Loris Hezemans wins 2021 NWES championship, bolsters resume for Cup run
When Loris Hezemans makes his NASCAR Cup Series début in 2022, he will be touted as a two-time Whelen Euro Series champion. A fifth-place finish in the final race at Autodromo di Vallelunga was enough to secure him his second EuroNASCAR PRO championship and first since 2019, capping off a strong four-win season.
Entering 2021 after finishing third in points the previous year, Hezemans got off to a hot start as he won the first two races at Valencia. He notched two more victories at Brands Hatch and Grobnik, and he finished worse than second only once in the opening eight races.
However, Hezemans was also keen on dabbling in the United States. In March, he began racing on a part-time basis in the Xfinity Series as he finished thirty-first at Phoenix (his first oval start in America and first in the series since 2019) for MBM Motorsports. Additional races came with DGM Racing and Reaume Brothers Racing, the latter of whom will help field Hezemans’ Cup ride in 2022 with the newly formed Team Hezeberg. The Charlotte Roval race in October, where Team Hezeberg’s formation was announced, forced him to skip the NWES race at Zolder which allowed championship rivals Gianmarco Ercoli and Vittorio Ghirelli to gain some ground on him in the standings.
At Vallelunga, the three title hopefuls were separated by just nine points. As Jacques Villeneuve swept the weekend’s two races, Hezemans finished tenth and fifth while Ghirelli crashed in the final round. While both of Hezemans’ runs were inferior to Ercoli’s third and second, he needed to win the race to leapfrog Hezemans for the top spot. With Villeneuve winning instead, Hezemans finished the year with 412 points to Ercoli’s 409 while Ghirelli sank to fifth.
With a pair of European championships under his belt, Hezemans plans to head back to America for an increased schedule in 2022. He intends to continue racing in the Xfinity Series and the Cup road courses for Hezeberg. Team Hezeberg was co-founded by his father Toine Hezemans, and the younger Hezemans will be the first Dutch driver to compete at NASCAR’s highest level. Hezemans tested the new team’s Next Gen car at the Roval in October, where he was thirteenth quickest among twenty-one cars.
“It’s an amazing feeling and this time it’s not really sinking in like in 2019, when I realized it at this point already,” said Hezemans. “I’m super happy with all we’ve done over the year. I missed two races at Circuit Zolder but still I’m standing here. This is the perfect send-off towards the United States where I will have a part-time programme in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and probably a part-time ride with the new Team Hezeberg in the NASCAR Cup Series.”
Villeneuve, who also tested Hezeberg’s Next Gen car at the Roval, enjoyed his first career wins in a NASCAR-sanctioned series and his first in any competitive racing discipline since the 2008 1000km of Spa. He concluded the season with a ninth place in the standings. Reigning champion Alon Day finished sixth in points.
Hezemans’ #7 Hendriks Motorsport team also won the Teams Championship. Other driver’s champions crowned in the weekend included Martin Doubek in EuroNASCAR 2, who won five races, and Barnes Gordon in the Club Challenge.