Shane Van Gisbergen’s weekend not ending on Saturday

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 08: Shane Van Gisbergen, driver of the #97 WeatherTech Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Zip Buy Now, Pay Later 250 at Sonoma Raceway on June 08, 2024 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Instead of competing in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race, New Zealand’s Shane Van Gisbergen will be spotting for the Australian Will Brown. The two know each other from the Australian Supercar Series, where Van Gisbergen won three championships and Brown currently competes.

The longer practice time on Friday – 50 minutes – was especially timely for Brown and fellow Australian Supercar Series driver Waters. The two Aussie drivers are having to get used to not only the challenging Sonoma circuit, but the cars. In Australia, the race cars have right side steering wheels and shifts are made with the left hand – the complete opposite of what they are using in NASCAR.

Van Gisbergen, who won the inaugural Chicago Street Course race last summer in his NASCAR debut and won the Portland, Ore. NASCAR Xfinity Series race last week was quite optimistic about the two Australian drivers’ participation this weekend – and glad to help them get acclimated.

“He [Brown] asked me [to spot] and initially I said, ‘no,’ but he kept asking,” Van Gisbergen said with a smile Friday. “I think I’ll just be the secondary spotter so I don’t have to say much, which suits me fine. Just willing to help him.

“So happy to help those guys. Will’s been asking questions all week and I went and sat in on the simulator. I threw some ideas out there. He’s a great young driver and so is [Australian] Cam Waters and I’m sure they’ll both be up there and hopefully they stay there. This long practice is certainly a help for them to get used to the car.”

Van Gisbergen said he was pleased to see the influx of drivers from the South Pacific. Another former Australian Supercars star, Australian Marcos Ambrose competed in NASCAR fulltime from 2009-2014 winning back-to-back NASCAR Cup Series races on the Watkins Glen, N.Y. road course in 2011-12. He won five NASCAR Xfinity Series races – four at The Glen and one on the Montreal, Canada street course.

“I think it’s awesome [Brown and Waters are competing] and obviously, last year there was [Formula One champion] Jenson Button and [sports car champion] Kamui Kobayashi [racing in NASCAR],” Van Gisbergen said. “I told those guys, these [NASCAR] guys aren’t useless. I was quite lucky winning my first race. These [NASCAR] guys are very good road racers now, especially with five or six road races this year, so everyone’s gotten quite good on them and really focused on them.

“It’s not easy for someone to come in and run up front. I don’t know what their expectations are, but I think if both of them get around the top-10 or around the top-10 that would be amazing at a track that everyone [else] knows here.”