Shane Van Gisbergen wins in NASCAR debut in inaugural Chicago Street Course event

History was made in the NASCAR Cup Series’ inaugural running of the Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course on Sunday, July 2, as Shane Van Gisbergen succeeded against the stars of NASCAR’s premier series by scoring his first NASCAR victory in his series debut.

Van Gisbergen, a three-time Supercars champion from Auckland, New Zealand, led nine of 78 over-scheduled laps, including the final eight, in a weekend where he made his inaugural presence in NASCAR as he was serving as the second-ever competitor to pilot Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 entry. Qualifying in third place, he finished in the top five and scored stage points during both stage periods while remaining within sight of the front-runners in an event that was delayed by 90+ minutes due to heavy precipitation that ultimately shortened the event to 25 laps of its scheduled distance.

After keeping pace with the front-runners, Van Gisbergen, who nearly overtook Justin Haley for the lead with eight laps remaining amid a late caution period, fended off a late challenge from Haley during a restart with five laps remaining to assume the lead. He then appeared to be cruising to victory before the caution returned with two laps remaining for another on-track incident and the event was sent into overtime. During the event’s lone overtime period, however, Van Gisbergen was not to be denied as he rocketed away from the field and held off the competition through a two-lap shootout to win in his NASCAR debut.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, July 1, Denny Hamlin claimed his third Cup pole of the season after posting a pole-winning lap at 89.557 mph in 88.435 seconds. Joining him on the front row was his 23XI Racing driver Tyler Reddick, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 89.513 mph in 88.479 seconds.

Prior to the event, the following names that included Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. dropped to the rear of the field as all started the event in backup cars. William Byron, Austin Cindric, Todd Gilliland and Justin Haley also dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective cars.

Once the engines fired and the competitors rolled off of pit road amid a delay of more than 90 minutes due to heavy precipitation that nearly flooded the course, the competitors filed in a single file line under a cautious pace and behind the pace car for several laps, with the second lap featuring the competitors rolling through pit road.

When the green flag waved and the race commenced amid a single file start, Hamlin received an early challenge from Reddick entering the first left-hand turn. With Hamlin slipping the turn, Reddick would maintain his early challenge on Hamlin through E. Balbo Dr. and entering the second, right-hand turn. Both would duel for the top spot through Turns 3 to 5 until Reddick pulled ahead with the lead entering S. Columbus Dr. in between Turns 5 and 6. Reddick continued to maintain the top spot through Turn 6 while behind, Aric Almirola spun his No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang just past Turn 5.

Then ahead of Almirola’s incident, more early trouble ignited in Turn 6 when Erik Jones made contact with Brad Keselowski while trying to brake his No. 43 Draiver Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 amid the slick circuit entering Turn 6 as both competitors along with rookie Noah Gragson made light contact against the tire barriers with little damage to their respective entries. Amid the chaos, the race remained under green as all competitors continued. With the leaders returning to the frontstretch, Reddick proceeded to lead the first lap in his No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota TRD Camry ahead of Hamlin.

During the second lap and with the field still navigating its way through the 12-turn circuit under competitive, slick conditions, early trouble struck for the pole-sitter Hamlin, who slipped and made contact against the Turn 2 tire barriers. With Hamlin falling back to 14th and the race remaining under green, Reddick continued to lead by more than a second over Christopher Bell while third-place Shane Van Gisbergen, a three-time Supercars champion who qualified an impressive third place in his NASCAR debut while piloting Trackhouse Racing’s No. 91 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, was in third. Behind, Daniel Suarez was in fourth ahead of Michael McDowell while Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Jenson Button and rookie Ty Gibbs were in the top 10.

Then on the third lap, the first caution of the event flew when Kyle Busch, who was running in 16th, went dead straight into the Turn 6 tire barriers amid the slick conditions as the front nose and windshield of Busch’s No. 8 3CHI Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was wedged underneath the tire barriers. In spite of the incident, Busch received assistance from a wrecker to have his car towed out of the barriers as he proceeded under a cautious pace.

When the race restarted under green on the fifth lap, Reddick maintained the lead ahead of Bell, Van Gisbergen, Suarez and McDowell while the field behind remained in a long single file line before fanning out through the first five turns. With Reddick leading by more than a second over Bell, McDowell commenced his early charge to the front during the following lap by battling Suarez for fifth as Logano tried to close in to join the battle.

On the eighth lap, Reddick slipped through Turns 6 and 7, which allowed Bell to capitalize and cycle his No. 20 Craftsman Toyota TRD Camry into the lead. By then, Van Gisbergen maintained third while McDowell and Truex were running in the top five ahead of Suarez and Kyle Larson.

Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Bell was leading by more than two seconds over Reddick followed by Van Gisbergen, McDowell and Truex while Suarez, Larson, Jenson Button, AJ Allmendinger and Ty Gibbs were running in the top 10. Behind, Logano had fallen back to 11th ahead of Hamlin, Chris Buescher, Corey LaJoie and Alex Bowman while Chase Briscoe, Ryan Preece, Bubba Wallace, Austin Dillon and Josh Bilicki were running in the top 20. Meanwhile, Ryan Blaney was back in 21st ahead of Ross Chastain, Andy Lally, William Byron and Chase Elliott while Ty Dillon, Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton, Kevin Harvick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were mired in the top 30. By then, Brad Keselowski was strapped back in 35th and Kyle Busch was running in 37th, dead last.

Two laps later and amid a series of jostles and on-track battles ensuing around the 12-turn circuit, the second caution of the event flew when Noah Gragson wrecked his No. 42 Wendy’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 against the Turn 6 tire barriers as he smoked his rear tires while unsuccessfully trying to reverse his car out of the barriers. Like Busch’s incident, Gragson received assistance from the wrecker to have his car towed out from the barriers before he proceeded under caution.

During the second caution period, select names that included Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, Harvick and Gragson pitted while the rest led by Bell remained on the track.

During the following restart on Lap 15, Bell launched ahead with a strong start as he maintained the lead through the first turn with Reddick in pursuit. With the field maintaining a long single file line through the first five turns, Bell started to stretch his advantage to seven-tenths of a second over Reddick and more than a second over Van Gisbergen while Truex was in fourth ahead of McDowell, Suarez and Larson. In the midst of the on-track battles, Bowman and LaJoie, both of whom bumped and battled fiercely on the track earlier, battled hard for 14th through Turns 8 to 12 while Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe and Ryan Preece battled behind for 16th.

At the conclusion of the first stage period on Lap 20, Bell captured his first stage victory of the 2023 Cup season. Reddick trailed in the runner-up spot by more than a second while Van Gisbergen, Truex, McDowell, Suarez, Larson, Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs and Jenson Button were scored in the top 10. Shortly after, select names that included Bowman, LaJoie and Briscoe pitted under green for slick tires. By then, Blaney, who slapped the Turn 6 concrete barriers, had plummeted to the bottom of the leaderboard as he continued without drawing a caution.

With the event proceeding under green to start the second stage on Lap 21, Bell continued to extend his advantage to more than two seconds over Reddick while third-place Van Gisbergen also trailed by more than two seconds. During the Lap 22 mark, Logano wrecked against the Turn 6 tire barriers, but he managed to reverse his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang and proceed without drawing a caution. Shortly after, more trouble ensued as Jenson Button, who was trying to turn right and enter pit road under green in Turn 12, came across the path of Buescher as he was hit and spun backward towards the pit road entrance. Then as Button tried to loop his No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang around, he was nearly hit by Logano, who was also trying to pit, but both proceeded under a cautious pace for service.

During the proceeding laps, a bevy of names that included McDowell, Buescher, Byron, Ty Dillon, Almirola, Todd Gilliland, Truex, Larson, Elliott, Andy Lally, Austin Dillon, Keselowski, Hamlin, Cindric, Erik Jones and Kyle Busch pitted under green for slick tires. The leader Bell would then pit under green along with Reddick, Ross Chastain, Suarez and Stenhouse at the Lap 25 mark while Van Gisbergen cycled into the lead followed by Ty Gibbs and Preece. By then, Elliott, who had collided against the tire barriers in Turn 2 moments after pitting, proceeded without drawing a caution.

Once Van Gisbergen and Ty Gibbs pitted for slick tires through Laps 25 and 26, Bell cycled back into the lead. Van Gisbergen would manage to exit pit road and run in second ahead of Reddick, Truex and Suarez.

On Lap 29, the event’s third caution period flew when Gragson wrecked and got his car stuck against the Turn 6 tire barriers for a second time, with the Las Vegas native unable to reverse his car and proceed without assistance.

As the event restarted under green on Lap 33, Bell retained the lead while Reddick battled and overtook Van Gisbergen for second as Truex and Suarez battled for fourth. As the field made its way through the first five turns, Larson dive-bombed his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 up to fourth over Truex and Suarez as Bell navigated his way through Turns 6 to 12 while extending his advantage to more than a second.

Two laps later and at the Lap 35 mark, Larson continued his charge to the front as he overtook Van Gisbergen for third. Suarez, Van Gisbergen’s teammate at Trackhouse Racing, would follow suit while Bell stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Reddick. Behind, Truex fell back to sixth while McDowell, Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs and Buescher were in the top 10.

By Lap 40, Bell was leading by more than three seconds over the new runner-up competitor, Larson, as Reddick fell back to third. By then, Suarez and Van Gisbergen remained in the top five ahead of McDowell and Ty Gibbs while Truex, who was battling for a top-five spot a few laps earlier, slipped back to eighth in front of Allmendinger and Buescher. Shortly after, the fourth caution period flew when Alex Bowman, who was running in 11th, was hit by Hamlin as he spun his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in Turn 11 and was mired with oncoming traffic while trying to straighten his car.

With the event restarting under green with two laps remaining in the second stage, Bell retained the lead ahead of a hard-charging Larson through the first two turns as the field fanned out and jostled for positions. With the field still battling as Bowman parked his car near S. Columbus Dr. between Turns 5 and 6 due to a mechanical issue, Bell maintained the lead by over half a second over Larson while Reddick maintained third ahead of Van Gisbergen, McDowell, Ty Gibbs and Suarez, who hit the wall in Turn 1. With Bowman’s car starting to smoke amid the terminal mechanical issue, which affected his hopes of vying for a spot in the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs, the caution returned.

The caution period for Bowman’s issue was enough for the second stage period scheduled to conclude on Lap 45 to finish under caution as Bell captured his second consecutive stage victory. Larson settled in second ahead of Reddick, Van Gisbergen and McDowell while Ty Gibbs, Suarez, Truex, Allmendinger and Chase Briscoe were scored in the top 10.

During the caution and stage break, a majority of the field led by Bell pitted while 11 competitors led by Justin Haley and Austin Dillon remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Bell exited first followed by Larson, Reddick, Ty Gibbs, McDowell, Suarez and Van Gisbergen. By then, NASCAR shortened its scheduled distance of the event from 100 to 75 due to the upcoming sunset and stemming from the early rain delay.

When the final stage commenced under green with 27 laps remaining, Haley maintained a steady advantage over Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott while Logano, who restarted fourth, slipped in Turn 1, which allowed Byron to move up to fourth. With Bell strapped back in 11th, Haley maintained the lead through the first six turns before entering Turns 7 to 11 through S. Michigan Ave.

Shortly after, the caution returned when Byron, who was running in the top five, collided into the Turn 11 tire barriers after overdriving his No. 24 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 through the corner. Byron’s incident ignited a massive stack-up as Harvick, who was trying to avoid hitting Byron, slipped sideways and spun his No. 4 Gearwrench Ford Mustang just past Turn 11 along with LaJoie, who got hit by Almirola as a host of competitors running within the top 15 towards the bottom of the leaderboard, had to jam on the brakes as the turn was blocked. Among the competitors stuck in the stack-up and the sideway competitors of Harvick and LaJoie included Bell, Larson and Truex while Reddick, Gibbs, Suarez, Van Gisbergen, Allmendinger and Buescher managed to escape the carnage.

During the proceeding restart with 23 laps remaining, Haley rocketed away from the field following a strong restart as Austin Dillon tried to keep pace with Haley. With Elliott trailing in third place and more than a second behind, Logano was in fourth followed by Kyle Busch and Cindric while Reddick was still scored in seventh ahead of Ty Gibbs. With Truex spinning in Turn 5, the race remained under green flag conditions as Haley retained the lead by nearly half a second. Soon after, Wallace missed the corner in Turn 11 as he had to loop his No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota TRD Camry around to proceed and blend back onto the racetrack without drawing a caution.

With 20 laps remaining, Haley was leading by seven-tenths of a second over Austin Dillon, Elliott, Logano and Kyle Busch while Reddick, Cindric, Gibbs, Almirola and Larson were in the top 10. By then, Bell was mired back in 11th ahead of Byron, Van Gisbergen, McDowell and LaJoie while Harvick, Allmendinger, Buescher, Hamlin and Suarez were running in the top 20. Soon after, more on-track drama continued as Chastain and Gilliland made contact in Turn 1 while Gragson spun and hit the wall in Turn 6 again. Not long after, Bell’s run that started off on a strong note and soon went to bad became worse as he spun in Turn 1, though he managed to continue without drawing a caution.

Then with 18 laps remaining, the caution flew when Reddick, who was trying to charge his way back to the front and running in fourth, collided into the Turn 6 barriers, with the Californian unsuccessful in reversing his car out of the barriers as he smoked the rear tires off of his No. 45 Toyota.

Down to the final 15 laps of the event, the race restarted under green. At the start, Haley maintained the lead over Austin Dillon and Elliott as the field remained in a long single-file line while jostling for late positions. Through the 12-turn circuit and back to the frontstretch, Haley would continue to lead in his No. 31 Benesch Law Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 by half a second over Austin Dillon with Elliott’s No. 9 Hooters Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in close pursuit.

Then during the following lap, Austin Dillon, who tried to set a move on Haley for the lead, bounced off the wall entering Turn 12, which caused his No. 3 Get Bioethanol Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to shoot back across the track and wreck against the tire barriers. Despite sustaining significant right-front damage to his car, Dillon proceeded without drawing a caution and would wait for the entire field to overtake him before he reversed his car onto pit road and to his pit box. This allowed Elliott to move up to second followed by Kyle Busch, Logano and Cindric while Haley retained the lead.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Haley was leading by more than a second over Elliott followed by a hard-charging Van Gisbergen, Kyle Busch and Larson while Logano, Cindric, McDowell, Ty Gibbs and Almirola were in the top 10. By then, more on-track issues ignited as Truex slid into Harvick entering Turn 1 as both spun and wrecked with Harrison Burton also wrecking into the tire barriers while trying to avoid the carnage.

Two laps later, the caution flew when Truex wrecked again, this time against the tire barriers in Turn 1. At the time of caution, Haley was scored the leader by over Van Gisbergen, who had overtaken Elliott a few turns earlier and had nearly overtaken Haley for the lead in between Turns 6 and 7.

With the race restarting under green with five laps remaining, Haley maintained the lead entering the first turn ahead of Van Gisbergen. Then in Turn 2, Van Gisbergen made his move beneath Haley and overtook him for the lead. Haley, however, returned the favor through Turns 3 and 4 and briefly reassumed the top spot before Van Gisbergen crossed over in his No. 91 Enhance Health Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 over Haley’s Camaro and overtook him again in Turn 5 and through S. Columbus Dr. in between Turns 5 and 6. Van Gisbergen then began to extend his advantage to nearly a second over Haley as the field behind jostled for positions with four laps remaining.

With two laps remaining, Van Gisbergen was still leading by more than a second over Haley while third-place Elliott trailed by more than two seconds along with Larson and Kyle Busch. Then not long after and with Van Gisbergen having full control of the event, the caution flew and the event was sent into overtime when Bubba Wallace slid and sent Ricky Stenhouse Jr. into the Turn 1 barriers.

At the start of the first overtime attempt, Van Gisbergen muscled away from Haley, Elliott and the field through Turns 1 and 2 before making his way through Turns 3 to 5 in clean air. Van Gisbergen started to place a reasonable gap between himself and Haley through S. Columbus Dr. before making his way through Turns 6 to 12 with the top spot.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Van Gisbergen remained as the leader by less than four-tenths of a second over Haley. With both Haley and Elliott unable to mount a late charge nor close back towards Van Gisbergen, the New Zealander was able to execute a flawless final lap out in clean air and through the 12-turn circuit in Downtown Chicago before he cycled back to the frontstretch and win in his NASCAR debut by more than a second over Haley.

With the victory in the inaugural Chicago Street Course, Shane Van Gisbergen became the 204th different competitor to achieve a win in the NASCAR Cup Series and the first competitor in the modern era of NASCAR, seventh overall and the first since Johnny Rutherford won at Daytona in 1963 to win in a premier series debut.

In addition to recording the fifth overall victory for Trackhouse Racing and the second in recent weeks after the team won at Nashville Superspeedway with Ross Chastain last week, the 33-year-old Van Gisbergen, who has notched three Supercars titles and holds 78 victories in the division, also recorded the first win for Trackhouse’s Project No. 91 entry led by former championship-winning crew chief Darian Grubb, who notched his 24th career victory and first since winning with Carl Edwards at Darlington Raceway in September 2015. The win was also the first for the number 91 in the Cup Series since 1953 made by Tim Flock.

Shane Van Gisbergen, driver of the #91 Enhance Health Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, races to victory Sunday, July 2, 2023, during the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series street race, the Grant Park 220, through the streets of Chicago, Illinois. This is the first NASCAR CUP victory for the New Zealander in his first ever NASCAR Cup race. He is a three time Supercars champion. (Photo by Jim Fluharty/HHP for Chevy Racing).

“No, of course not, but you always dream of it,” Van Gisbergen, who was asked on the possibility of winning, said on NBC. “Thank you so much to the Trackhouse team and the Enhance Health Project 91 [team]. Man, what an experience and the crowd out here. This was so cool. It’s what you dream of. Hopefully, I can come and do more. The racing was really good. Everyone was respectful and it was tough, but a lot of fun.”

“Anything is possible,” Van Gisbergen, who evoked a message to his hometown fans in New Zealand, added. “The fans in Australia and New Zealand, the response and the support I’ve got from everyone, even over here, how welcoming everyone is, I can’t believe it. A dream come true. I’m doing one more year in [Australia] and then, I’d love to come over here [to NASCAR full time].”

Haley, who led 23 laps compared to Van Gisbergen’s nine, ended up in the runner-up spot for his fifth top-five career result in the Cup circuit while Elliott, Larson and Kyle Busch finished in the top five.

“It was tough,” Haley said. “It sucks, obviously, where we are right now. We aren’t in position to win every week, so coming that close, obviously, is not what you want, but [I’m] just really proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing. What an awesome event. [I] Can’t wait to come back next year…What is there to be disappointed about? We’ll go to Atlanta next week, try our best.”

Austin Cindric came home in sixth place while McDowell, Logano, Ty Gibbs and Buescher finished in the top 10. Notably, Hamlin ended up in 11th, Bell salvaged an 18th-place result after leading a race-high 37 laps, Jenson Button settled in 21st in his second NASCAR career start, Gragson finished 25th following numerous incidents in Turn 6, Suarez and Reddick fell back to 27th and 28th, respectively, Harvick ended up 29th and Truex settled in 32nd, a lap down.

There were seven lead changes for five different leaders. The inaugural Cup Series event at the Chicago Street Course featured nine cautions for 21 laps. In total, 31 of 37 starters finished on the lead lap.

With eight Cup regular-season events remaining on the schedule, Martin Truex Jr. continues to lead the regular-season standings by nine points over William Byron, 18 over Ross Chastain, 21 over Christopher Bell and 31 over Kyle Busch.

Martin Truex Jr., William Byron, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are currently guaranteed spots for the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs based on winning at least once throughout the regular-season stretch. Kevin Harvick, Chris Buescher, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace and rookie Ty Gibbs currently occupy the remaining vacant spots in the Playoffs based on points, with Gibbs occupying the 16th and final vacant spot by six points over Daniel Suarez, 10 over Michael McDowell, 24 over AJ Allmendinger, 26 over Alex Bowman, 45 over both Justin Haley and Austin Cindric, 47 over Corey LaJoie and 55 over Chase Elliott.

Results.

1. Shane Van Gisbergen, nine laps led

2. Justin Haley, 23 laps led

3. Chase Elliot

4. Kyle Larson

5. Kyle Busch

6. Austin Cindric

7. Michael McDowell

8. Joey Logano

9. Ty Gibbs, one lap led

10. Chris Buescher

11. Denny Hamlin

12. Aric Almirola

13. William Byron

14. Corey LaJoie

15. Ryan Preece

16. Erik Jones

17. AJ Allmendinger

18. Christopher Bell, 37 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner

19. Todd Gilliland

20. Chase Briscoe

21. Jenson Button

22. Ross Chastain

23. Josh Bilicki

24. Brad Keselowski

25. Noah Gragson

26. Andy Lally

27. Daniel Suarez

28. Tyler Reddick, eight laps led

29. Kevin Harvick

30. Harrison Burton

31. Bubba Wallace

32. Martin Truex Jr., one lap down

33. Ryan Blaney, one lap down

34. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one lap down

35. Ty Dillon – OUT, Suspension

36. Austin Dillon – OUT, Accident

37. Alex Bowman – OUT, Accident

Next on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the second and final trip of the season to Atlanta Motor Speedway. The event is scheduled to occur next Sunday, July 9, at 7 p.m. ET on USA Network.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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