The 2020 silly season continues to bring its fair share of surprises as the news that came out this week brought up major implications to CAAL Racing, who is set to have a major shake-up in their driver roster this year as star driver Alon Day leaves the team to pursue new opportunities while Gianmarco Ercoli will be returning to the team that gave him the opportunity to make his EuroNASCAR debut back in 2014.
The first piece of the puzzle came on 22 January when CAAL Racing’s star driver, two-time NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion Alon Day, announced through social media that he will be leaving the team to took upon new challenges in the sport after five very successful years with the Italian team.
Day’s split with CAAL Racing will mark the end of Euro Series’ most successful driver-team partnership in history. In 5 seasons with the Italian team, Day won 20 races, scored 23 pole positions, set 20 fastest laps, and 2 back-to-back championships in 2017 and 2018.
Day’s successful stint with CAAL Racing also enabled him to make the jump to the United States and also made him the first Euro Series driver to race in all three of NASCAR’s national series. His stint in the States includes a memorable performance with MBM at Road America in 2016 where in his Xfinity Series debut, he capitalized on the rain conditions to bring home the “Zombie Dodge” in 13th place after running in the Top 10 for the majority of the race.
“After 5 years racing for CAAL Racing in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, it is time to end an era,” said Day in his social media feed. “I won so many races, countless number of trophies, pole positions, fastest laps, and 2 glorious championship rings together with CAAL Racing team. This team has become like my family, the people and the friendships will last forever.”
“A new decade is starting now and will bring new challenges and an exciting new chapter in NASCAR. Thank you CAAL for all of the memories.”
A possible replacement for Day at CAAL Racing was announced three days later on 25 January, when it is revealed that 2015 EuroNASCAR 2 champion Gianmarco Ercoli will be switching teams to CAAL Racing as he chases the opportunity to become the first driver to be crowned champion in the series’ two main divisions, EuroNASCAR PRO and EuroNASCAR 2.
Ercoli, nicknamed “Mr. Clean” for both the Mr. Clean sticker featured in his helmet and his clean driving style, scored his best career championship finish in the Elite 1 category last year despite only scoring a single podium finish at Hockenheim and having a slow start with 2 DNFs in the first four races of the season. Consistent results in the double-point Playoffs races saw Ercoli climbed up the order on the latter stages of the season and he would finish the season in 6th place having scored a total of 8 Top-10 finishes.
“With CAAL we always had a good relationship and we kept in touch in the last few years and I am really happy to join them in 2020,” said Ercoli in the official media announcement. “We already did very well together and we want to pick up where we left. I’m sure they are perfectly prepared and we’ll have to work to hit the ground running in Valencia.”
“I want to thank everybody at Racers Motorsport because we had five great years together. Now I’m ready to open a new chapter and I’m looking forward to hit the track again soon!”
As previously mentioned, Ercoli had previously competed for CAAL Racing back in 2014. Initially driving the No. 31 Chevy before he was transferred to the No. 25 team for the 2014 Playoffs, Ercoli scored 2 podium finishes and 5 Top-10 finishes on his way to finish 11th in the Elite 2 class on his debut Euro Series season before he left for the Double T team, an organization that would eventually evolve into Racers Motorsport after a merger with Dario Caso’s Vict Motorsport in the 2017 off-season.
“We are very happy to have Gianmarco back with us after 5 years,” said Luca Canneori, team manager for CAAL Racing. “He’s a driver who showed since the very beginning he has the potential to be among the best and the last few years he improved a lot and CAAL Racing did as well. We did a positive test and we are looking forward to the upcoming season, we are confident we can fight for the title and we believe Gianmarco can take the final step and climb on top of the final podium in Hockenheim.”
In addition to his goal of chasing the PRO title, the 2020 season schedule will give Ercoli an extra motivation to compete at his best as one of the race weeks for this year is scheduled to be held at Vallelunga, located just 20 miles north of Ercoli’s hometown of Rome.
“The ambition is the same as the other 30 drivers on the grid: winning,” said Ercoli on his goals for 2020. “We want to be competitive for the win right from the start and score as many points as possible because with such a strong competition in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, the margin for error is getting smaller and smaller every year. I am particularly looking forward to the Vallelunga playoff race because it’s my home track and it’s a challenging one. I’ll be even more motivated and I’ll wait for everybody at the Colosseum!”
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / CAAL Racing.