Monster Energy and Anthony Kumpen: the perfect match

Two-time European NASCAR Champion Anthony Kumpen is joining forces with Monster Energy. Together they have the ambition to make 2018 a year full of top performances in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.

Hello Anthony, welcome to the Monster Energy family! Why is the combination of Anthony Kumpen and Monster Energy an ideal synergy?

As a NASCAR driver, it is a great honor to be able to work with Monster Energy. In the States, you have Monster Energy as the title sponsor of NASCAR’s top series, the Monster Energy NASCAR cup Series. The sport has changed a lot in a short time and the marketing strategy used by Monster Energy fits perfectly with NASCAR and allows the sport to continue to grow.

Furthermore, I think it is just a super cool brand and its unique character completely suits me. I think the approach and the marketing story they tell in extreme sports is very clever. The combination of Monster’s style and their products are fully in line with me.

Since joining the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2014 you have already been able to compete in NASCAR in the US a few times and race at the legendary Daytona International Speedway. What are the biggest differences with the races held on European soil?

The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is of course still very young as it officially became a NASCAR series in 2012, while NASCAR is a huge sport in the United States since many years and was founded in 1948. NASCAR is the second largest sport in the US, has a whole history there, it is expanding at an international level and the European NASCAR championship plays a key role in this.

Thanks to winning the European championship in 2014 and 2016, I had the opportunity to also drive in NASCAR in America on different tracks and especially at Daytona. It was a dream come true.

In its young history the European championship attracted some of the biggest names in racing and immediately caught a lot of attention, so the ball started rolling for me. I have also found my biggest passion with NASCAR, for me it’s simply the most exciting form motorsport. In Europe I am one of the pioneers of NASCAR and I’m really proud of it.

In Europe NASCAR is rapidly gaining popularity. Just look at the UK: last year the GP in Brands Hatch was completely sold out three months before the event. You can hardly see this anywhere else in Europe! It is an honor to be part of the quick growth of this championship. After last season I also noticed that I still have the speed and knowledge to race at the front of the field. I’m the only current driver in the European NASCAR championship who raced on a superspeedway such as Daytona. My dream? To take part in a full NASCAR season in the US!

Last year the battle for the Euro NASCAR title was extremely exciting between you and Alon Day. What do you expect for this 2018 season?

Last year I drove my best season in terms of speed but so many other factors played a huge role. Bad luck is part of the sport, sometimes you take wrong decisions and those can of course determine the outcome of a championship. Winning a title is never easy, but with the speed we had last year and now with even more experience, we can have our say.

Finishing second is the most disappointing result, but when you finish second, you will work harder to be back at the top. Every detail is examined more closely and a championship is often decided by details.

The NWES championship will become more competitive every year. The bigger the series and the sponsors around it, the more good drivers will find their way to the European NASCAR. It happens quite often that former F1 drivers or American NASCAR drivers join us at our events. The most important thing is that the sport continues to reinvent itself, as NASCAR is doing now in the US with the “royal” track combining the oval and the infield at Charlotte in the playoffs. This is very interesting for us European drivers as we are road course specialists.

As you mentioned before, the interest towards NASCAR in constantly increasing in Europe. Many big names from all kinds of European motorsport disciplines find their way to the sport. In 2018 former cycling world champion Tom Boonen will also be on the grid. Is Belgium ready for all the hype coming from America?

The fact that Tom is going to take part in the series will bring a lot of attention from the media. We raced together in July during the Fun Cup in Francorchamps and I helped him with his first steps in motorsports. Of course Tom will make the sport more popular and that’s good news. When drivers such as Alex Caffi (ex F1 driver) joined, NASCAR in Europe received more attention.

You see that there is already hype around NASCAR and it is the fastest growing form of motorsport in Europe, but NWES events are not only for racing fans. The races are part of American-themed events filled with family entertainment for people of all ages and that obviously makes the market much larger. So I see a huge potential in Belgium for NASCAR.

The collaboration with Monster opens doors for trying out other action sports. Which sports did you always want to try out?

I am a fan of everything that has to do with engines. I used to be a huge Jet-ski and Quad fanatic but I have no talent on two-wheels.

Actually, all extreme sports are interesting to me. Personally I also think that more attention has to be paid to action sports athletes compared to team sports. The hours of training these athletes dedicate to their sport and the risks they take are not to be underestimated. Also winter sports appeal to me enormously. I skied since I was five years old and every year I go with the family to the mountains to pick up my skills. In my youth I also often did kickboxing; an MMA fight is definitely something I could try.

For the Dakar my sense of orientation is not good enough. I think I would get lost just after the start. I told this story in an interview: my teammate Bert Longin and I always end up somewhere wrong when we drive, so I drive with two GPS in the car. But the competition itself at the Dakar is, of course, insane!

Have you ever been warned about your choice for rather dangerous sports? What does your family think about your dangerous lifestyle?

I started very early. I was already doing karting when I was only six years old. Nobody at home ever pushed me but they never stopped me either. I have always been allowed to do what I wanted and that is wonderful, of course. My wife, who I met at the racetrack, is also passioned about motorsports. One of our children also absolutely loves cars. When it comes to racing, I am sometimes stubborn and very determined to do what I like to do.

Have you ever been really frightened in your car or did you ever see your life flashing past your eyes? And if so, when?

I’ve been in some serious crashes but thankfully I never really had to fear for my life! After a crash during the 24h of Francorchamps in 2002, I thought about stopping when I saw my car afterwards, but I kept racing.

The very first time at Daytona in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, in February 2015, was for me the most shocking race. I was running around the 30th position on the 2.5-mile oval and our strategy was really good and suddenly I was in sixth position. So I was out front among the big boys. The cars really stuck together at a speed of more than 300 km / h. For two laps I really thought: “this is not going to end well.” But after that, you suddenly get a boost of self-confidence and you start to have a good time. By bump-drafting you go faster, your aerodynamics improve and you get better top speeds. During the race you have your spotter to help you but you have to be able to trust him blindly. Your brain says 'no', but if the spotter says 'yes', you have to trust him and execute.

Which other Monster Energy athlete would you like to meet in real life and have a chat with?

Kurt Busch has been a Monster athlete in NASCAR for years and he won the Daytona 500 in 2017. Meeting him would be great, but I really respect all athletes who excel at their sport. You have to compete with 100% confidence, thinking you are the best, otherwise you will never become a real champion.

Extreme athletes, as I have already mentioned, are underrated. Their sports revolved more around the individual and a bad day is easily punished. In every sport you need a good team around you but in extreme sports, on game day you are on your own on the circuit.

You are of course the face of the Zolder circuit, but what do you think is the most beautiful track you have ever driven?

That is a very difficult question. When you go to a circuit once, it is always more special than the circuits you have already been at100 times. Spa-Francorchamps is very nice, but I've already driven it so much. Daytona is still the most special one for me. There you are just in a modern gladiators arena, everywhere you look you see people who come to see you at work. That gives you goose bumps.

Thank you for your time Anthony! Let's make 2018 a top year!