A historic victory was witnessed by the Chicago crowd on a rainy Sunday, as Shane van Gisbergen made history in his NASCAR Cup Series debut. In an incredible finish to this street race, van Gisbergen pulled off the seemingly impossible feat of overtaking both Justin Haley and Chase Elliott.
The New Zealand native became the first driver since Johnny Rutherford in 1963 to win their Cup Series debut – almost 60 years ago! After the race, van Gisbergen spoke to NBC, saying “What an experience, and the crowd out here, like this was so cool. The racing was really good. Everyone was respectful. It was tough but a lot of fun.”
It was an unforgettable moment that will surely be cemented throughout NASCAR history. Van Gisbergen seemed humbled yet elated with the prospect of being recognized for such an amazing accomplishment. Congratulations to him!
Driving for Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91, van Gisbergen took the lead on Lap 25 and never looked back, despite a 90 minute rain delay that threatened to derail his efforts.
Van Gisbergen was aided by Darian Grubb, who was crew chief to Tony Stewart when he won the 2011 Cup Series Championship. When asked about van Gisbergen’s performance after the race, fellow driver Elliott quipped “He’s going to go home and tell all his friends how bad we are!”
The historic race was scheduled for 100 laps and 220 miles but had to be shortened due to fading sunlight caused by the rain delay. The Xfinity Race originally scheduled for the day was suspended due to lightning and eventually cancelled.
With Project 91’s win in Chicago, they have achieved their goal of expanding their global reach and showcased van Gisbergen’s remarkable talents.
As the scheduled start approached, heavy rain fell and forced NASCAR to make an unexpected call. Taking advantage of the situation, Denny Hamlin declared his plea on Twitter for a delay while Noah Gragson uploaded a video on pit road showcasing one of his tires floating in floodwaters. NASCAR eventually allowed drivers to drive back into their haulers while the weather cleared up slightly.
Nevertheless, when the race finally began, puddles continued to moisten the track, prompting teams to prepare slick tires as the course started to dry out. Drivers such as Gragson, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano all slipped and found themselves stuck in tire barriers at various turns. An unfortunate collision between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Bubba Wallace during the later stages of the race led to Stenhouse getting wedged against the Turn 1 barrier.
The most severe incident of the day occurred on Michigan Avenue on lap 50, where an impressive 14-car pileup left debris littered across the road. It was a scene familiar to many Chicagoans who are used to witnessing traffic standstills. In any case, the highly chaotic conditions made for a spectacular show for fans watching at home.