If we've said it once, we've said it a thousand times, but it warrants repeating – in context especially – that there exists an ocean of difference between stock car racing in America and touring cars overseas. And we're talking about more than geography here. The cars are different, the tracks are different, the drivers, the fans... and so too is the racing. But the two are about to take one step closer when two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekström takes on NASCAR.

Now Ekstrom wouldn't be the first European driver to test drive a stock car, but he's already done that. What we're talking about here is the full contest of an actual NASCAR race (made possibly by Red Bull, which sponsors his Audi A4 DTM and the #83 Toyota Camry he'll be driving Stateside). And not in a feeder series, either: the Toyota/Save Mart 350 is a full-fledged round of the top-tier Sprint Cup, not the Nationwide Series, Camping World Truck Series or ARCA junior league like some European drivers have started out with when making the transition.

Mind you, the race is being held at Infineon Raceway (formerly known as Sears Point) in Sonoma, California – one of only two road-courses on the series calendar – but the round at the Lausitzring EuroSpeedway (run partially on the banked tri-oval) ranks among the fourteen DTM races which Ekström's won, so he very well might stand a fighting chance on an American oval, too. In the meantime we'll be watching the weekend after next to see how Mattias fares in his auspicious NASCAR debut. Details in the press release after the jump.

[Source: Audi]
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Ingolstadt, 2010-05-25
Mattias Ekström fulfills NASCAR dream
  • On board a plane to the US immediately after triumph at Valencia
  • Audi "factory" driver tests at Virginia International Raceway today
  • Two-time DTM Champion supports Red Bull team on road course

For the two-time DTM Champion Mattias Ekström a small dream is coming true today: at the invitation of Red Bull, the 31-year-old Audi driver is performing track tests in a NASCAR vehicle at the Virginia International Raceway in Virginia (USA) to support the squad in preparing for the upcoming race.

"It's no secret that the NASCAR series fascinates me and that it's been a long-harbored dream of mine to drive such a car," says Mattias Ekström, who clinched his first DTM victory of the year at Valencia on Sunday. After Scott Speed's team-mate Brian Vickers was unable to test for health reason, the Red Bull squad in the United States remembered the interest shown by the Swede who has been contesting the DTM in Red Bull livery for nine years as well. Audi Sport approved the excursion by its driver.

"The racers of the Audi family live motorsport with a great passion. That's why we are pleased to support wishes like Mattias' for a NASCAR adventure," says Head of Audi Sport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "Mattias has proven his versatility and class in many different motorsport disciplines such as in rally sport or at the 'Race of Champions.' We're excited to see how he will do in a car and on a track that are both new to him."

Ekström's excursion to the United States is not purely a pleasure trip, though. With the test, he is supporting the team's preparations for the races that will not be held on the NASCAR-typical oval: Sonoma on June 20 and Watkins Glen on August 8. The Red Bull squad can count on the experience of a proven road course expert like Ekström.

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