Supercars legend Shane van Gisbergen has written another extraordinary chapter in his motorsport career after becoming the first man in 60 years to win a NASCAR Cup Series race on debut. The New Zealand-born driver marked his starting debut in rainy downtown Chicago by chasing down Justin Haley and Chase Elliott to storm home in a remarkable finish to the series' first street race.
The 34-year-old New Zealander won his first Supercars championship in 2016 and added two more in the past two years. He is also a two-time winner of the famed Bathurst 1000 but it's fair to say few in the motorsport world could have predicted what he had in store in Chicago.
Van Gisbergen had a chance to drive the No. 91 Chevrolet as part of Trackhouse Racing's Project 91, with the goal for the team centred around expanding global reach. Little did they know just how perfect the man behind the wheel was for that cause as van Gisbergen sealed a place in NASCAR folklore.
Having started from third on the grid and passing Elliott, van Gisbergen duelled with Haley in the final laps before the three-time Supercars champion moved in front for good. Haley held on for second, with Elliott having to settle for third.
The remarkable drive came after wild weather lashed the track and caused the race to be delayed for more than 90 minutes due to historic rainfall that flooded the course. The race was scheduled for 100 laps and 220 miles but was shortened because of fading sunlight, but the chaos didn't seem to bother van Gisbergen.
Right before the scheduled start, as the rain persisted, pole-sitter Denny Hamlin took to Twitter to lobby for a delay, and Noah Gragson posted video of one of his tyres floating on pit road. NASCAR then decided to allow the drivers to return to their caravans.
The weather eventually cleared up, but there were puddles on the course when the race began. Even as it started to dry out — and teams started breaking out their slick tyres, though that didn't stop several drivers colliding with tyre barriers through the race.
There also was a massive pile-up involving 14 cars on the city's famed Michigan Avenue on the 50th lap, clogging the course and almost certainly drawing smiles from regular Chicago drivers familiar with the area. Van Gisbergen managed to steer clear of the drama and up a breathless finish as he chased a slice of NASCAR history.
Shane van Gisbergen stuns fans in shock NASCAR triumph
The New Zealander was helped in his NASCAR debut by Darian Grubb, who was the crew chief for Tony Stewart when he won the Cup Series championship in 2011. Van Gisbergen had outperformed his Trackhouse stablemates Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain to be handed his start, and the Kiwi ace never looked back.
Having seized the race lead from Haley with five laps to go, the Supercars great hung on to cross the finish line first in the 75-lap race. Van Gisbergen's shock debut victory left NASCAR fans in a frenzy as the motorsport world celebrated the epic feat.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 3, 2023
— Trystan Spooner (@TrystanSpooner) July 3, 2023
Well done Shane Van Gisbergen.... winning in his first ever nascar drive..... what a legend
— Big Dog 1935 (@CBB1934) July 3, 2023
Shane van Gisbergen in his first try! 😱
Who saw this coming?
What did you think of the inaugural Chicago Street Race? 🏙️
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— Dirty Mo Media (@DirtyMoMedia) July 3, 2023
Shane van Gisbergen just won his first ever NASCAR race. Crazy. #NASCARChicago
— Tristo (@tristo1321) July 3, 2023
OH MY GOD!!!
SHANE VAN GISBERGEN JUST WON CHICAGO!!!#NASCARChicago
— Armany DePaul (@MotorMinister) July 3, 2023
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) July 3, 2023
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