NASCAR: Belgium’s Kumpen takes Whelen Euro Series title at Le Mans

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This past weekend at Le Mans’ Bugatti Circuit, Anthony Kumpen of Belgium secured the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series title by one point over two-time and defending series champion Ander Vilarino of Spain.

Vilarino started the Le Mans Finals doubleheader on Saturday with an 11-point lead over Kumpen. That day’s race appeared to be won by Eddie Cheever III, but the son of the former Indy 500 champion was penalized 30 seconds for gaining positions while not respecting track limits – handing the victory over to Kumpen, who had finished second on track.

With Kumpen now first and Vilarino placing third, the Spaniard’s championship lead was cut to one point going into Sunday’s final battle.

Sunday started under the safety car due to wet track conditions, and pole sitter Vilarino picked up bonus points for leading the opening lap.

But when the green came out, Cheever raced to the lead and never looked back en route to victory and a measure of redemption for what occurred the day before.

While Cheever was cruising, Vilarino and Kumpen were left to duke it out for the title. But on the fifth lap, Vilarino not only lost second to Kumpen but, most critically, third as well to Frederic Gabillon of France.

The latter position swap proved to be the difference, as Kumpen’s second place finish gave him the slim edge he needed to dethrone fourth-place finisher Vilarino.

“It’s fantastic to win the championship in our first year with a new project,” said Kumpen. “I looked at NASCAR for all my life and now that NASCAR is in Europe, to be the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Champion is a dream come true.”

Kumpen, who drives the No. 24 car in the Euro Series, also got a shout-out on Twitter from another No. 24 – four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon:

Kumpen will now join the rest of the NASCAR touring series champions in being honored during a December ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.