TRIPLE Eight Race Engineering managing director Jamie Whincup has acknowledged Shane van Gisbergen is a step closer to leaving the team after his NASCAR heroics on debut.
Van Gisbergen undoubtedly captured the imagination of the Cup Series pitlane with his sensational win on the streets of Chicago.
Immediately post-race, the 34-year-old reiterated that he will be in Supercars in 2024 before hopefully shifting to the United States thereafter.
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Asked if Triple Eight might need to start drawing up some alternative plans for 2025, a supportive Whincup told V8 Sleuth: “For sure.
“SVG has been quite open with his plans so we’re happy to have him for 2024 but who knows what’s going to happen in 2025.
“His result on the weekend certainly helped his case – if he does want to go and live in America and drive a NASCAR, he has done himself the best favour of all to go over there and win on debut.
“Whatever he wants to do, we’ll support him in that.”
Reacting to van Gisbergen’s performance in the Project 91 Chevrolet Camaro, Whincup was wowed.
“From my perspective, unbelievable,” he said.
“There’s not many bigger stages in motorsport than a NASCAR Cup Series race on a brand-new street track.
“Now I’m certainly not jumping on the bandwagon, Triple Eight had very little to do with this opportunity for SVG, he went out, hunted it down and made it happen himself. Of course we supported the opportunity for him 100 percent but it was certainly his doing.
“That last 30 laps, to claw his way and go from 18th to just absolutely muscle his way through the pack and get the win, I couldn’t be happier for him.
“I have been giggling to myself all day, what an absolute fairytale.
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“I’m happy for him but I’m also happy for the sport and for motorsport Down Under, it couldn’t have been a better ad for how competitive motorsport is down here in Australia and New Zealand.”
Further to that, he believes there could well be a spike in interest from the US when it comes to Round 6 of the Repco Supercars Championship this weekend in Townsville, with the chance to see how van Gisbergen operates in his own backyard.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the viewing numbers from out of the US doubles for Townsville this weekend,” said Whincup.
“Who knows what opportunities it’s going to create for younger drivers coming out of Australia and New Zealand on the big stage in the US and in Europe.
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“It’s been a fantastic weekend, obviously SVG’s performance was unbelievable, and then to see Chaz (Mostert in the 24 Hours of Spa) on the podium as well and even Scotty McLaughlin (fifth place in IndyCar at Mid-Ohio), what a weekend for motorsport enthusiasts this side of the world.”
Practice for the NTI Townsville 500 begins Friday, leaving a short turnaround for van Gisbergen and regular engineer Andrew Edwards to return from Chicago and get up for racing the #97 Red Bull Ampol Camaro.
That’s no concern to Whincup, though: “He’s better at this than anybody, being able to jump in foreign cars and then come back and reset and go again in a Supercar.”
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