Linster, who competes full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Elite 2 division, made his first laps around the iconic speedway during last weekend’s ARCA Menards Series preseason test.
Driving an entry for Kimmel Racing, he performed well enough to earn his superspeedway license, which leaves him approved to compete on all ARCA tracks this season.
It was a successful first step in what he hopes will be the storybook journey of a European racer rising through the ranks of NASCAR competition.
The 30-year-old native of Frisange, Luxembourg, has spent the past two years competing in NASCAR Euro, and yet his future has always been focused on “true” NASCAR racing – that is found in the United States.
“F1 is not racing anymore”
While Formula 1 dominates the motorsport headlines in Europe – and has seen increased interest in America in recent years – Linster is far more attracted to what lies on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
“For me, maybe some people will not like me for it, but Formula 1 is not racing anymore. It’s like a nice, good reality show. All the celebrities want to be there. Get nice pictures. Pay a lot of money to be around,” Linster said after the conclusion of his Daytona test.
“Then you have the real racers, and those are the NASCAR drivers. Even now, I have even more respect for them. The speed, the risk you take, it’s just like crazy. It’s just pure racing. You can change whatever you want in NASCAR, but still, you have to be crazy to drive those things.
“In Formula 1, for sure, you have to be crazy to drive it, but at the end, if the engineer doesn’t have what he needs and the body (of the car) doesn’t hit the ground right, there’s politics, it’s no fun anymore. Yeah, on Netflix, it looks all good. But for me, as a race car driver, there isn’t any good racing on the track.”
This was the second consecutive year Linster had visited DIS, but his first time hitting the track as a driver.
He ran a late model in the World Series of Asphalt last February at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway and ended up attending the Daytona 500 the same week, but his true desire has always been to be at the track in a race car.
“For me, Daytona was like what you see in the movies, and it’s a big dream. You hear about NASCAR. You want to be at Daytona. You want to race at Daytona – especially the Daytona 500,” he said.
“I was super lucky to have the chance to race at New Smyrna, which was the same week as the Daytona 500. I was smiling and feeling okay, and then some of the Cup guys came down there to watch the races, and I felt super close to it all.
“Then, when I showed up (to watch the 500), it was like, ‘No way. It’s a huge track. It’s crazy.’ Then, there is also the (pre-race) show. It was my first time to see the flyover. The whole atmosphere was just ‘wow.’ Even a week later, I was still asking myself if it was real.”
Gaining approval to run superspeedways
Thanks to the help of his spotter at New Smyrna last year, Tony Blanchard, Linster got connected with Kimmel Racing, and he put together the necessary sponsorship to do this year’s ARCA test with the team.
Now approved for competition, he’s returning to Europe this week to begin the hard work of putting together a deal to run the Daytona ARCA season opener – and any other races he can manage outside his NASCAR Euro season.
Linster has no illusions of the difficulty that lies ahead, but he’s consistently found a way to keep his NASCAR dream alive.
“I’ve always had a big, big vision, and I’ve felt day-by-day, year-by-year, I was getting close. I don’t want to say it’s been luck, but it’s always seemed like there was someone there to open the door to get closer,” he said.
“Even when I struggled and thought it was impossible, that there was no chance, had no sponsor and no team, it seemed like sometimes at the last moment something happens. Like having found a team and the sponsors coming on board to make this test happen. That was two weeks ago. It’s just been my way.
“I know you don’t come to Daytona and think, ‘I’m good. I’ll win it.’ It’s so much more.”