SVG On Chicago Exit: ‘There Was Nothing I Could Do’

van Gisbergen

Shane van Gisbergen's wrecked No. 16 Chevrolet in the Chicago Street Course garage area. (Photo Courtesy of Shane van Gisbergen)

CHICAGO – Shane van Gisbergen’s defense of his Grant Park 165 win from a year ago came to an end 24 laps in Sunday as the Chicago Street Course became waterlogged.

The New Zealand native, who won last season’s race in his NASCAR Cup Series debut, advanced from fifth to first during the opening segment and ultimately won stage one after a brief battle with Christopher Bell in slower traffic.

Van Gisbergen quickly moved into third place by lap two, then laid in wait until lap 12, when he used the cars of Ryan Preece and Joey Logano – who were on rain tires despite a largely dry track – as picks to work past polesitter Ty Gibbs off the exit of turn 12.

From there, the 35-year-old Kiwi led all but one circuit – when Bell passed him briefly on lap 15 – to the lap-20 benchmark en route to the first stage win of his limited Cup Series career.

It was right after that, however, when everything went wrong.

A storm front reached the greater Chicago area during the first stage break, leading to a soaked surface for the ensuing restart on lap 24 with van Gisbergen lining up fourth after a slight snag on his pit stop.

He got away cleanly and settled into fifth place, but was racing into turn six when Chase Briscoe attempted to make a pass behind him and overcooked the braking zone, sliding into a spin and just tagging the bumper of the No. 16 Wendy’s Saucy Nuggs Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the process.

While it wasn’t enough to spin van Gisbergen, the bump increased his corner apex speed to the point that the Kiwi couldn’t exit the corner cleanly – slamming into the right-side concrete barrier as a result.

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The impact broke the right-front suspension on van Gisbergen’s car and caused enough damage to put the three-time Australian Supercars champion and defending race winner out prematurely.

It was an ending that van Gisbergen called “gutting” after being checked and released from the medical center.

“I just sort of turned in there … it looked pretty good, and then just got smashed by [Briscoe] from behind,” he explained. “The Wendy’s Saucy Nuggs Camaro was really strong. We were in the lead for a lot of that race and felt good taking off there in the wet where I thought we’d be alright.

“It sucks; it’s an unfortunate mistake by him, but I’m sure he didn’t mean it,” van Gisbergen added. “But yeah, when he just clipped me, there was nothing I could do.”

Though he tried to keep a smile on his face, it was clear van Gisbergen knew what could have been, especially after putting together a flawless race Saturday to win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” he admitted. “We had a really amazing Camaro there. Kaulig Racing gave us a great car; we were able to lead, and I felt like I was driving well within myself. It’s just such a shame to be out this early and shame we couldn’t have a proper crack at it at the end.”

Though it was a byproduct of the heavier rain that led to his early exit, van Gisbergen did say the conditions were “acceptable” to race in, at least in his mind, before the last few moments.

“[The conditions] were fine,” he noted. “On slicks, it got a bit dodgy and I hated being the leader … because whoever was the leader, you’d see them slowing up and unsure what the conditions would be.

“As soon as I got to the front … I had to take it a bit easy, but I had a lot of fun until then.”

Van Gisbergen will return to his full-time ride with Kaulig Racing in the, where he is the current leader on the provisional playoff grid, next weekend at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway.

Xfinity Series action from the 2.5-mile ‘Tricky Triangle’ will be broadcast Saturday, July 13 at 3 p.m. ET, live on USA, the Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.