Our second Race Preview for NASCAR GP Belgium takes a look at what we can expect from the title challengers, Junior Trophy and Challenger Trophy drivers in EuroNASCAR PRO on the upcoming races at Circuit Zolder.
NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will be back for the penultimate round of the 2022 season at Circuit Zolder this week as a total of 30 teams and 51 drivers from all three classes are currently listed on the Entry List that revealed some surprise non-appearances along with the confirmation of the return of some of the sport’s familiar names.
Given that NASCAR GP Belgium will see some drivers earn two chances to score a finishing result that could change what results will be dropped from their current results, our Race Preview for NASCAR GP Belgium will be split into four parts as we will create an extra part that will be focused on the dropped points aspect of this year’s championship.
Alon Day kept his position as the championship leader at the conclusion of the previous round at Autodrom Most, but that status could be at risk following the reveal that he won’t be racing at Zolder due to the return of both Anthony Kumpen and Pol van Pollaert in the PK Carsport team.
As we previously mentioned in Part 1 of our Zolder Race Preview series, Day’s absence would open up the opportunity for drivers such as Alexander Graff and Giorgio Maggi to not only close the gap, but also to potentially take over the lead of the championship at Zolder as the Israeli will not score any points and is unable to drop the 16th place finish that he scored from the second race at Brands Hatch.
Graff established his position as a potential championship contender from the season opener at Valencia when he scored the pole position in his first race for the SpeedHouse squad and the following races has since affirmed his championship contention capabilities. Title contention in EuroNASCAR is built through consistency and Graff has shown that with the 7 Top-5 finishes, including his maiden victory at Brands Hatch, that he has scored so far.
The only real blip in Graff’s season so far is the 21st place finish that he had in the first race at Brands Hatch. Given his consistent Top-5 track record, it looks certain that the Swede will be able to put the 21st place finish as one of his two dropped results of the year.
A 5th place finish would allow Graff to gain back the 16-point deficit that he currently has to Day, but anything higher would allow him to claim the championship lead when the series heads to the final round at Rijeka on 29-30 October.
Recent misfortunes from some of the other contenders have elevated Giorgio Maggi to third place in his most successful season in the top class of EuroNASCAR so far. Maggi has yet to visit the Victory Lane this year, but a run of three consecutive podiums and 6 Top-10 finishes made him a strong contender for this year’s title.
Maggi has two finishes that he would like to place on the backburner after the round at Zolder is over: An 18th place finish at Valencia 2 due to a post-race penalty and a 20th place finish at Most 1 due to his involvement in the Big One on the start of the race.
A maximum of 44 points – without most positions gained points – are on the grabs for the Swiss driver this week and with Maggi being 38 points behind, there’s a chance that he would grab the championship lead instead.
For Nicolò Rocca, two back-to-back setbacks that resulted in a 22nd and 24th place classification finishes have relegated the Italian to 4th place on the standings. Even though Rocca is currently 43 points behind Day, he also had a chance to regain the championship lead as Rocca would be able to earn a maximum of 52 points this weekend if he were to win both races at Zolder.
Martin Doubek, Hendriks Motorsport’s leading title contender, would have a tougher job on his hand as he can only score a maximum of 42 points without the most positions gained bonus points this weekend.
Doubek, the defending EuroNASCAR 2 champion, has quietly placed himself into title contention with his consistent top-5 finishing record in the first half of the season, but the setbacks that he experienced on his home round at Most has certainly lowered his chances of winning the title in the top class this year.
Gianmarco Ercoli would also have to contend with a lowered chance of title victory this year. With only two slots of dropped results, his three finishes out of the top-20 meant that the Italian is guaranteed to bring at least one of them into his final standing results.
Despite this, every race that he has finished mistake free has resulted in a podium finish or better. With a maximum of 58 points to gain without most positions gained points in consideration, all the Italian needs to do in Zolder is to maintain the string of podium finishes so that he can minimize his 69-points deficit to Day as much as possible.
In the Junior Trophy, Giorgio Maggi looks certain to clinch the title even though there’s still a maximum of 264 points up for grabs in the last two rounds of the 2022 season. Given that Maggi is the only Junior Trophy driver to consistently finish in the top-10, the battle to become the second-best Junior Trophy driver will arguably be the highlight for the sub-classification for drivers aged 25 or under at the start of the year.
Liam Hezemans and Jonne Rautjärvi were separated by just 2 points in the battle for Junior Trophy’s runner-up, but crucially Liam will be able to gain maximum championship points whilst Rautjarvi is subjected to dropped points at Zolder. With Liam being able to contend in the sharp end of the field, the races at Zolder will give Liam the opportunity to make as much ground as possible for the season finale at Rijeka.
Ukraine’s Yevgen Sokolovskiy enters Zolder as the leader in the Challenger Trophy as his second career top-10 finish at Most catapulted him ahead of Henri Tuomaala, who suffered a weekend full of misfortunes in the fourth round of the 2022 season. Cosimo Barberini and Fabrizio Armetta remains in contention for the Trophy as both drivers came to Zolder with a large chance of bettering their two worst results of their season so far.
Max Lanza, on the other hand, is certainly going to better his two worst results of the season as it came from his double DNS at Brands Hatch. With the most top-10 finishes out of the Challenger Trophy drivers in the 2022 grid, finishing the races mistake free will be the priority for Lanza if he wants to become the Challenger Trophy winner at the end of the season.
Disclaimer: Unless noted on the photo, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese / Klemen Sofric.
Last Updated: 6 October 2022