VENRAY, The Netherlands – Loris Hezemans won an exciting 100-lap ELITE 1 oval race at Raceway Venray on Sunday with the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
The Dutchman moved into the lead on lap 86 and fended off all attacks until the checkered flag. Driving the No. 50 Hendriks Motorsport Ford , the 22-year old son of motorsport icon Toine Hezemans grabbed his third series win, second of the season and first on an oval.
After starting second, Hezemans spent the first half of the race in a fierce battle for the lead with polesitter Jacques Villeneuve. The Canadian defended the lead well, and it was Hezemans who ended up losing a spot on lap 54 to Stienes Longin.
Hezemans moved back to second on a restart at lap 73, when Villeneuve and Longin collided ahead of him and the Canadian slipped down the order. The Dutchman then hunted down Longin for the lead and made a brilliant move to overtake the 27-year-old.
The Hendriks Motorsport driver also topped the Junior Trophy classification.
“It couldn’t have gone any better for us here at Raceway Venray, but I’m still a little bit frustrated about missing the pole position,” said Hezemans. “I really wanted to give my fans here at my home race a great spectacle. It was 100 laps of action and I had some great duels with Stienes and especially Jacques.
“I’m very happy and I thank my team for the great job they did all season long.”
The contact between Longin and Villeneuve resulted in a penalty for the Belgian, who crossed the finish line second but was demoted to 13th place.
Nicolo Rocca ended up second and secured his third podium finish of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season. Despite his worst result of his season, Longin retained the ELITE 1 point lead by seven over Hezemans, who took over second place from Rocca.
“It was a nice and clean race,” said Rocca, who will enter the playoffs eight points behind. “I was focused since this morning to get into the rhythm and to score a solid result here at Venray. The restarts were really good and I never lost a position. The contact between Stienes and Jacques helped me a lot. I was told about Stienes’s penalty so I relaxed in the last laps and came home a good second.”
Villeneuve led the race until lap 72 but fell back to fourth after the contact with the No. 11 PK Carsport Chevrolet Camaro. Despite some damage to his No. 32 Go Fas Racing Camaro, the former Indy 500 winner grabbed his second Euro Series podium finish.
“The car was really hard to drive in the end, but it was good overall,” said Villeneuve, who led the most laps. “It was very loose and it took always three or four laps to get up to full speed. Stienes was a little bit too aggressive and I had to back out. I ended up in the marbles and the choice was to hit him or the wall. It doesn’t matter, as I had a great battle with Loris. That’s what we love, clean racing and intense duels.”
Three-time champion Ander Vilarino was fourth in his No. 48 Racing Engineering Ford Mustang and scored important points in the last ELITE 1 race of the regular season.
Frederic Gabillon wasn’t able to contend for the win, but closed the top-5 driving the No. 3 RDV Competition Chevrolet Camaro.
Vilarino’s teammate Romain Iannetta was sixth ahead of Ulysse Delsaux. The Frenchman was second in the Junior Trophy classification and was rewarded with four bonus points for gaining the most positions during the 100-lap race at Venray.
Reigning champion Alon Day brought home an eighth place finish, edging Salvador Tineo and Henri Tuomaala, who topped the Challenger Trophy classification for the sixth time.