Advantage van Gisbergen in NASCAR street race
Shane van Gisbergen will make his NASCAR debut this weekend as the entire Cup Series field competes for the first time on the narrow streets of Chicago, which could play into the three-time Supercars champion’s advantage.
While NASCAR races at road courses including Watkins Glen International, Road America, Circuit of The Americas, and Sonoma Raceway, Chicago will be the first race on a temporary circuit without runoff areas, meaning the smallest mistake could have major consequences.
“A race track like Circuit of The Americas, the last road course we ran on, I could screw up and go 100 feet [30.5m] into the run-off and keep going,” said Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric, of Team Penske.
“That was a race that went primarily all green until it didn’t, whereas Chicago or any street courses there’s zero room for error.
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“We’ve seen how strong and robust these cars are, but at the same time that’s why I love street course racing, but whether it’s track blockages or guys making mistakes having cautions throughout the race, all types of those things.
“I think will be different and come into play differently than what they would on most of our road courses because a mistake is damage, it’s not lost time.”
Van Gisbergen, who has landed in North America and had his first run behind the wheel of the #91 Trackhouse Racing Camaro that he’ll race in Chicago this weekend, is no stranger to ‘concrete canyons’ in Supercars.
Tracks including the venue for the season-opener of this year’s championship, the Newcastle East Street Circuit, serve up mix of bumpy, low-grip surfaces that demand better than inch-perfect precision from drivers to avoid a catastrophic end to their race.
The New Zealander is a fan of street circuits, and his track record around them in Supercars, which extends to the concrete walls of the Adelaide circuit and the Gold Coast track in Surfers Paradise – which dramatically claimed the Ford Mustang or title rival Scott McLaughlin at the 2019 event – speaks for itself.
Speaking on the weekend at Nashville, hours before team-mate Ross Chastain won the race, van Gisbergen played down expectations.
“Well I don’t really have anything, results-wise,” he said.
“I just want to do my best. I’ve prepared as well as I can, and I know the Trackhouse team runs some awesome cars, meeting everyone and seeing how motivated they are.
“Theirs nothing wrong with the equipment and the preparation, so I have no expectations, results-wise, but if I’m prepared the best I can be, we can achieve anything.”
The Cup Series field has struggled to run clean races on traditional road courses in recent seasons. Trips to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Circuit of the Americas, in particular, have included multi-car incidents as drivers have knocked each other out of the way in Turn 1 while battling for position.
It makes the Supercars driver’s debut – and the event itself – all the more salivating for NASCAR and Supercars fans.