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Lessons learned for Shane Van Gisbergen after NASCAR drafting debut

SVG is speed running all the NASCAR development experiences this sprint

NASCAR Xfinity: United Rentals 300
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“I was involved in seven crashes and only one was my fault, really.”

Welcome to NASCAR and superspeedway racing, Shane Van Gisbergen.

The three-time Australian Supercars champion and inaugural Streets of Chicago Cup Series winner began his initial full-time foray into NASCAR by racing in both the ARCA and Xfinity Series races that preceded the Daytona 500.

For a guy that only has one short track start to his resume, the entire weekend was a shock to his system. For one, he crashed more on one weekend than he has over the past half-decade back home, and it wasn’t even a disaster of a weekend.

“I just tried to analyze every one of the six I was involved in and I couldn’t figure out a way I could have done anything differently,” said Van Gisbergen. “It’s just this style of racing and something I have to accept, that you are probably going to get in a crash and it’s an amazing mindset, going into a race thinking it’s 50-50 whether you will crash or you won’t.”

Van Gisbergen described the Australian Supercar as something that may as well be made of glass, so when he climbed out of the car on Monday night after the Xfinity Series race, he was expecting something way worse.

“I got out at the end and I expected it to be ruined and it wasn’t too bad,” he said. “You know, the suspension was bent and the fenders were pushed in but it didn’t look as bad as I thought. Like the cars are so tough here. It’s pretty impressive what they can take.”

Van Gisbergen, who will race full-time in the Xfinity Series this year with select Cup Series starts, says the biggest mental adjustment he is already having to make is accepting the ups and downs of a NASCAR campaign.

“What I was doing before, if I didn’t finish top-3, your weekend was a disaster,” he said.

Supercars is a more pure form of motorsports, of course, where contact is largely discouraged and policed. NASCAR is frequently full-contact and a season’s worth of results are all over the map.

“Having that results mindset has been a huge switch as well,” he said. “Part of being a rookie makes accepting that easier and I just have to settle in and shoot for top-15s, top-10s and try to get some consistency.

“But yeah, even when you look at the top guy’s results last year, they are all over the place week-to-week. It’s a very different way to approach races.”

Even though it’s not apples to apples, there are some similarities between Daytona and the recently reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway, as both are now considered full-throttle drafting tracks. Van Gisbergen feels like he’s learned a good bit that will help him on Saturday night.

“Just knowing how to place the car to get air on it, to change the balance and grip and how to stay in line,” said SVG. “And then, learning the proximity of the car to the wall on the right side. It took me a while to know where the right side of the car was — learning the width of the car.

“I hadn’t really driven around people. We did some single-file stuff in practice, but no double-file and probably gave people a little too much space than I should have early on.”

He said he was following teammate AJ Allmendinger at the start of the race and kept pulling out of line, which when by yourself is a huge no-no because that car will just go backwards, but now he’s learned.

“So, I got better at that but at the end my car was a bit too beat up to do much with it.”

NASCAR Xfinity: United Rentals 300
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Not homesick

The Australian Supercars season starts this weekend and Shane Van Gisbergen says he’s trying to keep up with the action from Bathurst as best as possible but he’s also pretty busy.

“I watched it,” he said. “Like, I’ve got a lot of friends; drivers and team people and I watched practice, the one that was on at a decent hour and it was a weird feeling.

“Like, it’s been 17 years of driving out pit lane with all those people. So, it was shame to miss it, but I had fun and feel like I belong here. I feel like I’ve definitely done the right thing for my career and racing enjoyment so I’m not missing it, I feel like.”

Van Gisbergen officially moved to the United States with his girlfriend and their dog in January and immediately went to Daytona for the ARCA test. A few weeks after that was Speedweek at Daytona, which was delayed to Monday night.

Now it’s Friday and he is at Atlanta for another weekend of racing. Ultimately, he is too occupied with racing to either be homesick or find time for off-track hobbies yet.

“It’s been mainly just all racing stuff but yeah, found a few good wood trails to run around with my dog and girlfriend, stuff like that,” he said. “It’s been pretty cool. It’s a nice area where we are in, Mooresville, pretty relaxed and close to everything, which is good.

“So I’ve been enjoying it so far.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter. 

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