New Zealand’s Shane van Gisbergen became the first driver in over half a century to win in his NASCAR Cup Series debut after a triumph Sunday at the inaugural Chicago Street Race.
The race was delayed due to lightning and heavy rain, forcing NASCAR to shorten it from 100 laps to 75.
Driving Trackhouse Racing’s “Project 91,” van Gisbergen took the lead on lap 71, passing Justin Haley after a restart. A late caution for a two-car wreck involving Bubba Wallace and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on lap 74 sent the race into a two-lap overtime, where the Kiwi held off the challenge by Haley before eventually winning the Grant Park 220 by 1.259 seconds.
Haley finished in second place, while Chase Elliot finished in third place. Christopher Bell, who won stages 1 and 2, finished in 18th place after being involved in pile up that blocked the track on the 50th lap and crashing out from the top spot.
“Man, what an experience in the crowd out here, this was so cool,” van Gisbergen said on the NBC broadcast after the race. “This is what you dream of, so hopefully I can come and do more.”
A three-time Australian Supercars champion, van Gisbergen becomes the first driver to win in his first start in the NASCAR Cup Series since 1963 and only the seventh in series history to do so.
Johnny Rutherford was the last driver to accomplish the feat after winning a points-paying qualifying race at Daytona in 1963, according to NASCAR.com.
Trackhouse Racing’s “Project 91” is a racing program created to give international drivers an opportunity at racing in NASCAR. Previously, former F1 champion Kimi Räikkönen raced the No. 91 in 2022, finishing in 37th place at Watkins Glen, and at the Circuit of the Americas in 2023, where he finished in 29th place.
“The racing was really good, everyone was respectful. It was tough but a lot of fun,” van Gisbergen said. “The fans in Australia and New Zealand, the response this week and the coverage has been – I can’t explain it.
“Like the response and the support I’ve got from everyone and even over here how welcoming everyone is, I can’t believe it. Dream come true.”
The 34-year-old was asked if he would consider racing in the Cup Series full time replying, “I’m doing more year in Australia and then I’d love to come over here.”