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NASCAR Cup Chicago Street Course

Hamlin praises "lightning fast" Shane van Gisbergen

Three-time Australian Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen has arrived on the NASCAR scene, and he's already turning heads.

Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse Racing, Enhance Health Chevrolet Camaro

The 34-year-old New Zealander is making his NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend, driving a third entry for the Trackhouse Racing team.

Trackhouse won just last weekend at Nashville, and two of the team's four victories have come on road courses. They have fast cars, and that combined with Van Gisbergen's natural skill makes for a dangerous combination ... even as a rookie.

Add onto that the fact that the Chicago Street Course is new for all drivers, and it's no wonder he appeared near the top of the speed charts on Saturday.

The NASCAR debutant was fastest of all drivers in the only practice session on Saturday, and continued to be a threat into qualifying. He advanced into the final round, despite a minor setback when Chase Elliott crashed behind him, forcing Van Gisbergen to abandon his first flying lap.

In the pole round, he shot up to the top of the charts, but the Toyota drivers of Denny Hamlin and Tyler Reddick managed to best him on their final run. Even still, he will roll off third on the grid as the highest-qualifying Chevrolet driver.

He ended up just 0.153s shy of pole, and despite being a potential threat for the win, the NASCAR regulars have been very welcoming of SVG.

Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse Racing, Enhance Health Chevrolet Camaro

Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse Racing, Enhance Health Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

“It’s been pretty awesome," he said after qualifying. "Everyone has been really nice and welcoming. It’s been good to chat with the front guys who I’ll be racing with tomorrow. It’s been really cool. My teammates (Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez) have been helpful, as well. They’re trying to talk about the car; brake settings we have and stuff. Everyone has been really open, it’s awesome.”

Although others may already be calling him a contender for the win, Van Gisbergen wouldn't go that far. "I never think like. But I do know our preparation has been good and our team is capable, so I just have to do the job.”

NASCAR vs. Supercars

Comparing it to the car he usually drives, Van Gisbergen noted both the similarities and the differences between the Gen-7 Cup car and Gen3 Supercars.

"It’s kind of in the middle of last year’s Supercar and this years one. It’s better, it’s quite cool. It’s very stiff and low, and touches a lot. They’re very different step-up philosophy-wise, I guess, but similar in a lot of ways too.”

One of the major differences of course is where he is sitting in the race car, and the track itself presents its own unique challenges.

“Well I sit on the other side of the car, so that’s the hardest thing. And just the wall where the fence is ... I ended up hitting the wall at the end with the right front, so just misjudging the wall because the whole car is on the other side. That’s probably the most difficult thing.”

Shane van Gisbergen at Trackhouse

Shane van Gisbergen at Trackhouse

Van Gisbergen's showing so far certainly impressed the pole-sitter, with Hamlin taking note of the Kiwi's impressive pace.

“The biggest thing I noticed is the guy (Van Gisbergen) is lightning fast, and all of the corners I feel super uncomfortable using that extra three inches against the wall. So, where the track is the narrowest and where you saw Chase (Elliott) and those guys kind of get into the wall is where he is extremely fast.

"He’s just got a feel for those barriers and the car control that he has. That’s his advantage right now is that we’re not used to having to cut the corners that tight and he is. It’s been impressive what he’s done today for sure.”

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