Earl Bamber is set to author another chapter into his already impressive motorsport record book when the Kiwi gets behind the wheel of a Richard Childress Racing-prepared Chevrolet Camaro in the Xfinity Series from Daytona this weekend.
Heralded as the minor league to the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the Xfinity Series is still regarded as a top-level form of stock car racing globally and Bamber will be the first Kiwi in history to test the waters in the development series.
Bamber, who usually competes in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship with Porsche, will have an entirely new beast to tame when he slots behind the wheel of a 650hp stock car.
Plans for Whanganui-born racer to dive into the realm of NASCAR has been in the pipeline for some time and the Kiwi was originally set to make his debut at Mid-Ohio before Covid-19 complications resulted in a raft of late calendar changes.
“It is really good to come and do the NASCAR because no one has ever done that on the Daytona Road Course,” Bamber told NewsTalk ZB.
“It was originally planned to do a race in Mid-Ohio but with the whole Covid thing messing itself with the calendar NASCAR now has landed itself in Daytona.
“[The drive] has come about after many, many years. I have known Richard (Childress) for about 13 years now and we have tried to put something together for quite a few years. And now with the help of KCMG and Chevrolet it all has all come together.
“But like I said, it was meant to be in Mid-Ohio and now it is Daytona which is good cause it is another track that I know.”
Bamber has had some brief experience in V8 touring cars having contested the Pirtek Enduro Cup with Shane Van Gisbergen at Red Bull Racing in 2018.
The duo collected one podium at Sandown but struggled at the following two events from Bathurst and Surfers Paradise.
But the 30-year-old enjoyed the hands-on approached of the Supercar and is expecting a similar feel for wheel he makes his NASCAR debut.
“It is different,” he said when quizzed on the difficulty of adapting to a new car.
“I see it as a similar challenge to jumping from the Porsche to a V8 Supercar. They (Supercar and NASCAR) are similar in weight, similar in power as well and you’ve got to get used to shifting with a normal level with a four-speed gearbox which I haven’t used that since my Formula Ford days.
“I liked the V8 Supercar a lot and NASCAR is like that, all old school with the driving technique. There is no data in the cars, you need to rely more on yourself and it brings more on the driver which I think is really cool for the sport.
“[But] It is all about the challenge and all about trying to go to the highest level of motor racing from a technology point-of-view and organisation point-of-view as well, and NASCAR is one of the hardest challenges in the world.”
Bamber has only been confirmed to run one race for the RCR team with his IMSA commitments meaning a fully-fledged campaign is out of the question.
However, Porsche announced earlier in the year they will pull the plug on their GT Le Mans project within North America at the end of the current season, essentially leaving Bamber out of a drive for 2021.
With that in mind, the Kiwi is not ruling out on running more NASCAR races in the future with the backdoor option of even joining the series part or full-time next season.
“I am looking forward to dipping my toes in NASCAR,” he added. “Road Courses are probably a lot easier than to try an oval which is a whole other thing.
“I would like to do more of it. NASCAR are doing more and more road courses now which is quite exciting and after dipping your toes in it you never know what will come with it
“Obviously there is a transition year with everything going on in sportscar racing with LMDh coming along so [NASCAR] will be interesting to see what it is about.”
The two-time Le Mans 24 Hour winner also emphasised that NASCAR is a world away from the southern, demolition derby-esque mental image that people often envision as sport only enjoyed by yokels.
Rather, at its core, NASCAR is incredibly technological advanced form of racing which has aided him in even adopting new inhouse techniques within Porsche and his own racing team in Asia.
“It is a different world; the teams are massive. People think of NASCAR as small basic cars but there is about 330 people working for three cars including engine shop, so it is a massive project.
“Teams have their own wind tunnels and they take things to the maximum. It is really impressive.
“From my side, it is quite interesting because whenever you cross different forms of motorsport you see these different things and they may be doing great things here that you should be doing at Porsche and vice versa.
“When you pluck someone out from a different world, some of the techniques and ways of doing things you learn is really interesting.”
Bamber’s NASCAR debut will be run on the same Daytona road course he and Porsche teammate Laurens Vanthoor claimed podium finishes in this year’s Daytona 24 Hour and WeatherTech 240 events.
The UNOH 188 from Daytona Road Course, Florida race will be held from 7 am NZT Sunday, August 16.