In his maiden NASCAR start, Shane van Gisbergen put on a clinic in the closing circuits of the race on Sunday on the Chicago street track.
In the closing circuits of the race, the three-time Australian Supercars champion outperformed everyone and overtook Justin Haley with five laps remaining to claim the victory. Less than 10 laps remained when Martin Truex Jr. crashed, and Van Gisbergen took the lead immediately.
After that, Van Gisbergen had to maintain his lead for a green-white-checkered restart and was unchallenged by either Haley or Chase Elliott, who took third place. Over the last two circuits, Van Gisbergen pulled ahead of Haley and won by more than a second.
Over the last 20 circuits of the race, Van Gisbergen’s street track expertise was fully on show. He easily manoeuvred his way to the front and gapped Haley as soon as he had past. Since Johnny Rutherford’s victory at Daytona in 1963, he is the only driver to claim victory in his first Cup Series appearance.
“Wow, when we had that… strategy back to 18th I started to worry a little bit, but had some full stands on some people, and the racing was really good, everyone was respectful,” he remarked. It was challenging, but a lot of fun.
Shane van Gisbergen, who is he?
In 2016, 2021, and 2022, Van Gisbergen won the Australian Supercars title. The 34-year-old New Zealander is the fourth-most successful driver in the history of the Supercars series with 79 victories.
The Bathurst 1000, Bathurst 6 Hour, and Bathurst 12 Hour have all been won by him, one of three drivers who have done so. Simply said, he was fully worthy of his chance in NASCAR and is one of the greatest racers in Australian Supercars history.
Due to Project 91 at Trackhouse Racing, he competed on Sunday. Since 2022, the team has entered the No. 91 vehicle in a few races, and the Chicago race marked the car’s third start following runs by Kimi Raikkonen at Circuit of the Americas in 2023 and once in 2022.
After finishing 37th at Watkins Glen and 29th at COTA this year, Raikkonen’s starts with Project 91 seemed to be more of a curiosity than anything else. However, it is evident that Trackhouse has a competitive vehicle and the ideal driver for their track. On Sunday, van Gisbergen was the best off the pitch.
The victory marks the team’s second of the year and the fifth overall for Trackhouse Racing. Ross Chastain triumphed in Nashville a week ago.
Rain caused a delay in the race.
Rain lashed the city, postponing the Cup Series race, and NASCAR was looking down the barrel of a terrible Chicago weekend. The Xfinity Series race on Saturday was postponed till Sunday because lightning was seen nearby before it reached the halfway point. However, Sunday’s relentless rain prevented a restart, so NASCAR used a little-known regulation clause to call the race official before halfway through.
The makeshift street circuit in Grant Park has standing water in several places due to the record-breaking amount of rain that fell in the Chicago region on July 2 on Sunday. When it stopped raining at 5 p.m. CT, NASCAR decided to start the race on a wet course. Over the duration of the race, the track never completely dried.
That turned out to be the perfect decision, even if the governing board had to cut the 100-lap race by 25 laps to ensure that it concluded before dusk. The race concluded after 78 laps due to the green-white-checker finish. Haley and Elliott were in the front of the field because they pitted before others thanks to the decision to shorten the race. However, van Gisbergen’s last run pace was too fast for them to maintain their improved track position.