Our second Race Preview for NASCAR GP Croatia takes a look at what we can expect from the battle for the championship as Alon Day chases the golden opportunity to become EuroNASCAR’s first-ever four-time champion at Rijeka.

The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will be back this week for the season finale of the 2022 season, the EuroNASCAR Finals at the Automotodrom Grobnik in Croatia.

The beautiful mountainous range that surrounds the circuit at Rijeka will provide the perfect backdrop for the Finals as 30 teams and 50 drivers are ready to participate in the grand finale based on what is listed in the Provisional Entry List that was revealed on 27 October 2022. 

As with our other previews this year, the first part of the season finale preview will be focused on the Entry List changes as previews for the EuroNASCAR PRO and the EuroNASCAR 2 title race will be posted at a later date.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Alon Day’s one-off appearance for SpeedHouse at Zolder didn’t go as well as the Israeli had hoped, but he was able to secure 5 extra championship points to put him 6 points ahead of Gianmarco Ercoli as the EuroNASCAR PRO drivers entered Rijeka this weekend. 

Now with him back on the wheel of PK Carsport’s No. 24 Monster Energy Camaro, Day will be needing to utilize all of his past Playoffs experience if he wants to secure a historic fourth EuroNASCAR title, an achievement that would further legitimize Day’s status as one of, if not the greatest driver in EuroNASCAR history.

He needs to be wary of his former teammate Gianmarco Ercoli however, as his sweep at Zolder meant that Ercoli will be carrying a lot of momentum heading to Rijeka. Ercoli, who was 59 points behind Day entering Zolder, managed to claw 58 points back after he secured the maximum amount of points that he can earn in the penultimate round of the 2022 season.

Ercoli stated at Zolder that he needs four wins if he wants to have a shot at the title this year and he has already secured two of them. With the combination of Ercoli, CAAL’s No. 54 team, and Rijeka proven to be near-unbeatable last year, another sweep in the season finale would realize Ercoli’s dream of becoming the champion in EuroNASCAR’s top class for the first time in his career.

Another driver with an ambition of becoming a first time EuroNASCAR champion at Rijeka is SpeedHouse’s Alexander Graff, who is certainly going to go all in this weekend. The Swede only has one race victory compared to Day’s four and Ercoli’s three, but his consistency allowed him to stay in the game all season long.

Graff’s performance has been a revelation as he showcased to the world why he is a multi-time champion in Scandinavia’s V8 Thunder Cars with his stunning performances behind the wheel of the No. 64 Motul/On1Call Ford. With double points in play for the season finale, a small misfortune from Day and/or Ercoli could be all that the Swede needs to secure his first championship title in EuroNASCAR.

Valencia season opener race winner Nicolò Rocca and four-time podium finisher Giorgio Maggi are looking on the outside of the title race and would likely need to have some luck to come on their way, but do not count them out just yet as double points meant that they are still in a relatively good position in the title race despite being 21 and 26 points behind Alon Day respectively. 

Czech Republic’s Martin Doubek is also looking on the outside, but his recent string of poor results could spell trouble for his title hopes. As for Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, it’s undeniable that his performance in the No. 69 car has improved massively in the second half of the season, but the mediocre form in the first half of the season has left him 37 points behind Day and it would require some miracle for the Dutch driver if he wants to become a surprise title winner in 2022.

For drivers such as Frédéric Gabillon, Romain Iannetta, Vittorio Ghirelli, and Patrick Lemarié, it will be more of a quest for personal glory at Rijeka. These four drivers have been a consistent challenger for top-5 and top-10 finishes, but they have yet to seal the deal with the victory gods just yet. A win in the season finale would be the perfect way to end their season on a high note.

In the battle of sub-championships, it is hard to imagine that Maggi is going to be toppled from the top of the Rookie Trophy standings even though his advantage to Liam Hezemans has been reduced to 81 points after dropped points were put into consideration. It would take a monumental misfortune on Maggi’s behalf if Liam and Jonne Rautjärvi wanted to stand a chance of winning the sub-championship for drivers aged 25 and under.

Things are a lot closer for the Challenger Trophy, however, as the two leaders Fabrizio Armetta and Max Lanza would enter Rijeka with the same amount of points – 194 points. Armetta has the edge currently through a better tiebreaker, but he knew that any slip-up would give Lanza the perfect opportunity to secure the top Challenger Trophy honors on his first full season in the top class.

They wouldn’t be the only one with a realistic shot at the Challenger Trophy though, as Henri Tuomaala and Cosimo Barberini were both separated from the duo of Armetta and Lanza by just 12 points. Tuomaala has received accolades as the best of the gentlemen drivers in ENPRO for two years while Barberini has showcased solid consistency to propel himself into the top of the Challenger Trophy fight. A real tense battle between these four is to be expected at Rijeka as the battle for the top gentlemen’s driver in 2022 is still far from over.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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: 28 October 2022

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