If you’ve heard of Tom Boonen, it’s probably due to his cycling victories. He’s won so many races, that he’s considered a hero to many people in his native Belgium. So, what has he won? Some of his more prestigious wins include: the UCI World Race Championships (once), the Paris-Roubaix (4 times), the Tour of Flanders (3 times), the E3 Harelbeke (5 times), the Tour de France (6 stages) and the Tour of Qatar (4 times).
And now, after such a successful cycling career, he’s a professional NASCAR® racing driver.
Read Tom’s thoughts on NASCAR®, crashing and his rookie cup chances – in his own words.
NASCAR® weekends are intense! NASCAR® is a completely different sport than cycling, but my approach is the same: I try to control the most possible variables. But, that’s tough in NASCAR®. There are so many more things to consider.
Even when I try to control as much as possible, it’s still a rollercoaster of emotions. So many highs and lows. There’s really nothing like it.
Race preparation is both physical and mental. Physically, just like when I was cycling, I need to be as fit as possible. However, the training is completely different to what I’m used to. And mentally, the preparation is a different game. With each race lasting 30-40 minutes, you have to be on your game from the starting flag to the finish line. Whereas in cycling, you often have a few hours during the race before you need to focus on the final stages and the finish. In NASCAR® there is no room for a slip in concentration – you have to stay fully focused for the entire race. I love it.
Crashing bikes and race cars
When you crash, things are out of your control – and that lack of control is something I try to minimise in every race.
Crashing on a bike is completely different to crashing in a racing car. A bike crash, for me, is more physical. More painful. A lot more painful. A car crash, on the other hand, is more mental. Yes, you can get badly hurt, but if nothing really bends into your seat, then it’s a lot more comfortable to crash a racing car than a bike. I really don’t miss the bike crashes.
In the semi-finals in Hockenheimring, I had a bad crash in race two. The race started well, but the racer in front of me had a mechanical failure and went off the wall, lightly tapping my car as he went and snapping my tyre. My car spun and a car behind me smacked into me, head on. Long story short, my car was a write off. It’s not a great experience to go through, but it happens. NASCAR® cars are amazingly reliable, but things can go wrong, it’s just part of the sport.
Getting back behind the wheel
Luckily, I don’t need to mentally prepare myself to get back into a car after a bad crash. After getting out of my wrecked car after the crash in Hockenheimring, all I wanted to do was jump straight into a new car and re-join the race. Thinking back on it all, my only real frustration was the fact something went wrong in the first 60 seconds ending my ambitions for the weekend. All that training and preparation meant nothing. There was no second chance to cross the finish line.
My rookie cup dreams
Before Hockenheimring, I thought I had a good chance of winning a podium place in the Rookie Cup. But that chance is probably gone due to the crash – and the points I didn’t win. So, I’m a bit disappointed. But, there’s still the final to go. And, who knows, maybe a big result will help my score enough to get that podium place.