Breaking Down SVG’s NASCAR Prospects
Overnight, Shane van Gisbergen’s NASCAR 2024 program was announced. Here, we run our rule over what the different facets of his schedule mean for the three-time Supercars champ on the next step in his motorsport journey.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
The bulk of SvG’s NASCAR program next season will be based in the second-tier Xfinity Series – think of it as the Dunlop Series, but on steroids.
It’s kind of a big deal… in terms of TV numbers, the most watched races during the season are viewed by more punters than all of the F1 races in the USA, and outside of the Indy 500, every Indycar race, and like the Dunlop Series, the racing often outshines the action produced by the main game.
It’s also a star factory, with previous champions including now NASCAR Cup staples like Ty Gibbs, Austin Cindric, Tyler Reddick, William Byron, Daniel Suarez, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliot, Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr and more.
The 2024 season will feature a staunch field.
The Chevy camp will feature entries including those from the Dale Earnhardt Jr owned JR Motorsport, namely Sam Mayer, Justin Allgaier, Sammy Smith and Brandon Jones, Richard Childress Racing will have young gun Jesse Love and Austin Hill, Stewart-Haas Racing will represent Ford with reigning champion Cole Custer and Riley Herbst, while Joe Gibbs Racing’s full-season Toyota entries will include Sheldon Creed and Chandler Smith, with a mixed bag filling the other seats, including Cup stars John Hunter Nemechek and Aric Almirola.
Cup regularly also make cameo appearances from time to time, keeping the competition honest.
SvG’s Chevy will be fielded by Kaulig Racing, an outfit that has found considerable success since joining the top tiers of NASCAR in 2016, with two Cup wins complimented by 23 Xfinity Series successes.
Last season, the team won four Xfinity races in total, including two for AJ Allmendinger, plus one each for Chase Elliot and Chandler Smith, so they know how to get the job done.
For the campaign, van Gisbergen will have two full-time teammates: Allmendinger and Josh Williams.
Allmendinger is a curious addition to the squad – last year, he was full-time in the Cup Series and was a contender to make the Playoffs, however, he ultimately fell just short.
By season’s end, he did win a race at the Charlotte Roval, highlighting his credentials as one of the best road course racers in the game.
Williams, on the other hand, is the atypical NASCAR journeyman, complete with one glorious mullet.
Perhaps he is best known for abandoning ship on the start-finish line at the Atlanta race last year after being controversially parked by NASCAR, a move that earned him a one-race suspension.
With Allmendinger on board, SvG has a very experienced racer he can learn from and lean on for direction, with the squad’s road course package already top-notch, a fact that will only be aided by ongoing rule book stability.
Kaulig is also red hot in Superspeedway trim, a point further assisted by the strength in numbers provided by a three-car team.
The one issue hovering over Kaulig Racing is its direction, with questions being asked in recent times regarding its future prospects.
Last year, Allmendinger was joined in the squad’s Cup Series entries by Justin Haley, who was edged to the Chicago street race win by van Gisbergen.
Industry scuttlebutt has placed budgetary issues behind the move for Allmendinger back to the Xfinity Series, replaced by Daniel Hemric, with the driver/s of the second car yet to be announced.
SvG will be dumped straight into the pool’s deep end by making his series debut in the category’s biggest race on its most daunting stage: the Daytona International Speedway in the curtain raiser for the Daytona 500.
Typically, NASCAR hasn’t allowed rookies to walk straight into such a scenario, however, factors working for the Kiwi include his Cup win on debut, his Truck Series race on the short oval at IRP, and the fact that he has campaigned five times previously in the Daytona 24 Hour.
And there will be no rest in the opening weeks, with the second event scheduled for Atlanta, which these days is a flat-out drafting track, then the high banks of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, before the one-miler in Phoenix.
All told, it’s a jam-packed program featuring 33 races, with SvG’s aim being to secure a win and earn a place in the season-ending Playoffs, which begin at race 27.
Ovals on the tour include Richmond, Martinsville, Texas, Talladega, Dover, Darlington, Charlotte, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nashville, Pocono, Indianapolis (back on the full oval), Michigan, Bristol, Kansas, and Homestead, with some of the venues visited for a second time late in the schedule.
From a road course perspective, there are races set for Circuit of the Americas, Portland International (standalone from Cup), Sonoma, the Chicago street circuit, Watkins Glen (a circuit SvG raced on in 2017), plus the Charlotte Roval, which ends the opening round of 12 in the Playoffs.
Given a race win during the regular season, SvG would be a real threat to make it through to the round of eight.
The full details of SvG’s Cup campaign are yet to be fully revealed, although he is a lock to race in at least seven events, which will be backed by WeatherTech, who will also be behind the bulk of his Xfinity program.
What we do know is that the confirmed races on his slate right now are the road courses at the Circuit of the Americas, a chance to defend his crown on the streets of Chicago, plus Watkins Glen.
Elsewhere, he will line up at the Talladega Superspeedway for both races there, the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coke 600, the longest race on the schedule, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, providing a good spread of circuit types.
The emphasis on Talladega is interesting, as these races often become a battle of the luckiest, in who can survive without being taken out, but by the same token, the races provide an opportunity for anyone to succeed.
Who will field these entries is yet to be fully confirmed.
On the one hand, an additional entry at Trackhouse Racing comes with full factory Chevy backing, while a split arrangement in the second Kaulig Cup car alongside Hemric comes with the security of a Charter, meaning that he won’t miss any of the shows by failing to meet a qualifying cut off speed.
The announcement is yet another power play by Trackhouse, who recently unveiled a move into MotoGP competition with Aprilia.
On the Cup side, the company secured major Busch beer backing for Ross Chastain’s entry, as poached from the retiring Kevin Harvick at Stewart Haas Racing, while it also announced a third full-season Cup entry for young gun Zane Smith, with that Chevy to be campaigned by Spire Motorsports.
What does all this mean?
Watch this space – 2024 is going to be worth watching!