An Unexpected Invitation: The Road to Victory Begins
When Shane van Gisbergen received a call from Justin Marks, little did he know it would be the spark that reignited his interest in the NASCAR Cup Series. The New Zealand native plunged into a rigorous routine of studying the races, drivers, and cars. The fruits of his labor became evident as Shane van Gisbergen won the Cup Series debut on a rain-drenched Sunday in downtown Chicago, marking a remarkable beginning to the series’ first-ever street race.
A Memorable Victory: Dueling in the Rain
Downtown Chicago witnessed an unforgettable racing spectacle as Shane van Gisbergen chased down formidable contenders Justin Haley and Chase Elliott. Following a tense duel with Haley in the final laps, van Gisbergen, a three-time Supercars champion, secured his position at the front, leaving Haley and Elliott in the second and third positions respectively.
Relishing his win, van Gisbergen said, “The racing, the battles were really fun. But everyone was respectful and clean. It was really cool.”
Making History: A Landmark Victory for Van Gisbergen
At 34, Shane van Gisbergen’s debut triumph in the NASCAR Cup Series was no ordinary feat. He became the first driver since Johnny Rutherford in 1963 to win his Cup Series debut. His victorious drive in the No. 91 Chevrolet was part of Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91, an initiative to give international drivers a shot at NASCAR.
Unleashing Global Motorsport Talent: The Vision of Project 91
The brains behind Project 91 is Justin Marks, owner of Trackhouse. His love for global motorsports inspired the creation of Project 91, giving a platform to international drivers to compete in NASCAR.
The Project 91 initiative first led a race on Lap 25 when Shane van Gisbergen was at the helm. This notable achievement catapulted van Gisbergen into a small club of non-US born drivers to win a NASCAR Cup Series race, alongside Marcos Ambrose, Mario Andretti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Earl Ross, and Daniel Suárez.
A Stellar Record: Van Gisbergen’s Journey in Supercars
Van Gisbergen’s victory in the NASCAR Cup Series debut is an addition to his already illustrious career. The New Zealander clinched his first Supercars championship in 2016 and added two more in the subsequent years. His NASCAR debut was aided by Darian Grubb, the crew chief for Tony Stewart during his 2011 Cup Series championship win.
Trackhouse Racing is basking in success, having also won last weekend’s Cup Series race with Ross Chastain at Nashville Superspeedway.
Battling the Elements: An Unprecedented Race in Chicago
The NASCAR Cup Series debut in downtown Chicago was a battle against both the competitors and the elements. The race was scheduled for 100 laps and 220 miles but was shortened due to fading sunlight after a historic rainfall that had earlier delayed the start for more than 90 minutes.
Wet and Wild: Challenges Posed by Weather Conditions
The inclement weather led to challenging track conditions with puddles strewn across the course, making for a dynamic race setting. Despite the weather slowly clearing, water splashed across the circuit as drivers slid into tire barriers, making the race even more challenging and unpredictable.
Q1. Who won the Cup Series debut in downtown Chicago?
Shane van Gisbergen won the Cup Series debut in downtown Chicago.
Q2. Who is Shane van Gisbergen?
Shane van Gisbergen is a New Zealand native and a three-time Supercars champion who recently made his NASCAR Cup Series debut.
Q3. What is Project 91?
Project 91 is an initiative by Trackhouse Racing, owned by Justin Marks, aimed at giving international drivers an opportunity to compete in NASCAR.
Q4. Has any driver won a NASCAR Cup Series race on their debut before Shane van Gisbergen?
Johnny Rutherford was the last driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race on debut in 1963, prior to Shane van Gisbergen’s win.
Q5. How was the weather condition during the Cup Series debut in downtown Chicago?
The Cup Series debut in downtown Chicago was marked by a historic rainfall that delayed the start of the race for more than 90 minutes. The race was held amidst challenging wet conditions.