Shane van Gisbergen has finished a commendable 19th in his oval debut, making good ground on his qualifying position and appearing comfortable in tight, mid-field racing. More importantly, he kept things clean and showed significant progress, moving forward as he came to grips with an unfamiliar car on an unfamiliar style of circuit in an unfamiliar series.
The Supercars champion dropped several places over the final laps as his pace faded, going a lap down to eventual winner Ty Majeski on Lap 190, but ran as high as 15th in his first competitive outing on an oval.
“That was awesome,” he told the Fox Sports 1 broadcast following the race. “I’m a little guttered as with 10 to go, I finally dropped off the lead lap, but I had a ball and had some awesome racing with a lot of people.
“I’ve got to thank Niece Motorsports, WorldWide Express and the TrackHouse guys for having me. I’m living the dream. It was really cool. Everyone was respectful. It was awesome.
“I’ve got a lot to learn. The pace was OK in some spots, but I probably gave the wrong call on the adjustments, and we really dropped on the last stint, but I had so much fun.”
Ty Majeski delivered a dominating performance to take victory, leading 179 of the 200 laps and leading home Christian Eckes by 3.4 seconds. Layne Riggs rounded out the podium.
Having qualified 28th, van Gisbergen inherited an extra place on the line after Zane Smith was relegated to the rear for an unapproved adjustment that he ran in qualifying.
He was quick to make up ground, moving forward to be 22nd at the end of the opening two laps before dropping back a position on Lap 8.
The caution came out on Lap 17 for a four-car accident in the mid-field that saw Landen Lewis, Greg Van Alst and Tyler Ankrum drop laps down as a result. Van Alst was worst affected and forced to retire from the race.
The green flag flew on Lap 22 with van Gisbergen in 23rd, locked in a fierce mid-field battle. Once he found a rhythm, the Niece Motorsport #41 began to make progress, moving to 20th at the end of the first stage, on Lap 60, when the race was neutralised.
Following the first round of stops, van Gisbergen emerged 22nd, briefly running as high as 19th off the Lap 71 green flag but dropping to 22nd shortly after.
Van Gisbergen would run there for most of the second stage, matching the pace of those around as the leaders approached to put him a lap down. By Lap 107, he was the last car on the lead lap before Majeski put him a lap down two circuits later.
Stage 2 finished under caution after Chris Hacker span into the inside wall unassisted on Lap 115, bringing the field together as the pit window re-opened. Van Gisbergen was 21st at the end of the stage and moved to 19th following his stop, returning to the lead lap.
A penalty for a pit lane infringement forced Corey Heim, who had been running second, to drop to the rear of the pack while third-placed Grant Enfinger was forced to stop again, falling in behind van Gisbergen, who was 18th on the Lap 128 restart.
Green running only lasted for three laps as Dean Thompson was spun into the outside wall entering Turn 3. Spencer Boyd, who was further back in the pack, ran into the rear of the stranded truck, causing significant damage to both vehicles. Both drivers were OK, but a lengthy caution was required to clear debris.
Lap 140’s restart was also short-lived, with van Gisbergen starting 16th and losing a spot to Heim before the yellows were quick to come out again when Deegan hit the wall.
The Kiwi would gain a spot off the restart and briefly moved up as high as 15th with a beautiful three-wide pass around the outside in the closing stages.
That would be as high as he got, with his pace dropping off over the final 20 laps to see him bring the car home 19th, losing a lap on Majeski with 11 laps remaining.
Van Gisbergen returns to action on Sunday as he returns to the NASCAR Cup at the Indianapolis Road Course.
Header Image: Niece Motorsport