Van Gisbergen became the first driver in over 60 years to win a NASCAR Cup race on debut when he took the checkered flag at the inaugural Chicago Street Course race.
Now just a few months later, he’s uprooted his entire life with just one year to learn stock car racing before an anticipated full-time move to the Cup Series.
“It’s been a whirlwind since Chicago,” he said during a Thursday media availability, noting how quickly everything has come together since then.
“Packing up everything. My whole life. Moving from Australia to America. It’s been massive, but pretty exciting the way the program sort of escalated from ten races to now a full season and seven Cup races. What Justin [Marks] and Ty [Norris] and the Trackhouse team have put together is really exciting and I got a lot of learning to do and a lot of experience to gain quickly, but I think it’s the best way to do it to prepare myself for a 2025 Cup opportunity.”
Perhaps learning to race ovals at the pinnacle of stock car racing will be the easy part, as SVG spoke on finding a house, getting a visa, social security number, bank account, and even a drivers license.
“Starting a whole new life from scratch, really. But it’s exciting.”
His 2024 season will include the full 33-race Xfinity schedule, as well as seven Cup races. Among them are two superspeedway races, two intermediate tracks, and two road courses.
‘Anxious’ about superspeedway racing
He’ll be thrown straight into the deep-end, making his Xfinity debut in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway and his Cup oval debut at Talladega Superspeedway a couple months later.
“You watch them and it just looks like cars driving around flat-out, but now I’ve been trying to study it as much as I can,” said van Gisbergen.
He watched three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin via his onboard camera at Talladega last year, paying close attention as he cut his way back through the field after a penalty.
“Watching that is like a high-speed chess match, but also a lottery I guess,” he said. “Our first race. I don’t really know how to approach it or what to expect. We get a little bit of practice so I can get a feel for the car and the cars around me at that speed, but that style of racing is so far removed from everything I’ve ever done. Superspeedways is probably what I’m most anxious about, or unsure about what’s going to happen or how the cars race. That’s going to be a tough first one.”
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, Columbia Sportswear Company Toyota Camry spins
Fellow NASCAR drivers have been very welcoming to the 34-year-old racer, saying the support has “been really awesome. Everyone’s been welcoming me to states and if they can help in any way, they’re offering. It’s really cool. Kevin Harvick has been a great help with just basic advice and being comfortable in the car and being well-strapped in.
“He said that I’ll have hits bigger than I’ve ever had before, which is not nice to hear but it’s a true fact. I have to be ready for that and be comfortable and safe in the car. I’m going to have change my feet and the way I sit in the car to be more safe on the ovals.
“That’s just part of it, and making sure the seat is the same in the Xfinity car so I can slot between one and the other and be comfortable. It’s just the little stuff like that I don’t normally think about.”
More racing beyond the 40 announced?
Van Gisbergen is unsure what his 2024 season will include beyond the announced races, but he was able to confirm that the Daytona 24 is not going to be part of it as he wants to focus on NASCAR.
But when asked by Motorsport.com about running more Truck races or anything else outside of Cup/Xfinity, he did leave the door open.
“Possibly. I haven’t really talked too much about it. I think there’s two tracks that we don’t go to in Xfinity,” he said, mentioning the Xfinity off-wekend when the Truck Series joins Cup at Kansas in May. “I think it would be helpful to at least go to that track and just experience it. I want to be able to go to every track and know them all before ’25.”
What the 34-year-old is trying to do isn’t completely unprecedented. Two-time Supercars champion Marcos Ambrose took a similar path, but admittedly spent far longer in the lower divisions than SVG plans to.
Photo by: Action Sports Photography
Victory lane: winner Marcos Ambrose celebrates
“Marcos Ambrose is a great example,” van Gisbergen explained. “Similar background coming into NASCAR. When I researched how Marcos did it and what he went through. It took him three seasons before he was full-time in the Cup Series.
“I forgot about that side of things. It’s not going to be an easy transition. Me doing this year in Xfinity. It’s going to be a lot of learning, a lot of growing pains, but Marcos has been really helpful for speeding up my learning process. He sent me a lot of advice on what to expect and how to approach things. I want to emulate what he’s done. Get into the Cup Series and be successful. I think his career was really awesome. He had a great time here, and loved his experience, so I’d like to be like that.”
Another driver he may be able to lean on is his new team-mate at Kaulig Racing. A.J. Allmendinger is a winner in open-wheel, sports cars, and stock cars. He’s also greatly improved his oval racecraft over the years.
When Motorsport.com asked about working with Allmendinger, SVG replied: “I haven’t met him properly yet, but hopefully he’s open with it and open to giving me advice. He’s obviously a super strong benchmark as a team-mate to compare myself against. I’m excited. We’re in some good equipment. Getting out to Kaulig yesterday and meeting everyone there and seeing all the Chevys lined up, it was pretty impressive. I’m excited to drive them and learn off him and try and push each other to the front.”
Photo by: Kaulig Racing
Shane van Gisbergen, Kaulig Racing livery
Van Gisbergen is using the off-season to study footage, and practice on both iRacing and the sim. Talking about the decision to run the full Xfinity season, he said that he essentially came down to what Kaulig had available.
“It’s just how it worked out with Kaulig,” said van Gisbergen. “It’s great. They ended up having a full-time seat there, and I think that’s just the best way. I’m getting to go to every circuit and hopefully getting to experience the pressure of the playoffs as well. That’s what the goal is — to make the playoffs and understand that pressure of being involved in it. The second half of the year is where I hope to really get better at the ovals. The second half of the year is when we go to the tracks that we’ve been to and I understand the flow of the race and how the track drives, and hopefully up to speed with my car then. I think it’s the perfect way to do it. Jump in, full season straightaway. “
He also noted that they spread out his Cup schedule in order to give Trackhouse plenty of time to build and prepare the extra car as they also field two full-time entries at the top level of the sport.
“The Charlotte weekend is gonna be pretty tough doing 300 miles on Saturday and the 600 on Sunday, but it’s all about experience and trying to do as many laps I can to get the miles up.”
Careful in setting goals for the 2024 season
When the 2024 season is over, he’ll have at least 43 NASCAR races under his belt (including last year). So what makes it an accomplishment? At what point will he feel ready to take on Cup full-time?
“I’m trying not to have expectations,” he admitted. “I want to have my preparation as good as possible. But results-wise, I have no idea what we’re going to achieve. Obviously want to get some top-tens, and represent WeatherTech well, and have some fun. I really don’t know what it’s going to be like. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of losing and a lot hard times on the ovals but hopefully through the year, I get better and know what’s coming and the second time to the track we can be competitive.”
More crossovers between Supercars and NASCAR?
Van Gisbergen’s Chicago win rattled the NASCAR world, as did his post-race comment declaring that “any of the top ten in Supercars are good enough to come and do what I just did.”
When asked about that claim, he expanded on what he meant and hinted at the possibility of more Supercars stars trying their hand at NASCAR in the future.
“There’s some very talented guys. Even Brodie [Kostecki] when he came to Indianapolis, he showed some brilliance there. His laptimes were really good. There’s guys like Cam Waters and a couple others who have indicated that they want to come and have a go.
“The talent level is very high down there (in Supercars). You get in your bubble here and over there and you’re just tunnel vision on what you’re focused on achieving and you kind of don’t look outside your bubble at what other people can do. Hopefully I open some eyes and people start looking towards New Zealand and Australia to get some talent coming over and vice versa.”