Shane van Gisbergen is tempering his expectations for a ‘learning experience’

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - AUGUST 12: Shane Van Gisbergen, driver of the #91 Enhance Health Chevrolet, walks the grid during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 12, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Shane van Gisbergen immediately put the NASCAR garage on notice after winning on his debut at the Chicago Street Course and has enjoyed a highly successful Australian Supercars career, he knows he’s still inexperienced with NASCAR racing.

Moving into NASCAR full-time next season, van Gisbergen is looking for a ‘learning experience.’ He’ll get plenty of it, being scheduled to compete in 40 races total, including seven Cup Series starts and a full-time campaign in the Xfinity Series for Kaulig Racing in partnership with Trackhouse Racing and Weathertech, the team announced Wednesday.

Through it all, he’s focused solely on getting better.

“I’m trying not to have expectations,” he explained. I’m trying to have my preparation as good as possible, but results-wise, I have no idea what we’re going to achieve. Obviously you want to get some top-tens and represent Weathertech well and have some fun, but I really don’t know what it’s going to be like.”

He’d even be open to expanding his schedule to include some Truck Series races as well if that could help him.

“Possibly,” was all van Gisbergen could say. “I think there’s two tracks, Kansas and one other, that we don’t go to in Xfinity. So I think it’d be helpful to just go to the track and just experience. I want to be able to go to every track and just know them before 2025.”

He did compete in the Truck Series last season at Indianapolis Raceway Park driving for Niece Motorsports, where he earned a top-twenty finish in his first-ever oval start, so he has some experience there.

Right now, though, van Gisbergen is particularly interested in getting experience on the superspeedways before the season-opener at Daytona, and he’s been studying and practicing on the simulator, but nothing compares to the real thing.

“It’s going to be our first race. I don’t really know how to approach it or what to expect,” he explained. “We get a little bit of practice so I can get a feel for the car and the other cars around me at that speed, but that style of racing is so far removed from anything I’ve ever done.”

“So superspeedways are probably what I’m most anxious about,” van Gisbergen admitted. “That’s going to be a tough first one.”

After Daytona, he expects to get slowly up to speed with the car and get competitive in the second part of the season while also getting in touch with the Trackhouse Cup Series car.

As for selecting his Cup races for next season – which will be at COTA, both Talladega Superspeedway races, Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600, the Chicago Street Race, Watkins Glen International and the October race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – van Gisbergen said that Trackhouse thought those races “would prepare me best for all the types of racing that NASCAR goes to.”

He added he’s hoping to move up to the Cup Series in 2025, and such comprehensive experience would be a big help.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – AUGUST 13: Shane Van Gisbergen, driver of the #91 Enhance Health Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 13, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Van Gisbergen does have plenty of support, though. He explained that drivers from throughout NASCAR have helped him with the transition, including Kevin Harvick, who’s himself transitioning to broadcaster next season after retiring from racing this season.

Additionally, he’s been able to speak to another driver who moved from the Supercars series to NASCAR and dominated on the road courses.

“I guess Marcos Ambrose is a great example, similar sort of background coming into NASCAR. When I researched how Marcos did it and what he went through, it took him three seasons before he was full-time in the Cup Series.”

“I forgot about that side of things. You know, it’s not going to be an easy transition,” van Gisbergen admitted. “Doing this year in Xfinity, it’s going to be a lot of learning, a lot of growing pains, and it’s a challenge.”

“Marcos has been really helpful,” he added, “and I want to emulate what he’s done, to get into the Cup Series and be successful.”

AJ Allmendinger and Josh Williams will be van Gisbergen’s full-time teammates at Kaulig in the Xfinity Series. Like van Gisbergen, Allmendinger cut his teeth on road courses, starting out on the open-wheel side before moving to NASCAR, and could provide insight. As for Josh Williams, who’s most famous for parking his car on the fronstretch under caution at Atlanta to protest a penalty, van Gisbergen is looking forward to working with a “character.”

The help has made the move to a new continent much easier, and the New Zealander has done it before when he left for Australia to race Supercars.

“Packing up my whole life and moving from Australia to America has been awesome,” van Gisbergen said, detailing the some of the process of starting ‘a whole new life stateside,’ including getting a social security number and finding a house.

“The team’s been really helpful here, Trackhouse has made things really easy for us,” he said. “It’s exciting. I’ve done Supercars since 2007 now and I moved to Australia, so to come here and start again and start the learning experience… I’m pretty excited for it.”

The Supercars champion has proven himself adaptable in the past. Overall, though, he’s just happy to get the chance to experience NASCAR racing.

“It’s been a whirlwind since Chicago, getting to do another race at Indianapolis and then getting into the truck at IRP, just how quickly this has come together…”

Owen Johnson