Our third Race Preview for NASCAR GP Belgium takes a look at what we can expect from the title challengers, Rookie Trophy, Legend Trophy, and Lady Trophy drivers in EuroNASCAR 2 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.
EuroNASCAR 2’s top rookie Alberto Naska has been a sensation both on-track and off-track as his incredible string of performances, combined with the large following that he has garnered from his YouTube career, has created an unprecedented level of buzz and hype in EuroNASCAR’s lower division.
With a perfect top-5 finishing record and a total of 5 wins and 7 podiums out of 8 races held so far, Naska is theoretically going to be hugely disadvantaged by the dropped points system as he can only score a maximum of 13 points this weekend if he was able to better his lowest two results so far – a 5th in Vallelunga 2 and one of his two runner-up finishes.
Despite this, Naska is far enough ahead of his closest rival Liam Hezemans that it’s certain that Naska will enter the season finale at Rijeka as the championship leader. It’s also certain that he would continue to push himself to his limit at Zolder as winning would not only be able to deprive his rivals of precious championship points, it would also increase his chances of tying or beating Stienes Longin’s all-time record of 8 wins in a single season.
Hendriks Toyota’s Liam Hezemans, Naska’s closest rival, would like to forget what happened in the previous round at Most as he lost 37 points from Naska in the standings thanks to his collision with teammate Martin Doubek in Race 1 and a 10-second post-race penalty due to restart violations on Race 2.
With Liam’s 18th and 13th place classified finishes at Most easily being his two worst of the year so far, gaining as many points as possible out of a maximum possible 37 points – 45 with most positions gained points in consideration – will be the priority for the younger Hezemans brother to keep himself close to Naska before the series heads to Rijeka for the season finale later this month.
Liam’s teammate Martin Doubek has quietly placed himself back in contention as his double runner-up finishes on his home race at Most – arguably a slightly fortuitous one given that he was nearly taken out by Liam late in the first race – elevated the defending EN2 champion to third place in the standings.
Unfortunately for the Czech superstar, his lack of victories despite a consistent top-5 finishing record meant that he is 52 points behind Naska already and with only 35 points in play without most positions gained in consideration, all he can hope for is to gain as many points as possible to reduce the points deficit that he have to the championship leader.
Fourth in the standings entering the final round of the regular season is Academy Motorsport’s Vladimiros Tziortzis. He has made his case as one of the fastest drivers in the EuroNASCAR 2 field this year through pace alone, but a string of misfortunes has left the Czech with a 53 points deficit to try and catch up to.
Out of this year’s “Big Four” in the EN2 division, Tziortzis stands the biggest chance of gaining points at Zolder as he would have the chance to get rid of his penalty-induced 11th place result at Valencia 1 and his retirement-induced 26th place finish at Vallelunga 2 to gain a maximum of 43 points through finishing positions alone.
He could, theoretically, enter the season finale at Rijeka with just one point of deficit if he was to gain all 43 points and also gain 8 bonus points from earning two most positions gained points, but he would need Naska to not better his two lowest finishing results and earning those wins is going to be easier said than done.
On the battle of sub-trophies, the battle for the top spot in the Rookie Trophy overall standings is going to be a foregone conclusion as Alberto Naska would also be guaranteed to enter the season finale at Rijeka as the leader given that his closest rival Paul Jouffreau, who is 69 points behind, can only gain a maximum of 51 points this week.
That being said, keep an eye out on Team Bleekemolen’s Tuomas Pöntinen as the Finn is not subjected to dropped points thanks to his late debut in the series. With Pöntinen having a chance to gain the usual maximum of 88 points this weekend, it will be an exciting prospect to see the Finn avenge his poor results at Most with a return to the podium spot at Zolder.
In the Legend Trophy, Yevgen Sokolovskiy was able to capitalize on Melvin de Groot’s absence at Most to give the Ukrainian a buffer of 45 points after he scored his first double top-10 finish in EuroNASCAR, which also includes his first ever career top-5 finish in the series.
Sokolovskiy’s teammate Miguel Gomes has also capitalized on de Groot’s absence to put himself 18 points ahead of the Dutch driver, but the two Marko Stipp Motorsport teammates knew that de Groot is likely to strike back at Zolder as not only is he not subjected to dropped points, Zolder is also the track where de Groot scored his surprise podium finish last year.
Lady Trophy will see a huge turnaround at Zolder as the absence of Aliyyah Koloc meant that Luli del Castello will have a huge chance to increase her gap to the Emirati, whose participation in the season finale Rijeka is rumored to be in doubt due to Buggyra’s preparations for the upcoming 2023 edition of the Dakar Rally.
Alina Loibnegger, fresh from her first career top-10 finish at Most, would be looking to try to increase her gap to Arianna Casoli in the standings for this weekend’s race as Casoli, EuroNASCAR 2’s most experienced driver with 75 starts as of the end of the previous round at Most, returns to the track that gave her her first career top-5 finish in the series two years ago.
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