NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

EuroNASCAR youngster Garisto: “Goals will be reached with tenacity”

Cesar Burton

Francesco Garisto excelled in Zolder after a horrific start in Vallelunga – he opens up about his rollercoaster ride of emotions surrounding his EuroNASCAR debut

At the age of only 18, Francesco Garisto is the youngest driver in the 2020 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (NWES). After his first two weekends in the EuroNASCAR 2 championship, the Portoferraio native has already experienced incredible highs and lows. Driving the #42 Mustang for the team of Shadow Racing Cars by 42 Racing, Garisto massively turned his fortunes around during his first two NWES events.

What could have been a dream debut at his home NASCAR GP in Vallelunga (Italy), soon turned into a nightmare. An ill-handling car during his first race caused Garisto to retire five laps from the end after ending up in the gravel trap. The second race, the young Italian could not even make it to the grid due to the underlying technical issues. 

“Vallelunga has been one of the most frustrating race weekends of my career”

Coming into EuroNASCAR with a high momentum, being a four-time Italian karting champion and winning the 2019 Lotus Cup Italy rookie classification, Garisto was gutted: “Vallelunga has been one of the most frustrating race weeks of my career. We struggled all weekend and I completed very few laps driving, which was a real pity for a driver like me who has to gather the most experience possible in order to grow and learn”, the Italian racer told ‘Leadlap.net’.

However, Garisto showed a great deal of maturity by not losing his focus and positive mindset: “It’s been a total failure in Vallelunga, but we all know that no good result comes without facing failure and without sacrifices and hard work. The bad result gave me more motivation to fight back and to sweat blood in order to arrive in Belgium aiming to improve in all sectors.”

Podium finish and Rookie Trophy victory in Zolder

Credit: Cesar Burton

In Zolder (Belgium), the 18-year-old then did turn the tables to finish sixth overall and second in the Rookie Trophy in the very wet first EuroNASCAR 2 race of the weekend. The following day, Garisto delivered an even more impressive performance. In Race 2, he took the Rookie Trophy win and finished in third place overall.

“This is the proof that with discipline, focus and tenacity goals will be reached”, the pleased youngster emphasised. “We now have higher goals for Most and Valencia, and I’m already on route to accomplish them and chase my dream.”

Zolder success sweetened by photo with Jacques Villeneuve

Credit: Instagram.com/fragaristo37

Beside the celebration of his maiden Rookie Trophy win and overall podium finish, there was one more aspect that Garisto was overjoyed with. Just after climbing out of his race car following Race 2, none other than motorsports legend and fellow EuroNASCAR Pro competitor Jacques Villeneuve was around, resulting in the two taking an impromptu picture together.

“Having taken a photo with one of my all time racing idols after my first Rookie victory has been pretty cool for me! The fun bit is that among the two of us, I was the one with a helmet on. I wouldn’t have thought to take my first photo with my idol this way”, Garisto admitted.

Great sportsmanship and level of competition in EuroNASCAR

Following his breakthrough weekend at Zolder, the young racer now looks ahead to the remaining NWES rounds in Most (October 14-15) and Valencia (December 3-6). So far, Garisto did not regret his decision to enter the EuroNASCAR championship: “The level of competition and professionalism in EuroNascar is incredible.”

“Racing against the best NASCAR drivers of Europe that have a whole lot of experience is an honour for me. Respect reigns among all drivers and this is what we want in our sport: strong and aggressive battles on track but always sportsmanship among all competitors.”

Despite his nightmare weekend at Vallelunga, Garisto currently holds twelfth place in the overall EuroNASCAR 2 championship and fourth place in the Rookie standings. Being only 38 points behind fellow countryman and current championship leader Vittorio Ghirelli, Garisto will be aiming to keep up the momentum he gained in Zolder.

Credit: Matteo Lepri