In truth, many of the racers who clashed with Van Gisbergen to the finish in Sunday’s contest stated that while the Kiwi’s drive was thrilling to watch, it also served as a gentle reality check.
Van Gisbergen, a three-time Supercars champion, demonstrated his potential throughout the weekend on the downtown Chicago’s Grant Park 2.2-mile, 12-turn course. He took the lead in Saturday’s practice, narrowly missing pole position in the qualifiers, and starting in third place.
Opting for a late pit stop for fresh tires, van Gisbergen steadily navigated his way up the rankings, seizing and maintaining the lead during a two-lap overtime.
Chase Elliott, one of the leading drivers in the Cup series’ road course, acknowledged, “He was in a class by himself and, from my perspective, put on quite the show. I can’t speak for everyone else, but he made me appear quite inadequate, and I suspect the same is true for the rest of us.
“He’s likely to return home and regale his friends with stories of our shortcomings.”
Kyle Larson, who ultimately placed fourth and was overtaken by van Gisbergen late in the race, expressed his awe at the latter’s end-of-race performance.
“It was incredibly entertaining from where I was sitting,” Larson admitted. “When he closed in on my rear bumper, I felt I had executed a great section and was confident I’d see myself ahead of him by a couple of car lengths in the mirror. But, to my surprise, he was stuck to my back bumper.
I was taken aback, thinking ‘Wow, this guy is moving fast.’ He managed to overtake me, and then I was just a spectator to his performance.”
Shane van Gisbergen, Race winner, Trackhouse Racing, Chevrolet Camaro
Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / F1 Flow Images
Sunday’s fifth-placer, Kyle Busch, was not taken aback by van Gisbergen’s performance. He drew parallels between the heavier Supercars and the Next Gen of the Cup Series, and underscored the Kiwi’s proficiency in street and road racing.
“In this type of car, he’s likely ahead of us by four, five, or maybe eight years, given his V-8 Supercars experience,” Busch suggested. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with him during the Lexus program at the Daytona 24 Hours.
“I saw firsthand how skillful he was in that car. We were all quite quick, but he consistently held the fastest time for the team throughout our time in Daytona. He’s no pushover. I knew he’d bring his A-game when he crossed over.”
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