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  Debate

Debate

Did Dale Jr. just expose Trackhouse Racing's dirty laundry, or is he just being brutally honest?

Last weekend, millions of eyes were glued to one driver at the Chicago Street Race. Being the defending race winner, Shane van Gisbergen drummed up a ton of excitement around his road course dominance. He stamped his third Xfinity win in Chicago, and fans expected him to storm with equal fervor in Sunday’s Cup race.

However, an unfortunate, slippery encounter took him out. Although a Cup rival and wet conditions were to blame, Dale Earnhardt Jr. draws out another theory about SVG’s downfall. The former Cup driver believes the car and its owner were the culprits, according to SVG’s slipped words.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. drills deeper into SVG’s interview

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After Shane van Gisbergen basked in his third Xfinity glory, he called these road course runs a “holiday” feeling. But his ecstasy may have gone the wrong way, as the Cup race held a different story in store for him. Changing from the No. 97 to the No. 16 car, SVG jumped to the front row at the Grant Park 165 race. But in stage 2 Chase Briscoe skidded out of control and hit SVG, whose car took a nasty bump on the wall.

Poll of the day

Do you think Dale Earnhardt Jr. was right to call out Shane van Gisbergen's mistake?

Absolutely

No way

Not sure

He went too far

After No. 16 could not be restored, SVG admitted defeat with a hung face. Yet Junior paid attention to something else he mentioned—about his car, as he explained in a Dale Jr. Download episode: aired on July 9, “One of the things I caught, he gets out and goes, ‘Trackhouse had us a good car.’ I’m like, wait a minute, that didn’t look like a Trackhouse car. What are them boys doing?! …That car’s ain’t never been in Kaulig’s garage?”

When Shane van Gisbergen signed up for the 2024 race schedule, both Trackhouse Racing and Kaulig Racing were involved. However, Trackhouse owned the car that he wielded to victory in his debut Cup race—the Project 91 entry.

Last year, Kaulig Racing’s president also hinted at Trackhouse’s role in fitting up the car. “We started our talks with Trackhouse about the possibility of putting SVG in an Xfinity car for a few races quite some time ago.” He added, “We partner with Trackhouse’s pit crew department, and with their key support from Chevrolet, it made teaming up an easy decision.”

So is SVG’s car largely an effort by Trackhouse Racing? Dale Earnhardt Jr. would like to believe so. The Cup Series veteran also believes that it is beneficial for SVG, as he took a sly dig at Kaulig’s colors splashed on the No. 16. Dale Jr. thinks SVG would have one otherwise. “I think if it’s a Trackhouse car, he wins. But the Kaulig livery slowed him down just a little bit…I’m just kidding, Chris Rice.”

Besides SVG’s muck-up in terms of withholding insider information, another factor held Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s attention.

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Dale Jr. rooted for SVG for his crew chief

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Travis Mack is a veteran crew chief in the NASCAR garage and also Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s close consort. Mack has been a former employee of Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports since 2004. His relationship with Dale Jr. has deep roots. So when the latter heard about Mack working for the No. 16 entry as crew chief in Chicago, his attention was arrested. Dale Earnhardt Jr. then rooted for SVG to win even more.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. recalled his fond sentiments for his old friend. “T-Mack was crew chief on that deal, he used to crew chief here at Junior Motorsports. I was wishing SVG for a great day for T-Mack alone…He was once crew chief for Daniel Suarez and then they swapped him for somebody else.”

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SVG also believes his rapport with Mack has helped a great deal. “(The relationship has) been good on all the ovals we’ve done so far. It went into the Kaulig truck to get here, and those guys will run it all weekend.” He added, “Every week, the relationship has gotten better and better, the more races we do. Really confident with how it all works now.”

Evidently, Mack’s relationship with SVG may be playing out better than that of his previous driver, Daniel Suarez. With a veteran crew chief’s support and Trackhouse Racing’s car, SVG may scale greater heights, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes.