NASCAR legend details new pressure for SVG

03 Aug
'He needs to go to Indy and back it up'
3 mins by James Pavey

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says Shane van Gisbergen must "challenge for the win” at Indianapolis amid the Kiwi’s ambitions to shift to NASCAR.

Van Gisbergen will make his second Cup Series start at Indianapolis alongside Supercars rival Brodie Kostecki next weekend.

The New Zealander will again race for Trackhouse Racing’s Project91, with Kostecki to steer a third Richard Childress Racing Camaro.

Van Gisbergen appears set on a collision course for a full-time seat in NASCAR, having opened up on his 2024 plans after winning in Sydney on Sunday.

It came just weeks after van Gisbergen set world motorsport into a frenzy when he won on his NASCAR debut in the inaugural Chicago street race.

Given van Gisbergen’s ambitions, two-time Daytona 500 winner Earnhardt Jr. claimed the 34-year-old must back up his Chicago performance at Indy to make himself almost irresistible to potential suitors.

“If he’s confirming he has plans to pursue NASCAR full-time ride, I think he’s already got an idea of who this is with,” Earnhardt Jr. said on his podcast, The Dale Jr. Download.

"The pressure’s on. He needs to go to Indy and back it up. He needs to go to Indy, lead laps and challenge for the win.

“If he runs fifth, that ain’t good enough to warrant all the effort that will have to take place to get him here to that full-time deal.

“I don’t want to use the word struggle, but he’s going to be challenged at the ovals for a while. I doubt it comes naturally.

“The ownership and team will manage that struggle, and that patience of waiting for the oval stuff to take.

“If he’s going to go to all of the other road courses that we all know well and just be top five – is that enough?”

Key to van Gisbergen’s chances is getting up to speed on ovals, with the two-time Bathurst winner securing an oval debut in a Niece Motorsports Truck at Indianapolis Motorsport Park.


It was a point recently raised by three-time Daytona winner Denny Hamlin, who questioned van Gisbergen’s full-time NASCAR ceiling.

“It’s exciting because he went out and won his very first race and it’s like, ‘Holy cow, this is amazing,’ right?” Hamlin said on his Actions Detrimental podcast.

“I guess I need to find out more about him, for sure. Like, what makes him a great race car driver in those Supercars?

'He needs to go to Indy and back it up'

“He’s obviously a great race car driver, period, because he came over here and won in NASCAR in his first start. But, I know everyone as a race car driver has their identity, right?

“Everyone just kind of has somewhat of an identity of what they’re really specialised at… what about Shane is great? Is he an exceptional street racer?”

Earnhardt Jr. said van Gisbergen will be “damn hard to beat” at road courses, and cited how Marcos Ambrose was a force on road courses after arriving from Supercars.

The NASCAR Hall of Famer also reflected on significant investment required into a full-time seat, and suggested van Gisbergen should also run Xfinity and Truck races to gain fast-track his oval experience.

Regardless, Earnhardt Jr. said van Gisbergen could prove a significant wildcard, given drivers can make the NASCAR Playoffs with a win.

“If he comes full-time, you’ve got a guy that’s going into the playoffs with at least one road course win,” Earnhardt Jr. said.

“Due to his oval performance, I don’t know that he places in the top 16 in points throughout the regular season.

“He’s going to be one of those drivers at the back side of the top 16 with a road course win or more that’s going to take a playoff position."

Van Gisbergen and Kostecki will race at Indianapolis on August 13, two days after the former makes his Truck debut at the nearby short oval.

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