In fact, several of the drivers who battled Van Gisbergen down to the end in Sunday’s race said the Kiwi’s performance was entertaining, but also a little humbling.
The three-time Supercars champion looked to be a contender all weekend on the 2.2-mile, 12-turn course in the Grant Park of downtown Chicago.
He was fastest in Saturday’s practice and came up just short in qualifying, starting third.
Pitting late for new tyres, van Gisbergen patiently drove back through the field, grabbed the lead and held on to it in a two-lap overtime.
“He was in a league of his own, and in my opinion, put on a really big-time clinic,” said Chase Elliott, one of the Cup series’ top road course drivers. “I don’t want to speak for everybody else, but he made me look bad, and I kind of think the rest of us, too.
“He’s going to go home and tell all of his friends how bad we are.”
Race winner Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse Racing, Chevrolet Camaro
Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / Motorsport Images
Kyle Larson, who ended up fourth and was passed by van Gisbergen late in the race, said he was amazed at his performance late in the race.
“It was so fun to watch from my view,” Larson said. “When he got to my back bumper, I felt like I pieced together a really good section and I thought for sure I’d look in the mirror and I was going to be like two car lengths or something in front of him, and he was glued to my back bumper.
“I was like, ‘Holy s**t, this guy is flying.’ He was able to get by me, and then I got to watch the show.”
Kyle Busch, who finished fifth on Sunday, said he was not surprised with van Gisbergen’s performance considering Supercars are heavier cars like the Cup Series’ Next Gen and the Kiwi’s experience in street and road racing.
“He’s probably, I don’t know, four, five, eight years ahead of us in this sort of car in the things that he’s done with the V-8 Supercars,” Busch said. “I’ve worked with him before as a teammate with the Lexus program down at the Daytona 24 Hours.
“Yeah, saw he was talented in that car. We were all really fast, so he always kept probably the quickest time for the team the whole time we were down there for Daytona. He is no slouch. I knew he would be good when he came over.”