MOST, Czech Republic – The inaugural NASCAR Whelen Euro Series race at Autodrom Most provided the fans with a dramatic finish after Loris Hezemans’ engine blew up with four laps to go.
Nicolo Rocca inherited the lead and went on to grab his fourth NWES career win – and his first of the season – when the race ended under caution due to the oil left on track by the No. 50 Mustang.
The Italian started from pole position but had to surrender the lead to Hezemans at the first turn. The Dutchman went on to build a comfortable lead and seemed hard to stop in his quest for his first win of the season, but Lady Luck wasn’t on his side.
Rocca, who was running second and trying to close the gap, took over the lead and won the race under caution. The PK Carsport driver also won the Junior Trophy classification. The Italian went back to Victory Lane 1386 days after his 2015 round win at Magione, Italy.
“It feels so good to be back in Victory Lane,” said Rocca, who posted the fastest lap of the race. “First of all, I’m very sorry for Loris. It was a tough race, we both pushed so hard. It’s a shame that he had to retire early. I could have caught him and then we would have had a nice fight. I will start from pole position tomorrow. Right now, I’m just really happy.”
“I’m really disappointed, because the car felt great the whole race,” added Hezemans. “There were no signs of an engine failure. I came down the straight, hit the brake and shifted normally to third but the engine blew up. We were just unlucky.”
Rocca’s teammate Stienes Longin grabbed his fifth second place finish of the year. The Belgian edged former ELITE 2 champion Thomas Ferrando, who climbed on the third step of the podium in his debut with CAAL Racing.
The Frenchman was second in the Junior Trophy classification.
Both Longin and Rocca dramatically closed the points gap in the ELITE 1 standing to Alon Day, who made contact with Jacques Villeneuve, forcing the Canadian to bring his Go Fas Racing Chevrolet Camaro to an early stop. Day suffered a puncture in the incident.
Day was then penalized for an avoidable collision with the former Formula One champion, copping a 10-point penalty for the contact that brings him down to third in the standings.
Longin now leads with eight points on Rocca and nine on Day.
Lucas Lasserre put up a strong performance from sixth on the grid and finished fourth ahead of Sebastiaan Bleekemolen.
The Dutchman, for his part, grabbed his first ever Euro NASCAR top five at the 4.222-kilometer Autodrom Most and showed promising pace in his No. 69 Ford Mustang.
Francesco Sini scored a solid sixth place collecting good points on his way towards the top-10, while Gianmarco Ercoli finished seventh grabbing the last spot on the Junior Trophy podium. Henri Tuomaala, who ended up eighth under the checkered flag, won the Challenger Trophy ahead of Eric De Doncker and Mauro Trione.
Alexander Graff, who fought his way back in the top-10 from 13th, was ninth ahead of three-time NWES champion Ander Vilarino. The Spaniard was coming from 15th of the grid and collected his fifth top-10 result in the 2019 NWES season.