To say that Shane Van Gisbergen put on a clinic in Chicago Sunday might be the understatement of the NASCAR season to date. The Australian Supercars champion was strong all weekend, fastest in Saturday’s practice and grabbed a third place starting spot in qualifying.
Not bad for his first time in a NASCAR stock car.
But wait, there’s more.
Sunday Van Gisbergen ran inside the top five much of the race and even led a lap during a round of green flag pit stops. He was among a group of 9 cars that pitted on lap 42. Just a few laps later however, NASCAR announced that due to the race’s late start the race would be called early, 75 laps, due to impending darkness.
Van Gisbergen began a charge through the field culminating in him taking the lead from Just Haley with just under five laps to go. The race was forced into overtime and Van Gisbergen was able to sail away to victory by 1.2 seconds, leaving the NASCAR Cup regulars wondering what had just happened.
“It was so fun to watch from my view,” fourth place finisher Kyle Larson said. “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.
“I was like, ‘Holy shit, this guy is flying.’ He was able to get by me, and then I got to watch the show.”
Kyle Busch, who overcame a meeting with the tire barrier in Turn 6 to finish fifth, has raced with Van Gisbergen before. The two were teammates with Lexus during the IMSA 24 Hours of Daytona in 2020. He was well aware that Van Gisbergen has plenty of road racing experience.
“That’s what he’s grown up doing,” Busch said. That’s what he’s done his whole life. Fortunate for him, he’s done it in bigger, heavier stock cars, not lighter weight GT cars or some IMSA cars or something like that.
“He’s probably, I don’t know, four, five, eight years ahead of us in this sort of car in the things that he’s done with the V-8 Supercars.”
Busch knew Van Gisbergen had speed when he saw him racing the Lexus at Daytona.
“He was talented in that car,” Busch said. “We were all really fast, so he always kept probably the quickest time for the team the whole time we were down there for Daytona. He is no slouch. I knew he would be good when he came over.”
Perhaps no one was as disappointed in the outcome as Chase Elliott. After missing a total of seven races, six for an injury, and one due to a suspension, Elliott desperately needed a win. It would be a tall order after crashing Saturday and starting from the rear of the field Sunday, Elliott, who has the most road course wins of any active Cup driver, was fighting Haley for the lead in the closing laps. That was until Van Gisbergen charged past first him then Haley and went on to win. Elliott was left with a third-place finish and wondering what happened.
“He was in a league of his own, and in my opinion, put on a really big-time clinic,” Elliott said. “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.”
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