NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

All roads lead to Zolder: The adventure of NWES debutant Igor Romanov

NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

Igor Romanov almost missed his EuroNASCAR debut for Not Only Motorsport due to travel restrictions – But the Ukrainian reached the Circuit Zolder in time

When Igor Romanov boarded the plane in Kiev, he had only his first race in the EuroNASCAR 2 championship of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (NWES) in mind. Due to coronavirus travel restrictions, the Not Only Motorsport driver had to overcome many hurdles to finally arrive at Circuit Zolder. The journey to his first NWES race ever resembled a real adventure.

Had “The Lord of the Rings” been played in modern times, the many difficulties that Igor Romanov encountered on his journey would certainly have been part of the story of hobbits, wizards and dwarfs traveling around Middle Earth. The adventure started long before the day of departure, as the direct flight from Kiev to Brussels was cancelled. As a result, Romanov had to change planes in Warsaw, Poland.

This change turned out to be a real villain on his journey: Despite valid papers, his baggage was not checked in because Poland cancelled all transits. “My papers were okay and I did a coronavirus test the day before,” Romanov told ‘Leadlap.net’. “The staff then solved the situation, but told me that it was my own problem if there were any difficulties in Poland.”

“It was the start of one of my strangest trips ever,” the Not Only Motorsport driver continued, who also reported on his beginnings in NASCAR racing. “For years, it was my dream to become a NASCAR driver, as I have been a big fan of this sport since the 1990s. My big hero is Bobby Labonte, whom I met as a photographer and journalist at Tours Speedway”. The 2000 NASCAR champion encouraged Romanov to give the NWES a try as a race car driver.

Romanov’s big chance came when he was invited to the recruitment day. Then everything happened very quickly: he signed the contract with Not Only Motorsport, booked the flights and got on the plane despite the difficulties in Kiev. But this was not to be the end of a bizarre journey.

“I was very much afraid that the dream would be shattered at the Polish border,” continued Romanov, who had received an offer from his team a week earlier to race in the EuroNASCAR 2 championship instead of the Club Challenge. “The people in Kiev warned me about problems in Warsaw and I had issues. At the border they wouldn’t let me into the country and told me that I wasn’t an Olympic athlete”.

Romanov’s passport was taken away and he received a letter saying that he would not get permission to enter the EU. In addition, his flight to Brussels was cancelled immediately and a return flight to Kiev was booked. “I was disappointed and angry,” said Romanov. “I asked a friend on social media for help because he has contacts with Ukrainian diplomats in Poland. I am very grateful to him. After a dialogue on the Polish side I was finally allowed to enter the EU”.

Two hours later Romanov had his plane ticket to Brussels in his hand – for the next morning. “I was so happy,” he said. “What I take away from this situation is that you should never give up on making your dream come true. I spent 17 hours at the airport in Warsaw and then traveled to Zolder. I am very happy despite this adventure.”

In his first EuroNASCAR 2 race ever, Romanov crossed the finish line in 18th place. In the second race he even made it to twelfth place. After a movie-like drama at Warsaw airport, the Ukrainian managed to make his dream of becoming a real NASCAR driver come true.

Credits: NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard

But in the end, what was it like for him to drive in the NWES? Romanov answered: “I had my doubts before my first start because it was a completely new challenge for me. In the Ukraine, I drive on dirt tracks, on ovals, in the National Autospeedway League. I had hardly any experience on normal road courses so far. I learn everything from scratch and I am very grateful to my team Not Only Motorsport”.

Romanov is not taking any risks on the track in his first races. His goal is to get the car back to the pits in one piece and just enjoy NASCAR racing on the track. Of course, the Not Only Motorsport driver wants to improve: “I’m doing my best. Nevertheless, my dream has come true, but now I want to reach a new level.”