By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
The result might not have been exactly what Shane Van Gisbergen had hoped for, but he learned something on every lap throughout Friday night’s TSPORT 200.
In his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut, and paved oval debut, Van Gisbergen quietly ran inside the top-25. The New Zealander briefly reached the top-15 during the final green flag run of the night. However, the Kiwi’s inexperience may have cost him a top-15 finish. Van Gisbergen’s feedback may have led the team to make the wrong adjustment before the longest green flag run of the night.
In the closing laps the No. 41 Worldwide Express Chevrolet Silverado slipped down the running order. With 10 laps to go, Van Gisbergen fell a lap down to race leader, and eventual winner, Ty Majeski. Ultimately, he finished 19th, the first New Zealander to compete in the Truck Series.
“(My truck debut) was pretty cool, we made the wrong adjustment there at the end from my feedback,” Van Gisbergen admitted. “I learned something. I was three wide for a couple of laps. It’s crazy, I was laughing a fair bit. It was a blast. Normally, I’m (taking) the shortest way around every corner, taking the apex then going up to the wall around every corner. Turns 3 and 4 was the inside, and then that went away. It’s so different from what I’ve known. I’m stoked; a little gutted, I went down a lap with 10 to go.”
The learning curve for Van Gisbergen didn’t stop with the feedback he was giving to his team. Unlike the road and street courses that the three-time Repco Supercars champion is used to, the preferred racing line at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park is not hitting the apex every lap.
The 34-year-old also took in the experience of having a spotter calling the race in his ear. It was just the second time that the Chicago Street Course winner had someone as his ‘eyes in the sky’ calling out what was happening around him. The spotter proved crucial as Van Gisbergen narrowly avoided a hard crash that sent Dean Thompson airborne and ended Spencer Boyd’s race on the 0.686-mile track.
“I never had a spotter before Chicago,” Van Gisbergen explained. “Hearing that, so many cars around me, two-wide in front, I didn’t really know what to do. It was probably three laps that we were three-wide, and I was up on the top just trying to be skinny. It was a lot of fun.”
While he ultimately finished 1 lap down, it wasn’t the first time that Van Gisbergen was a lap behind the leaders. During the mostly caution-free Stage 2 he was also lapped with 10 to go. However, he worked his way by Taylor Gray to be in position for the free pass when the caution waved for a spin by Chris Hacker. That moved Van Gisbergen back onto the lead lap.
With the No. 41 Chevrolet not in the Truck Series owner playoffs, the result didn’t affect Niece Motorsports’ championship aspirations long-term. Though Van Gisbergen joked on Twitter that he was a different driver post-race than he was prior to the race.
That was fun! @NASCAR_Trucks I’m a different driver than I was 200 laps ago! Crazy first oval race 😀
— Shane van Gisbergen (@shanevg97) August 12, 2023
Next for the inaugural NASCAR street race winner is a second race in the Project 91 Chevrolet in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard. The Verizon 200 is scheduled for Sunday, August 13, at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC. The race will also be broadcast on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.