Mastermind Behind Shane Van Gisbergen’s Historic Win Details Chicago’s Response to NASCAR’s $50 Million Circus

Published 07/06/2023, 9:16 AM EDT

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After debuting the Next Gen vehicle in 2022, NASCAR finally took it for a spin on the streets of Chicago for the first time. New Zealander Shane Van Gisbergen, driving the No. 91 Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 program, made history by winning the race despite the race being cut from 100 to 75 laps due to nightfall. The move for the victory occurred approaching Turn 4 with just five laps left in the race, making for a thrilling finish for die-hard NASCAR fans.

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In fact, not only were fans on cloud nine during and after the race, they were over the moon even before the competition kicked off to witness the historical event in Chicago as described by Darian Grubb (The Director of Performance for Trackhouse Racing and the crew chief of the 91 car) in his podcast, “NASCAR Live”

Grubb Talks About His First Impressions of Being in the Middle of One of the World’s Centers of Commerce

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Crew chief Darian Grubb said that seeing the support for his team and NASCAR, in general, in Chicago was a highlight apart from the fact that it was his rookie driver, Shane van Gisbergen, who won the race.

In the podcast, he said it was nice to be in the city, and he had a lot of fun. It was awesome to hear the buzz. Many applauded his team’s presence. Every day on the subways, they were showered with good wishes, congratulations, etc. Things like those made the effort worthwhile.

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Mike Bagley, on the “NASCAR Live” podcast, interviewed Grubb on his experience in the heart of one of the world’s hubs of business, where Grubb remarked on the extraordinary excitement shown by NASCAR fans in Chicago. He felt everybody had a really good time.

So as NASCAR fans, we can rest assured that the $50 million worth of building, racing services, and labor were unquestionably invested in a successful race.

As Grubb put it, “It was really cool. I mean, I have obviously been to a lot of cities and stuff before, but the buzz around race and what was going on there, of course, we were walking down the streets, riding the subways, wearing the uniform, and going to the race track, and having people come up and ask how fast you guys change tires. You tell them in seconds, and they are like, No way.

He added, “Having them come to the race track, see the excitement they had, it was really cool. Introduce new fans and a whole new group to NASCAR racing, and from what I can tell, everybody was having a really good time.”

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In another interview, while talking to WFXR Sports Director Jermaine Ferrell about the landmark win and his longtime career in NASCAR as a crew chief and engineer, he said, “Being able to go to a place like Chicago for such an historical event for something that is brand new and new to NASCAR and new to the city and new to street courses, and to pull off a win with a first-time race event for Shane Van Gisbergen to come over to the Supercars in Australia, it is a day of many firsts. It can’t get much better considering we dealt with a lot of weather and adversity with the weather and everything else.”

Is This Chicago Victory Darian Grubb’s Last Laugh on Tony Stewart?

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In November 2011, when Crew chief Darian Grubb had just steered Tony Stewart to his third career Cup title, the media was more interested in asking him about his impending departure from Stewart Haas Racing than in asking him about Stewart’s victory. After winning his first title as a crew chief, he found out the following day that he would be fired soon.

It was unique in sports history to dismiss the man responsible for leading your club to a title, thereby informing him that despite his success in leading the team to a championship, he was no longer wanted by the franchise. It was unfortunate that Darian Grubb received the news from SHR that they wouldn’t need him after the Sprint Cup Chase.

Darian Grubb was the one who guided Stewart to an unprecedented five victories during the 10-race Chase and ultimately won the Cup title. That’s why the decision to fire him will always be something that is going to baffle millions of NASCAR fans for a long time.

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Not to mention, Grubb has gone a long way toward becoming one of the most accomplished crew chiefs in history. It will be fascinating to see where his journey with his drivers takes them in the future. However, do you reckon Tony Stewart and Stewart Haas Racing might have realized the line that letting go of Grubb turned out to be a real shot in the foot for them? Let us know in the comments.

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

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Neha Dwivedi is a NASCAR Writer for EssentiallySports. Her ability to capture the spirit of the exhilarating races and relay the enthusiasm to her readers distinguishes her as a sports journalist. Neha's articles strike a nice balance between technical accuracy and story-telling.
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Edited by:

Ranvijay Singh

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