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Features

SVG goes NASCAR

Shane van Gisbergen stunned the motorsport world with victory in his NASCAR debut on the streets of Chicago in July 2023. Now he is set to make a full-time move to North America in 2024.

03 December 2023

In Nashville, one week prior to his NASCAR debut in Chicago, Shane van Gisbergen was a curiosity. His pre-Chicago media conference attracted a bit of interest, but more with journalists trying to work out how to pronounce his name… they gave up and just called him SVG.

SupercarXtra Magazine issue #131 gets the inside word on van Gisbergen’s life-changing NASCAR debut win and what comes next.

CLICK HERE to purchase SupercarXtra Magazine issue #131.

At 1.88-metres tall, van Gisbergen towered over Trackhouse Racing team owner Justin Marks, who is much more racer-sized, and he was humble and understated despite his imposing presence. But like most athletes who have reached the top, there is a burning competitiveness that says they are never there to make up the numbers. No matter what he said.

A short test session on the Charlotte Oval told legendary crew chief and Trackhouse technical director Darian Grubb he had something to play with. Van Gisbergen impressed Grubb with his methodical approach to the task, with his ability to explore lines and braking points like few he had ever seen. Then he explored a little more on Chevrolet’s multi-million dollar race simulator, again leaving an impression. Then it was time for the perfect storm, the inaugural Chicago NASCAR street race.

NASCAR had never run on the streets of a city before, but it still packed the stands in downtown Chicago with a sell-out crowd of more than 70,000 fans, many new to NASCAR and car racing. In contrast to Adelaide’s brilliant racing surface, there were multiple surface changes in Chicago, from concrete to asphalt and back, sometimes in the middle of a corner. But the simulator captured it all after the track was laser-mapped well in advance of the meeting. On the simulator, he spent time learning the 12 corner, 3.5-kilometre track and he said he could feel everything. He started to plan.

Thursday night’s rush hour still had cars in the thousands rolling down South Michigan. On Saturday morning of the two-day meeting, fences were still being erected. And it was hot, stinking hot by the time the NASCARs hit the track for the first time, for one 20-minute practice session before qualifying. Van Gisbergen topped the session and then qualified third after a red flag on his fast lap stopped his charge at pole. He would have been on pole, that lap was so good.

Now the curiosity was something of a fascination, and in the media centre the locals were starting to ask questions. But they were still confident that on race day the usual NASCAR racers would beat him up. Joey Logano commented that he’d love to get ‘him’ onto the track at Darlington so they could show him what NASCAR was all about. What he didn’t realise was that van Gisbergen was getting ready to teach him and 35 other NASCAR regulars his own lesson.

Watching van Gisbergen around the track you could visibly see his advantage. While the NASCAR regulars were wobbling out to the wall using the steering wheel, van Gisbergen was out there pushing hard and sliding naturally out to the wall.