Ever since the start of the NASCAR era in 2012, more than 300 drivers have taken part in a NASCAR Whelen Euro Series race. Drivers such as Ander Vilariño, Anthony Kumpen, Alon Day, and Loris Hezemans made their names known by becoming series champions, while racing champions in other categories such as 2000 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Bobby Labonte and 1997 Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve have also made memorable full-season campaigns on their own.
For ten of these drivers though, their EuroNASCAR stints came very briefly with all but one of the drivers listed below having only competed in one single race week. They did, however, achieved successes in various other forms of racing – ranging from podium finishes in Formula One, Le Mans class winners, and overall; winner of the 24 Hours at Daytona. Below are our picks for the 10 drivers you might not know to have raced in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Before Bertrand Baguette went to Japan to race with Honda in Super GT, he was enjoying a stellar WEC season in 2013 with OAK Racing as he won the LMP2 class classifications in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the WEC LMP2 championship. What is lesser known of his 2013 campaign is that he made a brief appearance in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, racing the second Racing Club Partners entry in the Elite (present-day EuroNASCAR PRO) class at Tours.
Despite this being his first (and only) appearance in stock car racing, Baguette already had some experience in the ovals as he previously competed in IndyCar, driving Conquest Racing’s second full-time entry in 2010. His past oval experience certainly played a factor in Baguette’s impressive Saturday race comeback where he climbed up from 20th on the grid to finish 6th, beating then-defending series champion Ander Vilariño in the process.
The only driver in this list to made more than one appearance in the series and with previous campaigns in Cup, Xfinity, and Truck Series, Max Papis certainly had plenty of experience in stock cars when he made his first appearance at Tours in 2013 driving OverDrive’s No. 33 car in the Elite class. His first race was a big success, finishing second to Frederic Gabillon by only 1.057 seconds. The second race, however, was a disaster: He was disqualified from the race and was classified 25th – and last – as a result.
The next round at Monza saw him made his second and final appearance in the series so far. Taking over the No. 19 Scorpus Racing entry to field himself and Luigi Moccia as part of “Max Papis Racing”, the Monza races tell a mostly similar story to Tours: Performing admirably to finish 6th in the Saturday race and struggled in the Sunday race, finishing in 21st place and 5 laps down from race winner Yann Zimmer.
British automotive fans who read this may ask “Hang on, Tiff Needell? The host of the original Top Gear and Fifth Gear?” towards this and yes, it is that very same Tiff Needell.
Already 61 years old by the time he made his only appearance in the series, Needell was entered to the 2013 Le Mans Finals to drive the No. 19 entry – now a Ford Mustang fielded by Ford Autolix Competition – in the Open (present-day EuroNASCAR 2) class as part of Fifth Gear’s special coverage of the series. The episode that featured this, aptly titled “European NASCAR”, was aired on 31 March 2014 as the sixth episode of Fifth Gear’s 24th season.
On the track itself, Needell performed respectably in qualifying as he managed to qualify 9th for the Saturday race in a rain-affected Qualifying despite having zero experience and struggling to find grip throughout the session. The races, however, tell a different story – Vincent Gonneau torpedoed him out from the first race, while an overly-aggressive Xavier Michel gave him a race-ending puncture late in the second race.
Despite this, he found the experience to be enjoyable and states at the end of the broadcast that he wants to give the series another go, something that he hasn’t be able to fulfil yet since.
Domenico “Mimmo” Schiattarella, who competed with Simtek in the 1995 Formula One season and gave the team its joint-best finish in that year’s Argentine GP, was among one of the several Formula One drivers to compete in the series when he made an appearance in the 2015 Valencia NASCAR Fest as the Elite 1 driver of Double T’s No. 6 Chevrolet team. He performed respectably in his sole race week, finishing 6th in his first ever NASCAR race before being forced to retire from the second race.
As covered in our “Recognizing the Female Drivers that have Raced and Achieved Success in EuroNASCAR” article, Michela Cerruti made a brief appearance in the series when she was signed to drive Double T’s No. 9 Chevrolet in the Elite 1 class at Brands Hatch in 2015. Cerruti, who has practically raced everything in her career, failed to make a considerable impression in her sole race week in the series as she scored a double DNF that week. Despite this, her participation that week marked the last start by a female driver in EuroNASCAR’s top class until Ellen Lohr made her debut at Valencia in 2019.
At the time competing for Viva Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Jeffrey Earnhardt – grandson of Dale Sr. and nephew of Dale Jr. – earned himself a chance to compete in the series during the 2015 American Speedfest at Brands Hatch thanks to his sponsor Fronius’ roots in Europe.
Jeffrey’s sole race week in EuroNASCAR was a race of two tales: A mistake in the first race forced him to retire halfway through the race, but he fought back in the second race to secure himself an impressive 7th place finish, beating series veterans such as Freddy Nordstrom and Frederic Gabillon along the way.
Renger van der Zande
When Alex Caffi Motorsport made their debut in the series in late 2016, they made the decision to enter a second car in the season finale race week at Zolder. The driver chosen by Alex Caffi to drive his team’s No. 33 Chevrolet SS – ran in collaboration with future Euro Series team Mishumotors – at Zolder is the 2016 IMSA Prototype Challenge champion Renger van der Zande.
Despite zero experience in stock car racing beforehand, van der Zande competed at the top of the field at Zolder and secured himself a double Top-5 finish in his only race week in the series. Since then, van der Zande has continued to achieve success in sportscar racing, culminating in him winning the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona in 2019 and 2020 with Wayne Taylor Racing.
Veteran Japanese sportscar and Super GT racer Yuya Sakamoto made a one-off appearance in Alex Caffi Motorsport’s No. 2 Toyota Camry during the 2017 American Speedfest at Brands Hatch, temporarily replacing fellow countryman Kenko Miura as the Elite 2 class driver of that team. Sakamoto enjoyed a respectable debut week in the series, generally fighting in the mid-pack and scored himself a Top-10 finish in the Sunday race.
He has since returned to sportscar racing and is currently enjoying a career renaissance in GT World Challenge Asia. Competing for HubAuto Corsa in the No. 29 Ferrari 488 GT3, Sakamoto scored 5 podium finishes and was a title challenger all-season long, eventually finishing 4th in the overall standings.
CART superstar and former Indy 500 pole sitter Bruno Junqueira made a brief cameo in the series when Mishumotors signed him to drive the team’s No. 33 Chevrolet SS at Brands Hatch in 2017. Prior to this, Junquiera have already raced in a stock car racing series before, albeit it was through Stock Car Brazil, which was more similar to touring cars than the American-styled stock cars.
Like many drivers in the list, his races tell two different stories. Junqueira finished just outside of the Top-10 in the first race, while an incident in the second race left him several laps down, eventually finishing in 21st position as the last car still running in the race.
DTM champion, touring car star, and former Ferrari podium finisher Nicola Larini made his sole appearance in the series at Euro Series’ first ever race in Franciacorta in 2017. He followed the footsteps of his brother Andrea, who had previously competed in a part-time schedule with OverDrive in the 2014 season.
Driving for Alex Caffi Motorsport’s No. 1 entry in the Elite 1 class, Nicola’s sole race week told a similar story to many drivers listed in this list. Generally performing respectably in his debut week, Nicola finished just outside of the Top-10 in the first race before he was forced to retire late in the second race.
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.