Constant improvement. These were the keywords in Anthony Kumpen’s mind approaching his debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opener at the New Smyrna Speedway. The Belgian champion kept faith to them and went from 23rd to 14th in the Hart to Heart Breast Cancer Foundation 150 with a solid outing at the wheel of the #99 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series – Nexteer Automotive Toyota Camry fielded by Bill McAnally Racing. The race represented his prize for his 2014 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series title.
After a busy week that saw him test both on a Late Model and a K&N Pro Series car, take part in a Pro Late Model Race and meet NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon at Daytona International Speedway in occasion of the Sprint Unlimited, on Sunday Kumpen was immediately consistent and posted the 15th lap time overall in the final Free Practice session, just 0.5 second behind the leader, his teammate Nick Drake.
A mistake in qualifying relegated Kumpen on the 23rd spot on the grid, but he steadily progressed during the first 70-lap green flag run of the 150-lap race.
In the action-filled final stages of the Hart to Heart Breast Cancer Foundation 150 the Hasselt-native climbed up to 12th before a yellow flag that led to a green-white-checkered white checkered finish. A contact involving him and Rico Abreu then ended the race under yellow, setting up the NWES champion for fourteenth in the final standings.
The Hart to Heart Breast Cancer Foundation 150 went to 20-year-old NASCAR Next driver Austin Hill, who started from the pole and had the better hand on Dalton Sargeant in the final dash.
“It was very interesting! The only problem was my mistake in qualifying that made us start 23rd. Most of the times something happens at the front, but this time it didn’t and we had to fight for each position,” said Kumpen. “During the race I felt each lap more comfortable in the car and with the race pace and we steadily gained ground. I would have loved to finish in the top-10, but it was a fantastic experience. The team was fantastic and we had great support from the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and Jerome and Anne Galpin. I’m really happy and I hope to come back very soon”.
Sunday’s race was just the beginning of the program for Kumpen, who is eager to come back during the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series summer break. The champion’s performance underlined once more the strength of the bridge Euro NASCAR keeps building between Europe and the US.
The 2015 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will begin in Valencia on April 25-26, with the second edition of the Valencia American Fest at the Circuit de La Comunidad Valenciana Ricardo Tormo.