NASCAR brings the thunder to Goodwood


09 Jul 2019

Credit: Dominik Wilde

Mention NASCAR on this side of the Atlantic and you’re often met with groans, a roll of the eyes, or ignorant comments about left turns. However, each and every year a select contingent from the US’ biggest form of motorsport makes the trip to the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

What’s more, in paddocks full of priceless European exotica, Formula 1 cars, and Le Mans legends, it’s the NASCAR cars that often provide one of the biggest draws.

“There’s so many incredible cars that are here,” said former racer-turned executive and TV analyst Andy Petree. “NASCAR cars are loud, they make a lot of power, and they’re different – they’re something you guys don’t see over here very often and I think it’s really unique to expose it more to the European fans.”

Petree currently serves as Richard Childress Racing’s Vice President of Competition. The multiple championship-winning organistation has become a regular visitor to the four-day event in recent years, bringing with them a selection of cars each time, including those driven by the late Dale Earnhardt. In the last few years we’ve also seen a car from Earnhardt’s final season in 2000, which was driven by Kerry Earnhardt, and the famous silver All-Star car from 1995.

This year, as well as a raced-used machine from 1998, RCR also took the unusual step of bringing an up-to-date, 2019-spec car to the Festival of Speed, giving European fans a rare chance to see a modern Cup car up close and in action.

Andy Petree drove a 2019-spec Chevrolet Camaro at Goodwood – Credit: Dominik Wilde

“Richard Childress Racing provided this car [and] basically built a current car,” said Petree, who drove the car up the hill throughout the weekend. “We wanted to bring something over here that represented the current NASCAR cars, instead of the ones that we’ve been bringing which are five, six, seven years old, some of them are as much at 10 years old.”

“They’re still representative but they’re nowhere near as sophisticated as what we race today,” he added.

RCR wasn’t the only team to bring contemporary metal to the event. In the NASCAR area of the expansive paddock, in amongst the showcars and classic Earnhardt, Richard Petty, and Jeff Gordon machines, Team Penske joined the fray for the first time, bringing the exact car that Joey Logano raced at Homestead last year to claim his first NASCAR Cup title.

The car, driven by Ford factory GT driver Billy Johnson was a firm crowd favourite throughout the event, performing some of the longest burnouts ever seen on the hill.

Unlike most of the active racing teams that attend the Festival of Speed, the likes of RCR and Penske can’t just put a car in a trailer and run it over to the Goodwood Estate a few days before the event. For those teams to attend, it’s a massive undertaking, and one they have to do in the midst of a gruelling 36-race Cup schedule.

Penske brought its most recent championship winner – Credit: Dominik Wilde

“The logistics are tough, and that’s the thing,” said Petree. “Getting all this stuff on a container and shipping it over here a month or so ahead of time is not that bad, but you do have to do a lot of planning. It’s a long trip, we’ve got to travel over and our season is pretty tight too, it’s long so we had to miss Daytona.”

The hard work to grow NASCAR’s popularity overseas is worth it though. This year a handful of NASCAR representatives even made the trip over, and Petree hopes that NASCAR’s involvement at Goodwood will continue to grow, or perhaps even lead to a European race event much like the ones hosted in Japan in the 1990s.

“That’s kind of what we’re trying to do here, to expose everyone to it, and this is just a small taste,” he said. “Come over and go to Bristol or go to Charlotte or go to these events and see something really incredible. The kind racing we do is so unique to anywhere else in the world.”

“I would love to see a European race. From what I’ve seen over here I think there would certainly be enough interest to do it.”

RCR also showcased an ex-Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet Monte Carlo – Credit: Dominik Wilde