MAGIONE, Italy – Eddie Cheever III had only one possible strategy entering the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series playoffs on his home track at the Autodromo dell’Umbria di Magione on Sunday: push to the limit and win to close the gap in the championship.
The Italian delivered, winning a nerve-wracking duel with points leader Ander Vilarino.
“This is fantastic. I wanted to win so bad in my home race,” said Cheever, who took his second win of the season. “It is my mother’s birthday and this win is for her. I will go on the attack again in Le Mans.”
Cheever took advantage of an animated start to jump from third to first at the first corner and went on to lead all the race, but he had to constantly resist the pressure the Spaniard put on him until the checkered flag. They were separated by just .24 seconds at the end of the race, with the Spaniard increasing his lead in the championship standings.
Frederic Gabillon climbed the third step of the podium at the end of a very fatiguing race on the twisty Italian track. The Frenchman bested Borja Garcia and Anthony Kumpen, who slipped from second to eight at the first corner and had to climb back to finish fifth.
The championship will now be decided in the Le Mans Finals, on Oct. 11-12, when Vilarino will have to defend 11 points on Kumpen, 21 on Garcia, 32 on Gabillon and 38 on Cheever.