After scoring his second NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Championship, Anthony Kumpen is getting a second shot at racing in the XFINITY Series, currently set to run a pair of events this season for Precision Performance Motorsports.
One of those races, which has the Belgian excited, is the XFINITY Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway later on this month.He got to make his first trip to Daytona last season, posting a 26th place finish for a “good first experience.”
“Back in Europe, we mainly do road courses and some smaller ovals,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “So last year at Daytona was a complete new experience for me after three previous races and some K&N Races. It’s a big step for me, a big experience, and the experience from last year will help. Last year was mainly working on my skills on the track and getting acquainted with a big oval and working in the draft. Now I know what’s coming up so will try to do better.”
He noted the biggest surprise was the amount speed, as it is “way faster” than the speeds he carries in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series on their ovals and road courses. It also brought a new learning experience in figuring out how the draft works, too.
“I learn a lot about every minute that I run and the more laps I feel more comfortable,” he said. “It’s always a big step.”
It’s why going into this year, while he isn’t aiming too high and would be happy if he came away from the event with a top-15 finish.
“That’ll be a tough fight for me being the second time on a big track, but the experience from last year should help,” he said. “Last year, I finished 26th so we should aim higher and at least make the top-20, possibly top-15.”
Outside of Daytona, the current plan for Kumpen includes running the XFINITY Series race at Mid-Ohio later on this month, which could see him run even stronger with having a load of road course experience. There is also the possibility to run more races this season, as Kumpen says they’re “working on it.”
“We’re talking to Nexteer and other sponsors that are involved in the Euro Series,” he said. “We had to set up a basic program because I’m also doing the full Euro Series again. So our championship is starting a bit later in April, but we end already in October, and we have a summer break in August. So we are trying to do some more races in August, possibly some road courses, and then try to come at the end of the XFINITY Series to the US. The goal is to add at least two or three more races to the program.
“We’re working very hard on that, and I have to say Nexteer and all the other partners from the Euro Series are helping in that. The more exposure we get, the better for our sponsors and the more easy it will be to get a bigger program. That’s why we also try to do a good result, good coverage and try to make the program than set-up so far.”
Right now, though, Kumpen is cherishing the current opportunity he has virtue of the NASCAR Whelen Series and Nexteer Road to Daytona program, which was put together to try and help European drivers make it in NASCAR’s top-tier divisions. It’s a program which has worked out fantastic for Kumpen so far, as it allowed him to run some K&N Pro Series races, along with four XFINITY Series races to date after winning the series championship in 2014. Now having won the championship again 2016, the opportunity has come forth again for Daytona.
The program has also paid off for the series as the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is currently the fastest growing series in Europe.
“Our race in (the) UK was sold out three months ahead of the event, so it’s becoming really popular in Europe, and it’s fantastic to have the opportunity as European drivers to become NASCAR drivers, something that was difficult before we had the Euro Series,” he said. “The Nexteer Program is really good for the young guys coming into the championship.
“There’s a lot of interest from the drivers themselves. We have Alex Caffi who used to be a Formula 1 driver that’s stepping into the series now. So the series is growing as you have the opportunity to go to the US and that’s something that is attracting a lot of drivers to come into our series in Europe.”
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