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HomeNewsHow the Dude brokered SVG's NASCAR gig

How the Dude brokered SVG’s NASCAR gig

PAUL Morris has been revealed as a pivotal player in bringing Shane van Gisbergen’s NASCAR Cup Series dream to life.

In a V8 Sleuth feature interview, van Gisbergen opened up on his imminent debut for Trackhouse Racing at the Chicago Street Course.

How the deal came about

“There was a bit of a link, it was through Paul Morris who spoke to Boris Said, and then Boris put my name forward to Justin (Marks, Trackhouse boss),” van Gisbergen explained of how talks first began.

“That sort of kicked it off, so thanks to Paul and Boris.”

Morris and Said have a long standing friendship; the latter boasts decades of experience as a NASCAR road course specialist.

The van Gisbergen opportunity has been a long time in the making, with Marks mapping out how the broader Project91 project would look.

“We did speak last year about it, trying to get something, and he was waiting on Kimi (Raikkonen) to see what he wanted to do this year,” said van Gisbergen.

“I think Kimi will do another one later, but we just kept talking and trying to work it out.”

Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula 1 world champion, has twice raced the #91 Chevrolet so far, at Watkins Glen last year and Circuit of the Americas this year.

SVG sporting a Trackhouse shirt in the Triple Eight workshop. Pic: Supplied

Van Gisbergen, the NASCAR fan

“Like seven or eight years ago I was religiously a fan,” he said.

“I haven’t really watched it much the last couple of years but then of course this year I’ve started taking notice again and trying to follow it.

“I do like it, it is very different, the cars are more similar to ours now but the race format and the way the cautions work, the pitstops and everything and the way the guys race, it’s very different to our style of racing.

“Even the pre-race stuff, it looks like just an awesome event.”

Van Gisbergen was particularly a Tony Stewart fan: “His crew chief was Darian Grubb when he won the (2011) championship and he’s going to be my crew chief for the race so it’s very cool.”

His first NASCAR drive

Testing is extremely restricted in NASCAR and van Gisbergen is yet to complete any official track time or even simulator work in the US.

“I only have just done my own personal sim stuff but I get a day over there in the sim before the race.

“They’re so limited with what they’re allowed to do on track, I don’t get to drive; I think I get half a day in a test car as a license program to make sure I can drive and stuff and get a bit of familiarisation but it won’t be that much.”

That hitout is set to be at the Charlotte Road Course in the days after van Gisbergen attends the June 25 race at Nashville Superspeedway (the week before Chicago on July 2).

The Camaro SVG will drive in Chicago. Pic: Supplied

What sort of welcome he’s in for

Van Gisbergen wasted no time in dipping into the advice of Australian former NASCAR racers Marcos Ambrose and Owen Kelly.

“They were both awesome. I guess one of those things is how you’re going to fit in and how’s the best way to approach it to get respect from those guys but also enjoy the race and get a result.

“It’s a hard one, like if someone came into Supercars and thought they were going to run up front and they were in a good car, like you don’t really want them to be there because you have got your championship to think about and also it’s your series.

“I know I’m in top equipment and all the potential is there for a result, so I have just got to come in and remember that those guys are racing for a championship and if they win the race that they get a spot in The Chase.

“So for me, I have got to come in and be respectful and be wary that those guys are racing for more and I’m just there for a one-off – but I really want to do well so I’ll come in and I’ll race hard, but I also want to get the respect of everyone first.”

Teammate Chastain

Trackhouse star Ross Chastain is one of the fastest and most controversial drivers in NASCAR; van Gisbergen admitted he hasn’t had the chance to meet him or teammate Daniel Suarez yet.

“No, but I’m seeing how Ross races and he’s in the news every week – I’m glad he’s a teammate because he’s someone I don’t want to piss off!” he laughed.

“It looks like a good team and they’re in the press every week.

“The press that they have got behind them and the way they approach everything, it looks awesome that team on how they do things on and off-track.

“So looking forward to seeing how that works and then of course it’s just learning, it’s how much you can get from the experience and learning different people and teams and how it can make me better, or ideas to bring back here to make us (Triple Eight) better as a team as well.”

The team is co-owned by famous rapper Pitbull. Pic: Trackhouse Racing

Can SVG really win?

There’s plenty of people in the Supercars paddock who think he can, but the man himself is downplaying such suggestions.

“If anyone jumps into our championship, you never expect that,” said van Gisbergen.

“It’s so different now in NASCAR from even 10 years ago, they do I think four or five road courses now.

“Back in the day you’d see Marcos wouldn’t be in the best car and he’d be running up the front, there would only be three or four good guys, whereas now when I’m taking notice and looking at all the lap times and stuff, there’s 15 or 20 guys now that are fast.

“There’s 40 cars so if you can be in the top half of the field I think that’s great.

“I really don’t know how I’m going to go, as I said the car is good enough to run up front, so we’ll hopefully be in the top half and anything better would be great.

“But yeah, you just don’t know, it’s so hard just to jump into something on a one-off and have a crack.”

NASCAR future

Van Gisbergen makes no secret of the fact he’d love for this outing to lead to further opportunities in the Cup Series.

“Yeah, for sure. I’d love for it to go well and to do a good job and hopefully get more out of it.

“I really miss racing in America, I had a good time there doing Daytona 24, I think I did that race four or five times.

“I do miss the American style of racing and if it leads to more I’d love to go over there and do some stuff.”

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