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.