POLL: Van Gisbergen’s NASCAR chances

Shane van Gisbergen will make his NASCAR debut on the streets of Chicago

Shane van Gisbergen will make his NASCAR debut on the streets of Chicago

With Shane van Gisbergen’s NASCAR debut locked in, we ask how you think he will fare on the streets of Chicago, in this week’s Pirtek Poll.

The three-time Supercars champion will make a Cup Series cameo with Trackhouse Racing in its ‘Project91’ entry which is earmarked for foreign talents.

In fact, van Gisbergen is joining a very exclusive club, given only 2007 world drivers’ champion Kimi Raikkonen has raced the Project91 car thus far, last year at Watkins Glen and in March at the Circuit of The Americas.

Raikkonen was classified 31st with crash damage on his Cup Series debut, having been caught up in Austin Dillon’s spin after running well inside the top half of the field.

At COTA, the Finn spent much of the afternoon in the midfield and strategically rose to fourth in the closing laps, before a spin and a penalty consigned him to 29th.

In short, he did not set the world on fire but he arguably did not disgrace himself either, and it would seem that the #91 Chevrolet Camaro has potential despite being a part-time entry.

That stands to reason considering the performance of Trackhouse’s two full-time entries, with Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez producing a total of three race wins in 2022.

They may be winless in 13 races so far in 2023, but Chastain leads the series, with six top 10 finishes to his name already.

As for van Gisbergen himself, he has a freakish ability to perform in different categories and disciplines.

Aside from his Supercars exploits, the big Kiwi boasts a Bathurst 12 Hour win, a GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup title, and a WRC2 podium on his World Rally Championship debut.

He was downplaying expectations when speaking in the days after the announcement at Symmons Plains, pointing out that road course races are nowadays far more prevalent in the NASCAR Cup Series than they were.

As such, van Gisbergen reasons, NASCAR drivers are no longer largely ‘billies’ on tracks which require turning right.

However, there is arguably no better time for a Supercars steerer to make their debut in the top level of American stock car racing, for multiple reasons.

Firstly, the Next Gen car which debuted last year is more similar to a Supercar than its predecessor was, and far more so than what Raikkonen drove for most of his career.

Also, while van Gisbergen is talking up modern day NASCAR drivers’ road course skill, the Chicago event will be its first ever street circuit.

As the aforementioned COTA race demonstrated, track limits are a somewhat abstract concept in NASCAR, but there is little scope for straying beyond track limits when they are defined by a concrete wall.

Van Gisbergen, of course, is necessarily well-practiced at the fine line between speed and a crash on a street circuit, and might also have an advantage with respect to riding any kerbing which is installed around the track.

He is also likely to be better placed to offer engineering feedback to his team, including title-winning crew chief Darian Grubb, on aspects such as the hard braking and low-radius corners which characterise a temporary race track.

With all of that in mind, we ask how you think the two-time Bathurst 1000 winner will fare in Chicago on Sunday, July 2.

Will he win, finish top 10, or be classified further back? Cast your vote below in this week’s Pirtek Poll.

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