Paul Jouffreau grabs maiden NASCAR win in Italy

The first taste of the winner’s champagne is something a race car driver will remember all of his life. At Autodromo di Vallelunga, it was Paul Jouffreau who scored his maiden NASCAR Whelen Euro Series win by taking the lead at the start of the 15-lap EuroNASCAR Round 6 and beating local hero Alberto Naska. The RDV Competition driver from France visited Victory Lane for the first time and was carried by the passionate Italian fans, who loudly cheered for the 19-year-old Frenchman when he parked the #3 Ford Mustang in front of thousands of NASCAR enthusiasts under the podium.

After a perfect start in which Jouffreau swiftly took the lead, three safety car periods occupied the majority of the race. On two single file restarts, the Frenchman fended off the attacks thrown by Naska and defended his lead. As the race was interrupted by incidents and crashes shortly after each green flag dropped, Naska had no opportunity to hunt down Jouffreau, who cruised to victory under safety car conditions.

« I’ve been good at the start and it gave me the win, so I have to be happy but in no way I want to win like that, » said Jouffreau in the Victory Lane. « I wanted to have a nice big battle with Alberto as we had the set up to fight at this race, but it ended up like that. I’m happy for the win, but I would have preferred to battle with him because every race we’re close and this should be how we race. It wasn’t meant to be, but we got good points for the championship. »

Naska started from Pole Position after scoring the fastest lap in Round 5, but Jouffreau overtook the CAAL Racing driver in his #54 Chevrolet Camaro on the outside of turn 1 at the start. Afterwards, Naska was also attacked by Vladimiros Tziortzis, but Saturday’s race winner never opened the door to the Cypriot. Naska collected important points and closed the gap on Tziortzis in the overall standings to 13 points. Jouffreau sits third in points after Vallelunga, just 17 markers behind the Cypriot, who ended up third in his #5 Academy / Alex Caffi Motorsport car.

Hendriks Motorsport’s Gil Linster continued his streak of a total of six consecutive top-5 finishes in the 2023 NWES season by finishing fourth, while Team Bleekemolen’s Thomas Dombrowski scored his fifth Rookie Trophy win by finishing fifth under the checkered flag. Martin Doubek and Patrick Schober followed in sixth and seventh respectively. The Marko Stipp Motorsport duo Nick Schneider, who finished eighth, and Jack Davidson in twelfth rounded out the Rookie Trophy podium. Winning the Legend Trophy in ninth was the 73-year-old Michael Bleekemolen ahead of Claudio Cappeli and Paolo Valeri. The Lady Trophy win went to Arianna Casoli.

The first crash of the race occurred on lap 1 when the Race Art Technology teammate Thomas Toffel and Cappeli made contact. They triggered a ‘big one’ involving Max Mason, who went airborne after crashing into Toffel’s car, Igor Sicuro, Riccardo Romagnoli, Melvin de Groot, and Cesare Balistreri. All drivers involved were eliminated from the race on the spot except for Cappelli, who was able to rejoin with minor damage to his #18 Race Art Technology Ford Mustang. After the restart, Olivier Panagiotis spun and got stuck in the gravel trap and race control deployed the safety car for the second time.

A severe accident involving Nicholas Strickler ended the race under caution. The Racingfuel Motorsport car was destroyed after the American was hit by Vict Motorsport’s Valerio Marzi and hit the barrier before turn 7 at high speed. Strickler left the car uninjured and Marzi was given the black flag by the officials after they deemed the Italian to be responsible for the incident. Race control then opted to end the race under safety car conditions.

While the EuroNASCAR 2 drivers will be back in action on August 26-27 at Autodrom Most in the Czech Republic, the EuroNASCAR PRO gladiators will close an exciting NASCAR GP Italy at Autodromo di Vallelunga with the championship’s Round 6.

André Wiegold & Reza Maulana,