Shane Van Gisbergen, the reigning Supercars champion and a prominent figure in the world of motorsport, has left fans and fellow drivers astounded by his remarkable performance in his NASCAR debut race held in Chicago. Making history in more ways than one, van Gisbergen emerged victorious, becoming the first driver in 60 years to triumph in his series debut while also securing the distinction of winning the first-ever NASCAR race on a street circuit.
Throughout the weekend, van Gisbergen showcased exceptional speed and skill, leaving the American racing community in awe. He dominated the qualifying session and came agonizingly close to claiming pole position, missing out by a mere 0.15 seconds and ultimately starting from third place on the grid.
However, the race faced delays due to rain, leading to treacherous track conditions. A tactical misstep initially caused the New Zealander to slip down to 18th place, but he mounted an extraordinary comeback, expertly maneuvering through the field.
With just five laps remaining, van Gisbergen seized the lead, only for a rival's late crash to trigger an overtime period, resulting in a thrilling two-lap showdown. Ahead of the restart, van Gisbergen was cautioned about the intense competition, being informed, "The two cars behind are desperate for the win for points for the playoffs." Undeterred, he displayed unparalleled composure and pulled away from the pack, delivering a flawless performance under immense pressure to secure the historic victory.
"Van Gisbergen's Dream Come True"
When asked about the possibility of such a triumph, a visibly elated van Gisbergen responded, "Of course not, but you always dream of it... what an experience, and the crowd out here! This was so cool, and it's what you dream of.
Hopefully, I can come and do more." Looking ahead to his plans, the 34-year-old expressed his desire to pursue further opportunities in NASCAR, stating, "I'm doing one more year in Aus, then I'd love to come over here," when queried about accepting a full-time drive.
While van Gisbergen's accomplishments in the Supercars championship, including three titles and two Bathurst victories, are widely recognized, his limited experience in the Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet Camaro made his NASCAR triumph even more extraordinary.
Commentators and fellow drivers were quick to acknowledge van Gisbergen's exceptional feat. One commentator noted, "It is amazing what this driver has done... it's long since a road course ringer has gone to victory lane." Celebrating his win with a burnout, van Gisbergen faces a quick turnaround as he heads back to Australia for his 500th career race start in the Supercars Townsville 500.
The global racing community rallied around van Gisbergen, with drivers from various disciplines praising him. Three-time Supercars champion and IndyCar driver Scott McLaughlin said, "So f****** happy for him. Enjoy every moment, brother." Similarly, Canadian IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe marveled at van Gisbergen's achievement, proclaiming, "So impressive what Scott Van Gisbergen just did in Chicago.
NASCAR is full of insanely talented drivers, and to compete with, and win against, a group of that caliber the first time out... unreal!" In becoming only the sixth non-American driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race, van Gisbergen joins the ranks of distinguished names such as Australian Supercars champion Marcus Ambrose, along with Formula One driver Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Van Gisbergen's sensational debut in NASCAR has undoubtedly etched his name in the annals of motorsport history, and fans worldwide eagerly await his next ventures, eager to witness more of his extraordinary driving skills.