebook page and YouTube channel of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.