NASCAR ran the Grant Park 220 as the inaugural Cup Series race at the Chicago Street Course, where Shane Van Gisbergen triumphed over the top drivers in the series to claim his maiden victory in NASCAR.
The current Supercars Championship leader, Shane van Gisbergen, won his first-ever stock car race on Sunday, the inaugural Grant Park 220 of the NASCAR Cup Series on the streets of Chicago, solidifying his position as one of the best racers overall.
Van Gisbergen, a three-time Supercars champion from Auckland, New Zealand, made his NASCAR debut over the weekend by participating in the Project 91 program for Trackhouse Racing.
Van Gisbergen lead nine of the 78 extra laps, including the final eight after qualifying third, finished in the top five, and gained stage points during both stage periods while keeping an eye on the leaders in a race that was ultimately cut down to 25 laps from the originally planned 40 due to poor weather. The race was delayed by more than 90 minutes.
“This was so cool,” said Gisbergen. “This is what you dream of. Hopefully I can come and do more.”
“When we had that back strategy back to eighteenth, I started to worry a bit but had some full stands on some people and the racing was really good, everyone was respectful. It was tough but a lot of fun.”
Gisbergen and a few other drivers opted to pit sooner than planned after NASCAR decided to cut the race’s original 100 laps to 75 laps out of concern that the full distance could not be covered before darkness.
Although he was dropped to the middle of the pack in eighteenth place, the maneuver paid off since his fresher tyres allowed him to gradually claw his way back to the front before engaging Haley in a race for the lead on lap 71.
Gisbergen routinely recorded the quickest lap times in the final twenty lapss while running on fresher tyres before catching leader Justin Haley. Gisbergen passed Haley after only two turns and drew away for the walk-off victory, despite a late flag for an incident involving Bubba Wallace and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. that called for overtime.
Haley gave it his all, even trying to pass to Gisbergen in overtime after losing the lead but he had to settle for second place. However he had to hold off seven-time road course race winner Chase Elliott for the runner-up spot.
Losing the race is obviously disappointing, especially because he is twenty-third in points and attempting to make the playoffs. Haley would have won his second Cup if he had been successful in overcoming Gisbergen whose first Cup victory also happened during a rain-drenched Fourth of July weekend in the United States.
After crashing into the tire barrier in turn six on the first lap, Kyle Busch was able to finish fifth by making the same early pit stops that Gisbergen did. Denny Hamlin, who won the pole position, was one among the drivers who went around in the crash.
Hamlin finished the race eleventh after attempting to make up lost time. Both Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell, teammates of Hamlin who finished first and second in Stage 1, and the former who also took first place in Leg 2, failed to get in the top ten as they were both eliminated by Turn 6 incident.
William Byron missed the right-hand bend in turn eleven on lap 48, which resulted in a devastating crash. This came after Corey LaJoie clipped Kevin Harvick behind him, the latter spun out in front of the track and brought down a major pileup resulting in the immobilization of eleven more cars.
Austin Cindric came home in sixth place while McDowell, Logano, Ty Gibbs and Buescher finished in the top 10. Bell salvaged an 18th-place result after leading a race-high 37 laps, Gragson finished 25th following numerous incidents in Turn 6, Suarez and Reddick fell back to 27th and 28th, respectively, Harvick ended up 29th and Truex settled in 32nd, a lap down.
Five distinct leaders saw seven lead changes. Nine cautions totaling 21 laps were applied during the inaugural Cup Series race at the Chicago Street Course as 31 out of the 37 starters finished the race.
With a poor performance, Legacy Motor Club crushed team owner Richard Petty’s 86th birthday and made an already miserable season much worse. The first-lap incident involving Erik Jones and Noah Gragson resulted in cautions as the latter battled immensely and repeatedly slipped into the turn six tyre barrier.
Jimmie Johnson who is the team’s co-owner was also absent. He was scheduled to drive a third car but withdrew a few days beforehand due to family obligations.
In his second NASCAR start, F1 champion Jenson Button who recently drove a Cup car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, finished twenty-first. Early in the race, he spun as he was making a pit stop.
In addition to cutting the race short due to approaching nightfall, NASCAR also decided to change the regular two-abreast restart procedure to single-file restarts due to visibility concerns.
The earlier Xfinity Series support round had to be cancelled due to rain before it even got to the halfway point.
Many drivers thought it was a tremendous hit from a track perspective, despite the weather having a significant impact on the weekend and initial concerns about stock cars on a street course.
Martin Truex Jr. still leads the standings by nine points over William Byron, 18 over Ross Chastain, 21 over Christopher Bell, and 31 over Kyle Busch with eight Cup regular-season races left on the calendar.