Shane van Gisbergen’s return to the NASCAR Cup Series field at Indianapolis has been met with equal parts enthusiasm and expectation.
van Gisbergen made a great first impression last month when he was victorious on the Chicago street course with Trackhouse Racing in the PROJECT91 entry. It was van Gisbergen’s first start in NASCAR, and with how quickly he took to it, some in the garage – as well as the oddsmakers – have him as one of the favorites for a repeat on the Indianapolis road course.
But not van Gisbergen. When asked Wednesday if he was worried his Chicago triumph has set the bar too high on what others now expect of him, van Gisbergen shared it was a different kind of talk that had his attention.
“I just think it’s cool they all know my name now, because they didn’t last time I was here,” van Gisbergen said. “But I don’t know about the expectations of things. Obviously my cars still got the yellow stripes on the back that stands out. But I still got a lot to learn.”
van Gisbergen will not be the only experienced ringer in the field at Indianapolis, with the likes of Brodie Kostecki, Kami Kobayashi, Mike Rockenfeller, and Jenson Button among those on the entry list. It’s also a course that NASCAR drivers have experience on, with Sunday being its third event.
Indianapolis is 14 turns, 2.439 miles. The first turn was the trouble spot the first two years with contact, drivers going off course, and dive bombing into the right-hander.
“The restarts are going to be completely different,” van Gisbergen said. “It was a bit easier at Chicago, the single file onto the straight and kind of spread out and didn’t have big stack ups at Turn 1. Just the nature of the circuit.
“And you can already see this weekend it’s going to be like that. So, I expect it’s going to be a little more action, and I don’t expect to be out front like we were at Chicago. It’s going to be a fight, I think.”
Chicago aligned perfectly for van Gisbergen being a street course and a car that was modeled after an Australian Supercar. And being that it was an inaugural event, the playing field was even.
van Gisbergen’s warm welcome back to the series is a continuation of the reaction he’s received since Chicago.
“Oh, it’s been awesome,” he said. “A few of the guys in the field dropped me a message after the race, which was cool. Just the reach that race had. People I hadn’t heard from for years and racing royalty.
“The amount of messages I got … winning a Supercars championship or Bathurst, I’ve never had such a response from so many people. It’s still sinking in, I guess, and people are still talking about it. It was a very cool weekend.”