One-on-one with Shane van Gisbergen


CONCORD, N.C. — Shane van Gisbergen had little time to celebrate last month’s Cup win on the streets of Chicago before the three-time Australian Supercars champion experienced one of NASCAR’s customs.

His competitors started hitting his car.

Call it stock car racing’s version of the high-five.

“I think it was Justin (Haley) who came along and revved his engine and was waving, and then people started hitting me in the back of the car,” van Gisbergen told NBC Sports in an exclusive interview Monday at Trackhouse Racing. “Kyle Busch sideswiped me. I figured out pretty quick what was happening. That was a pretty cool experience.”

Van Gisbergen is back this weekend in NASCAR. He’ll compete in Friday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Indianapolis Raceway Park and drive in Sunday’s race on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC). This weekend serves as a precursor to him moving to NASCAR next year, likely in a combination of series.

“It’s massive,” the 34-year-old van Gisbergen told NBC Sports of the change he’s about to make. “It’s a lot of unknowns to come, the oval stuff. I haven’t done (an oval) race yet, just the learning of it. But I’ve done Supercars full-time since 2007 … so a good time to change, try something new. I’ve got a lot of good years left in me, I guess. Come and try something different.”

His arrival will mean the last two Supercars champions will have moved across the world to race. Scott McLaughlin, who won the Supercars title from 2018-20, drives for Team Penske in the NTT IndyCar Series.

“I’ve been pushing him,” McLaughin told NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan about encouraging van Gisbergen to race in the United States. “I really hope he comes to America, because I just think it’s so much bigger than over there. But what we’ve done in Australia is great, and we’ve ticked the boxes. And he’s ticked the boxes. And I think he’s got nothing left to prove there. Very similar to the position I was back in the day.

“It’s just a whole bigger world outside of that. I think Shane can be really awesome with it.”

Spending the race weekend with Trackhouse Racing at Nashville Superspeedway a week before the Chicago race reconfirmed his NASCAR interest.

“That just opened my eyes to how it all works, how the garages are, how the teams operate, how it’s so relaxed, but when it’s go time, the switch is flipped and it’s intense,” said van Gisbergen, who will drive Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car on the Indy road course.

“It’s a really cool style of racing. … I’ve done the Rolex 24 (five times) and that was a similar experience. The racing weekend was so relaxed and the race was so intense. I missed the style and how much fun, the attitude the American people have to the racing. It was really cool.”

Winning Chicago, didn’t hurt either, he admits.

Still, van Gisbergen has much work to do for Sunday’s race. One of the adjustments he will have to make is how much contact can take place during the race.

In a recent Supercars race in Sydney, Australia, he was penalized for making contact with a competitor on the last lap. Van Gisbergen crossed the finish line third, but the penalty dropped him to seventh. The contact would not have earned any kind of penalty in a NASCAR race.

“I still want to be someone who races with respect,” van Gisbergen said. “I’m not just going to go hit people out of the way because you can now (since) it’s allowed here. You want to race respectfully, and I think Chicago was good for that. You saw all the frontrunners, they were racing clean, but in the mid-pack, it looks like everyone is in a dogfight. You have to expect that.

“I think this weekend isn’t going to change what I do. There’s people racing for a championship and I’m a guest, so I have to race clean and respectful.”

Putting SVG’s historic win at Chicago in context

Nate Ryan and Jeff Burton reflect on Shane van Gisbergen’s astounding victory at Chicago in the 34-year-old’s Cup Series debut.

He admitted last month that after watching the carnage in the Cup race at Circuit of the Americas, he was “a bit scared.” The Chicago Street Race didn’t feature as much of the rock’em-sock’em racing at COTA, but that is likely to change this weekend.

COTA has a sharp first turn after a long straightaway. Indianapolis also has a sharp first turn after a long straightaway. NASCAR has moved the restart zone back in an effort to spread the cars out before they arrive in Turn 1, but it’s still likely to be chaotic, particularly at the end of the race.

“The restarts look crazy,” van Gisbergen said. “Obviously COTA was probably a bad representation of it all and you heard all the drivers talking about that.”

Van Gisbergen also admits he doesn’t have the advantage he did at Chicago. While new to the Cup cars, he was used to racing on a street course. Such courses are common in Supercars. The Cup Series had never run a race on a street course before that day.

Busch is confident van Gisbergen will do well in Sunday’s Cup race.

“I would say he is the favorite going in,” Busch said. “For sure. I would say that the gap will be closer from Chicago to the rest of the field that he had. He had us all beat by six to eight tenths of a second a lap. I would say going into Indy we should all be within two to three tenths, but he will still be the best guy.”

Friday’s Truck race will be a much different experience for van Gisbergen because of his lack of oval racing experience. He will drive for Niece Motorsports in the playoff opener for the series. Van Gisbergen said that watching video of last year’s race the event “looked like a demolition derby by the way they race. It’s crazy, but apparently it’s like that every week.”

He’ll soon find out.

He won’t be alone this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Van Gisbergen will face a familiar foe. Brodie Kostecki, who leads the points in the Supercars series, will make his Cup debut, driving a third car for Richard Childress Racing.

“It’s awesome,” van Gisbergen said of racing Kostecki in this event. “We’re friends. We race a lot on the simulator together as well. (For) him to get this opportunity, he’s a massive NASCAR fan. … To see him get this opportunity is exciting. Hopefully, he does well and keeps leading for more people to come over.”

If they do, he can teach a quick lesson he’s learned.

In Supercars, the top three finishers are celebrated on a podium. In NASCAR, only the winner is feted.

“It’s like ‘Talladega Nights,’ (you’re either) first or your last,” van Gisbergen said.

NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey sits down with Shane van Gisbergen in an interview that can be seen in Sunday’s pre-race show. The show airs at 2 p.m. ET on NBC

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