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NASCAR Whelen Series Explained: Is It European NASCAR?

You may have never heard of the NASCAR Whelen Series. When you think of NASCAR, you often picture the sport’s best drivers racing in the Cup Series, or even its minor leagues in the Xfinity and Truck Series. However, NASCAR has expanded operations worldwide with the Whelen Series.

The NASCAR Whelen Series comprises the EuroNASCAR Pro Series, Euro 2, and the EuroNASCAR Club Challenge. Despite its similarities to NASCAR, the Whelen Series differs in schedule and race length. They also predominantly race on road courses instead of traditional ovals.

Below, we will outline what the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is and how it began. We will provide examples of the differences between the Whelen Series and the NASCAR Cup Series in the United States, but we will also explore how the two series and their cars are similar.

What Is The NASCAR Whelen Series?

The NASCAR Whelen series is a Europe-based expansion of the NASCAR brand. It’s comprised of the EuroNASCAR Pro Series, the Euro 2 Series, and the EuroNASCAR Club Challenge. There are several differences in the cars, tracks and schedule when compared to the Cup Series.

You may realize that the Big Four North American Sports have taken their products international. The NFL International Series is a great example. And while there are no European-based football leagues under the NFL banner anymore, it has not stopped the NFL from hosting regular season games abroad in the UK and Mexico. And in 2022, the NFL further expanded into Germany.

The MLB spent time in the 2010s playing exhibition games in Sydney and London, among other places. Like many professional sports, NASCAR, throughout the 21st century, set its sights to vastly expand overseas.

However, unlike their counterparts in the NFL and MLB, NASCAR added its label to actual racing series in these regions. One of which is the European-based NASCAR Whelen Series, also known as the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.

NASCAR Whelen Series

For clarification, the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is not the same thing as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Despite similar names, the NASCAR Whelen Series uses traditional NASCAR-style cars, and the Whelen Tour uses open-wheeled vehicles.

However, unlike the Cup Series (US), Pinty’s Series (Canada), or Mexico Series it is common to see the NASCAR Whelen Series race across many different countries.

Just like with NASCAR’s Xfinity and Truck Series, you will also see different aspects between the NASCAR Whelen and Cup Series.As in NASCAR, the Whelen Euro Series features different divisions. You have the EuroNASCAR Pro Series, the Euro 2 Series, and the EuroNASCAR Club Challenge.

NASCAR Whelen Series Schedule

The scheduling differs drastically from NASCAR. For example, the 2021 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series raced for 12 races in six different countries. However, these 12 races are only held at six tracks, and there are two rounds per race, held on back-to-back days. However,like the NASCAR Cup Series, they hold multiple practices and a qualifying session leading to the first round of each event.

The schedule further differs from NASCAR’s in that their drivers do not race week after week for nine months of the year. In 2021, the Whelen Euro Series only held events between May and October.

Since the Whelen Series traveled to just six different racing venues in 2021 and again in 2022, they held between one and two events (two to four rounds) per month. These events in 2021 occurred in Spain, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Croatia, Belgium, and Italy. The same goes for 2022.

EuroNASCAR 2 And EuroNASCAR Club Challenge

Like the Xfinity Series, EuroNASCAR 2 runs a similar schedule to its EuroNASCAR Pro Series counterpart. The events occur on the same day as EuroNASCAR Pro. In 2021, the first four rounds occurred on May 14th, May 15th, July 3rd, and July 4th.

The EuroNASCAR Club Challenge ran just five events spanning between May and October. Their events did not occur over multiple days, but were two timed, 30-minute sessions.

Race Length

When you watch NASCAR Cup Series races, you know they often last between 300 and 500 miles unless rain washes out the event beyond the race’s halfway mark. Even the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Truck Series typically race between 200 and 300 miles.

The EuroNASCAR Pro races do not last as long, often running between 17 and 40 laps on tracks between 1.9 and 4.2 kilometers in length. The larger tracks run rounds closer to 17 laps, so drivers are often looking at 70 to 75 kilometers per round, and 140 to 150 for the entire event.

Converting kilometers into miles, you get between 43.49 and 46.6 miles per round. To further break things down,Spain’s Circuit Ricardo Tormo held the opening weekend event in 2021 and 2022. The 4.005-kilometer track is scheduled to run its two rounds at 18 laps apiece.

This equals 72.9 kilometers for each round (45.3 miles), which equals 145.8 kilometers (90.6 miles) for the entire event. The same holds true for each event in the EuroNASCAR Pro Series.

EuroNASCAR 2

EuroNASCAR 2 events are shorter than the Pro series, but not to the same extent that Xfinity events are to the NASCAR Cup Series. At Circuit Ricardo Tormo in 2021,EuroNASCAR 2 ran 15 laps, for a total of 60.75 kilometers per round, and 121.5 kilometers for the event. This is around 80% of the Pro Series distance, while Xfinity races are only about 60% of the length of those run in the Cup Series.

When Did The NASCAR Whelen Series Start?

The NASCAR Whelen Series started in 2013. NASCAR entered a partnership with Racecar Euro, which had been running a European stock car series since 2009, in 2012. Although the first NASCAR sanctioned season was in 2012, it didn’t become known as the “NASCAR Whelen Series” until 2013.

In 2002, Jérôme Galpin attended a NASCAR race and wanted to bring the idea of stock car racing to Europe. And while auto racing was already popular in Europe thanks to Formula One, Galpin and his family’s group, Team FJ, believed there was a market for stock car racing.

When they launched the series in 2008, the series was originally known as the Racecar Euro Series, and they planned the inaugural season to occur in 2009. Not long after, NASCAR became interested in Racecar Euro, and the two leagues entered an agreement in 2012.

Under the agreement, NASCAR would sanction the events, and Racecar Euro changed their name to the Euro-Racecar Touring Series. Under the NASCAR banner, they also implemented many of NASCAR’s rules. Finally in 2013, the series became known as the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.

Length Of Agreement With NASCAR

When NASCAR and Racecar Euro entered their initial agreement, it was set to expire in 2020. However, the two series entered a new agreement in October 2019 that extended their relationship to the 2030 season. It was also during this time where they changed the names of their Elite 1 and Elite 2 divisions to EuroNASCAR Pro and EuroNASCAR 2, respectively.

The Cars And Tracks Used In The NASCAR Whelen Series

In 2022, the NASCAR Cup Series unveiled their Next Gen Car. This car comprised sound updates to the aerodynamics and downforce, plus a new gear shift, and even new 18-inch tires. Despite being a part of NASCAR, you will see staunch differences in the cars from what the Cup Series uses. The Xfinity Series uses different cars, so how different are the cars in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series?

Cars

Just like in the NASCAR Cup Series, you see predominantly Chevy, Ford, and Toyota. The models are also similar, with the Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Toyota Camry. However, these cars do have different specifications from those in the Cup Series.

Per their website, the Whelen Euro Series requires all cars to be fitted with a FIA Certified Tubular chassis. They also require each car to weigh at least 2,690 lb, or 1,225 kg. Their top speed sits at 245 kilometers per hour, which translates to roughly 152 miles per hour.

So, the cars are not as powerful as Cup Series cars, and their 450 horsepower 5.7-liter V8engines also show this. They are rear-wheel drive, and the cars feature a manual, four-speed transmission, 10.5 x 15-inch tires, and a length, width, wheelbase ratio of 5080 x 1950 x 2740 mm.

The engines are naturally aspirated, just as you see in the NASCAR Cup Series. However, neither Sunoco nor Goodyear serve as exclusive fuel and tire providers. Instead, the Euro Series uses VP N20 Racing Fuel and they have used numerous tire manufacturers including General Tire and Hoosier.

Tracks

One huge difference between the NASCAR Whelen Series and its NASCAR Cup Series counterparts is the layout of the tracks. In the Cup Series, you predominantly see drivers racing on oval tracks and tri-ovals with a few road courses sprinkled in between.

In the Whelen Series, the opposite is true. You will see the cars racing on only road courses. However, this was not the case in the past. There were two oval tracks on the circuit, the Raceway Venray and Tours Speedway. The Whelen Series has not raced on ovals since 2019.

As of 2022, the NASCAR Whelen Series races on just six tracks: Circuit Ricardo Tormo (Spain), Brands Hatch Indy Circuit (UK), Autodromo di Vallelunga (Italy), Autodrom Most (Czech Republic), Circuit Zolder (Belgium), and Automotodrom Grobnik (Croatia).

Despite racing at just six road courses, the series has raced at roughly two-dozen tracks since its founding. The possibility always exists that they will add more tracks, especially if there is increasing demand at former or even future track locations.

Is NASCAR Big In Europe?

NASCAR is not particularly big in Europe. Though it has a strong fanbase and gets good attendances at races, it lags behind Formula 1 and IndyCar. Part of the problem is a lack of consistent television coverage, but they may use exhibition races at famous oval tracks to boost popularity.

You have the NFL hosting more games in Europe than ever before, while the NHL draws players to North America from all over the continent, predominantly Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic. Both have driven their respective sports’ popularity, and NASCAR is in the same boat.

However, none of the above leagues host an actual European league. The NFL did for a time with NFL Europe, however, the league shut down following the 2007 season in favor of the NFL International Series. One reason for NFL Europe’s shutdown was its fringe popularity in its waning years.

Having become a staple on the European motorsport scene since its inaugural season in 2009, the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series continues to grow in popularity. Which is impressive considering the presence of Formula One, who races over one-third of its schedule in Europe.

NASCAR’s Popularity In Europe

In 2014, then-champion Anthony Kumpen acknowledged the series’ growing popularity. While he acknowledged Formula One as the largest series, Kumpen also recognized the vast turnout at the NASCAR events.

Kumpen did note that for one race during the 2014 season, NASCAR’s attendance was larger than that of the Formula One race. The milestone occurred at the Nürburgring track, which held its race near the Hockenheim event that hosted the Formula One cars, roughly 200 kilometers away.

Kumpen stated at the time that the Euro Series could probably grow larger if more European NASCAR fans realized the sport wasn’t exclusive to the United States. That said, the Whelen Euro Series still had a lot of room for growth in 2014, despite its increasing popularity. In 2019, NASCAR rewarded its European counterpart by lending its name to the series for another decade.

Still Lagging Behind

While NASCAR’s popularity has grown in Europe, the sport still lacks sound television coverage on the continent. This is something that Kumpen also acknowledged two years prior in 2014. Formula 1 and IndyCar are still the far more popular series. One solution would be for NASCAR to perhaps host an exhibition race on one of Europe’s famed road courses.

Final Thoughts

The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series differs to the NASCAR Cup Series in several ways. You see predominantly shorter road course races in the Euro Series. They also race at far fewer tracks, just six in 2022. However, their popularity is growing, as seen by the partnership extension to 2030.