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HomeNewsWhincup moots shock van Gisbergen replacement

Whincup moots shock van Gisbergen replacement

SUPERCARS’ greatest driver of all time has left the door ajar for an incredible tilt at an eighth championship, should Triple Eight find itself in a silly season pickle.

Yep, you read that right.

Triple Eight team principal Jamie Whincup has admitted he could be a fallback option to return to full-time driving in 2024 if needed.

It comes amid rampant rumours that Shane van Gisbergen will depart Supercars at season’s end and move to the United States for a regular seat in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Van Gisbergen has a contract with Triple Eight for 2024 and there’s been no public declaration that an early release is happening, beyond Whincup saying he won’t stand in the way of any opportunities abroad for the Kiwi.

But industry attention on a large scale has already turned to who will be Broc Feeney’s teammate next season.

In a typically candid interview, Whincup opened up to V8 Sleuth on the state of play.

“I’d be stupid not to think that Shane might want to go early,” he said.

Shane van Gisbergen after winning in Chicago. Pic: Supplied

“He might come to me at some stage and go ‘hey mate, I want to go out early’ so of course I’ve got to come up with a plan if that’s the case.

“I’m not sure what that’s going to look like but (Fernando) Alonso is going pretty good at the moment (at age 41) so maybe I’ll throw my helmet back on again.”

Asked if that was something he’d actually even remotely consider, Whincup doubled down.

“It’s certainly not Triple Eight’s first choice but certainly could be done,” said the 40-year-old, who is younger than 2023 podium finishers Will Davison, James Courtney and race winner Mark Winterbottom.

“No doubt I feel like I could be competitive but it’s certainly not our first choice. I think there’s probably a better option there.

“The reasons why I stepped out was to get a rookie in the car and the way that Broc’s going, that certainly can be the case now. So we’d most likely try to give another rookie a crack.”

Feeney, 20, has been a second-year sensation, outperforming van Gisbergen through the opening six rounds to be within 26 points of championship leader Will Brown.

It means regardless of van Gisbergen’s next move, Triple Eight will have at least one out-and-out ace ready to rumble for 2024.

That could be critical given few other high-profile options appear available.

Among those known to have 2024 deals in place are Brown, Brodie Kostecki (both Erebus Motorsport), Davison, Anton De Pasquale (both Dick Johnson Racing), Chaz Mostert (Walkinshaw Andretti United), Matt Payne (Grove Racing) and Winterbottom (Team 18).

It’s also now widely accepted that Cam Waters will stay with Tickford Racing for at least another 12 months after all, and that rising star Kai Allen is tied to DJR.

Whincup though is calm.

“There’s no panic because I’ve got a contract with SVG for ’24,” he responded.

“So there’s still quite a bit of water to run under the bridge in the next couple of weeks, if Shane fully decides what he wants to do and then coming up with that plan.

“But of course we’re already starting to plan the if/maybe. There will be a lot more to the story in the coming weeks.

“I think it will be great for Shane to do Indy as well, as another data point on if he loves NASCAR.”

Van Gisbergen is said to have received multiple full-time Cup Series offers on the back of his debut win in Chicago, and has already been highlighted as a favourite for the August 13 race in Indianapolis, where he’ll rejoin Trackhouse Racing.

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