There’s nothing more exciting than a storybook ending, and on Sunday, after several hours of record-breaking precipitation, fans that stuck around for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 were rewarded with just that.
Shane Van Gisbergen, making a one-off appearance for Trackhouse Racing and PROJECT91 at the Chicago Street Course, was able to pull something off that simply doesn’t happen anymore, a victory on debut in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The 34-year-old driver was able to slice through the field and recover from an imperfect strategy call, which was forced upon Van Gisbergen and several others when the race distance was altered mid-race due to impending darkness.
Over the final laps of the event, the Auckland, New Zealand-native was able to put down some blistering times, just like he had done throughout the weekend in practice and qualifying, catching race-leader Justin Haley with about 10 laps remaining.
Haley, one of several drivers who benefitted from the mid-race distance change, was able to inherit the lead with just under 30 laps remaining in regulation, but continued to hold off the challengers behind him, until Van Gisbergen approached his rear bumper.
The Kaulig Racing driver would be saved by a full-course caution once, when Martin Truex, Jr. slammed the tire barriers in the first turn, but on the subsequent restart would lose out to the three-time Australian Supercars champion.
Taking over the lead with less than five laps remaining in regulation, Van Gisbergen would have to defend his lead on a NASCAR Overtime restart, but got a great launch out of the restart zone, and pulled away, winning the event by 1.259 seconds.
Van Gisbergen’s triumph in Sunday’s inaugural Chicago Street Race, makes him the seventh driver in the history of the NASCAR Cup Series to win on debut, and the first to do so since Johnny Rutherford in 1963, 60 years ago.
The victory also marks the fifth win in the NASCAR Cup Series for Trackhouse Racing, which debuted their program in 2021 with Daniel Suarez. Since then, he, Ross Chastain, and now Shane Van Gisbergen have been to victory lane.
Justin Haley, driving the No. 31 for Kaulig Racing, came home in the runner-up position, after leading 34 of the race’s 78 laps. It’s the best result for Haley since joining Kaulig Racing at the start of last season.
Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, teammates at Hendrick Motorsports, finished the race in third and fourth. Elliott, driving the No. 9, rebounded to finish well after crashing in qualifying on Saturday.
Kyle Busch, who crashed hard into the tire barriers in turn six early in the race, was able to rebound to finish inside the top-five. Austin Cindric, Michael McDowell, Joey Logano, Ty Gibbs, and Chris Buescher completed the top-10.
Christopher Bell, who led a race-high 37 of 78 laps, finished in 18th after he overdrove the entrace to the first corner late in the event, and made contact with the tire barriers. Similarly, Tyler Reddick ran into issues while attempting to chase down the race leaders, slamming into the tire barriers at turn six.
Leaving the inaugural Chicago Street Course event, a race many considered to be a wildcard event, Martin Truex, Jr. continues to hold the lead in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings by nine points over William Byron.
Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, and Kyle Busch round out the top-five in point standings, while Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, and Joey Logano have positioned themselves inside the top-10.
Next for the NASCAR Cup Series is a track starkly different from that of Chicago, the superspeedway-like intermediate track of Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Chase Elliott scored the victory last Summer.
Race Results – Grant Park 220: