Larson: Does SVG think ‘we all suck’?

Shane van Gisbergen NASCAR

Shane van Gisbergen won in his NASCAR debut. Picture: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

2021 Cup Series champion Kyle Larson wonders if Shane van Gisbergen thinks NASCAR’s full-timers “suck” after his debut victory in Chicago.

The three-time Supercars champion, who went into the event with just one brief, somewhat restricted test, was fastest in practice, qualified third, and went on to win what ended up being a 78-lap race in the category’s first ever street circuit event.

Van Gisbergen dropped as low as 18th when the early front-runners were on the unfortunate end of a strategy-related shake-up to the order, but there was seemingly an inevitability to his triumph in the closing stages.

He had to redress his first pass of then-leader Justin Haley given it came just as a Caution was called, but eventually made the second stick at the restart which ensued, and never looked seriously troubled during the Overtime finish.

In fact, SVG drove the #91 Trackhouse Racing Camaro to a 1.259s victory in those final two laps of green flag action.

Larson, who joined the New Zealander on his charge through the field before fading somewhat, was impressed by what he saw.

“It was so fun to watch from my view,” said the Hendrick Motorsports driver, who finished fourth.

“When he got to my back bumper, I felt like I pieced together a really good section and I thought for sure I’d look in the mirror and I was going to be like two car lengths or something in front of him, and he was glued to my back bumper and I was like, ‘Holy shit, this guy is flying.’

“He was able to get by me, and then I got to watch the show. I kind of followed him through, and the moves he was making really everywhere… He could pass anywhere, but the moves that he could make into 2 [Turn] was really neat to see, and then the pass that he had for the lead…

“I thought their battle for the lead was great. He made his move into 2, Justin [Haley] was able to get a good exit and squeeze inside.

“I was like, ‘Man, he’s going to be able to fight him off here for a little bit longer,’ and he just made a super aggressive lane change back to his right side. It was just… it was sick, it was awesome.

“He put on a show and it was cool to see, and I think when a guy like that can come in and kick your arse at your own game, it shows that we all have room to improve.

“I’m curious what he thinks about us. He obviously passed a lot of us, so I’m curious if he thinks we all suck or if we could actually like compete, if we weren’t really that bad.

“We come from a different background than him, but it was great to see, and I hope the fans enjoyed it.”

Larson’s team-mate Chase Elliott, who rounded out the podium in Chicago and won last year’s regular season title, had a similar take.

“He was in a league of his own and, in my opinion, put on a really big-time clinic,” declared the 2020 Cup Series champion.

“I don’t want to speak for everybody else, but he made me look bad, and I kind of think the rest of us, too.

“Looking forward to going to work and trying to be better.”

Haley, who would have been a surprise winner, also praised the Auckland native.

“We started last today and I felt like we had good pace,” said the Kaulig Racing driver.

“Yeah, Shane was just better. He had 16- or something lap better tyres. Just a world-class racer.

“He was very calculated, very precise, and very smooth. He wasn’t overdriving it. He was very calculated.

“For someone to come in and race like that was just incredible. Very clean, as well.

“Our race for the lead was clean, and he gave a lot of room and very respectful.”

Van Gisbergen’s triumph has further fuelled speculation about his future in Supercars, with Triple Eight Racing Engineering Team Principal Jamie Whincup now revealing the deadline for a decision on whether or not the two-time Bathurst 1000 winner stays in the category in 2025.

Regardless, he is set to notch up 500 races in the Repco Supercars Championship, with the milestone due this Sunday at the NTI Townsville 500.

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