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Watching Josh Revell: The Greatest NASCAR Debut in Modern History

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NASCAR has seen many big names race in the Cup Series in its 75-year history. Hall of Fame champions like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and many others have all had memorable debuts at the Cup level.

Drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose, and Sam Hornish Jr, who came from other forms of racing like F1, IndyCar, and SuperCars have come and gone from NASCAR over the years. As Josh Revell explains, one driver perhaps had one one of the most memorable debuts at the premiere level of NASCAR racing on a brand new track.

The Driver

If you’re someone who enjoys watching the fast-paced action of the SuperCar series, then the name Shane Van Gisburgen might sound awfully familiar. SVG as many people have come to know him, has raced seemingly everything there is to race in motorsports. He’s competed in SuperCar, RallyCar, and even Sprint Cars. But never before had Shane set foot in a NASCAR Next Gen Cup car.

On May 18, 2023, TrackHouse Racing owner Justin Marks made the announcement that Shane would pilot the Project 91 entry in the Cup Series’ inaugural street course race at Chicago in July. At the time of this announcement, many throughout the NASCAR community had never heard of Shane Van Gisburgen.

Project 91 however, was still relatively new in the Cup Series and had one previous driver in Kimi Raikkonen in a few road course races in 2022 and earlier this season at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX.

In NASCAR, the term “road course ringer” wasn’t uncommon, as drivers from multiple forms of motorsports often competed against the stars of the Cup Series. At the time, Shane was just another road course ringer trying to keep pace with the top contenders.

On a brand new street course, however, Shane made his mark.

How Did He Do?

Upon arriving in Chicago for the first-ever street course race for the Cup Series, Shane Van Gisburgen let right at home. In the SuperCar series, he has competed on several street courses during the course of that series’ schedule.

As Josh Revell notes, NASCAR has introduced more road courses over the past several seasons, including Circuit of the Americas, the Indianapolis road course, and even the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. When the green flag flew over the Cup field following a lengthy delay due to weather, Shane bided his time as several drivers struggled to keep a steady line around the streets of Chicago.

When NASCAR made the decision to shorten the distance of the race, Van Gisburgen had a difficult task ahead of him. Restarting in 18th position with 25 laps remaining, Shane managed to pick off his competition one driver at a time.

As the race neared its conclusion, a caution came out late in the race. SVG was running near the front and at that point, had made a memorable impression on his fellow competitors by running that well in his debut Cup race.

As we all know, Shane was able to end off challenges from Justin Haley to score the first street course race in NASCAR’s history. He also became the first New Zealander to take the checkered flag at NASCAR’s highest level.

The Impact

With Shane Van Gisburgen’s historic victory at the Chicago Street Course earlier this season, this will go down as one of the most successful debuts in NASCAR history. His overall car experience in the Supercars and the familiarity with the sequential shifters in the Next Gen cars as Josh Revell explains were only two factors that led to SVG chants in the streets of Chicago.

The team, Trackhouse Racing, and owner Justin Marks took a chance on a driver who had years of experience in Supercars and Rallycars but had never sat in the cockpit of a NASCAR stock car. Shane is a proven winner in any sort of car he’s been behind the wheel of.

With the recent news of coming to NASCAR to race starting in 2024, the NASCAR chapter of Shane Van Gisburgen’s career is still being written.

With Shane’s big splash in NASCAR at the Chicago Street Course, is this the greatest debut in modern NASCAR history?

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Chris Hansen

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