Trackhouse and PROJECT91 deliver epic performance on the streets of Chicago

July 3, 2023

When Justin Marks envisioned Trackhouse, he wanted to create a brand that merged entertainment, racing and culture to provide outstanding content and tell great stories.

All those qualities were in abundance with Shane Van Gisbergen’s astonishing victory in an epic event on the streets of Chicago on July 2 in the Grand Park 220.

Trackhouse honors van Gisbergen's historic win with a
limited edition apparel collection.

The New Zealander’s win in the PROJECT91 entry for Trackhouse was an historic moment as NASCAR celebrates its 75th Anniversary. It was the first-ever street race in NASCAR Cup Series history and Van Gisbergen became the first driver to win in his first-ever NASCAR Cup Series race since Johnny Rutherford drove to victory at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 1963 – 50 years ago.

That was so long ago, victories in the Daytona 500 Qualifying races still counted as “official” NASCAR points races.

It was the second-straight Sunday night that Trackhouse owner Justin Marks and Trackhouse President Ty Norris celebrated a NASCAR Cup Series victory. One week earlier, Ross Chastain won the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway in the No. 1 Chevrolet.

To get a full impact of the surreal nature of the second-straight victory for Trackhouse, it came on day when it appeared there may not be any race at all.

Nearly 9 inches of rain fell on the area of the race course for much of Sunday leading into the race. It flooded the race course and pit road because the temporary barriers actually allowed the water to collect as a pool.

But diligent efforts by NASCAR, Chicago Street Race Organizers and the Chicago Park District were able to get the race course off to a delayed start under foreboding and gloomy skies. The field of NASCAR Cup Series drivers were on rain tires, having to finesse their way around a street course on wet conditions.

Those were perfect conditions for Van Gisbergen, a star driver in Australian Supercars with 80 victories and three Supercars championships.

Racing high-speed race cars on street and road courses in all kinds of conditions is what Van Gisbergen does best and he proved that in the closing stages of Sunday’s race.

Because of the late start and rainy weather, darkness was closing in on the 2.2-mile, 12-turn temporary street course that included Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue, DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Columbus Drive, Balbo Street and Roosevelt Road.

The only lights were the permanent ornate street lamps that line the streets for everyday use.

The race was originally scheduled for 100 laps, but at the conclusion of Stage 2, NASCAR officials announced to the teams that it would be shortened to 75 laps. About 10 cars had pitted prior to that announcement, and most of the field made their final pit stop after NASCAR shortened the race.

That put Justin Haley, who had qualified last in the field, at the front and he could make it to the finish on the amount of fuel still in his tank.

Van Gisbergen, who had qualified third, was shuffled back to 18th after his final pit stop.

From that point forward, Van Gisbergen proved why he is an immense talent in international racing.

While many of the NASCAR Cup Series regulars were slipping and sliding and trying to hang onto their race cars on a track that had dried in most place, but remained damp in others, Van Gisbergen drove the PROJECT91 entry through the field.

He was able to race his way to the bumper on Haley’s Chevrolet and that is when the packed crowd of 70,000 fans that had braved the elements saw some of the most thrilling action in NASCAR Cup Series history.

Van Gisbergen passed Haley, but further back in the field, Martin Truex had spun out and crashed to bring out the yellow flag. At the end of the race, Van Gisbergen passed Haley, who was briefly able to pass Van Gisbergen back, but when Van Gisbergen did an “over-under” move, he was able to take the lead for good and drive all the way to the stunning victory in the epic event.

Van Gisbergen becomes the sixth driver born outside the United States to win a NASCAR Cup Series race joining Marcos Ambrose (Australia), Mario Andretti (Italy) Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia), Earl Ross (Canada), and Daniel Suarez (Mexico).

Three of the drivers on that list have connections to Trackhouse. Montoya’s win in at Sonoma, California in 2007 came with Chip Ganassi Racing, the team Trackhouse owners Justin Marks and Pitbull purchased at the end of June 2021 that provides the foundation for today’s race team. Suarez drove the No. 99 Trackhouse Chevrolet to victory at Sonoma Raceway in 2022.

Add Van Gisbergen’s name to that impressive list with his incredible victory on the streets of Chicago.

Even the winner was incredulous at what he had just accomplished when asked if he ever thought he would finish his first NASCAR Cup Series race as the winner.

“No, of course not but you always dream of it,” Van Gisbergen said. “Thank you so much to the Trackhouse team and Enhance Health, Project91. What an experience in the crowd out here. This was so cool. This is what you dream of. Hopefully I can come and do more.

“When we had that back strategy back to 18th, I started to worry a bit but had some full stands on some people, and the racing was really good, everyone was respectful. It was tough but a lot of fun.”

The New Zealander made his NASCAR Cup Series debut Sunday driving the No. 91 Enhanced Health/Quad Lock Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 as the PROJECT91 entry for Trackhouse.

It was third race for PROJECT91 after appearances by 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Räikkönen at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International in 2022 and at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on March 26. 

The 33-year-old van Gisbergen drives a Chevrolet Camaro in the Supercars Championship for Triple Eight Race Engineering. He won championships in 2016, 2021 and 2022. He has won 78 races with 47 poles positions – the fourth most successful driver in series history.

He won the Bathurst 1000 in 2020 and 2022.

It also validated one more of Marks’ visions – his incredible ideas that he is able to turn into reality at Trackhouse with the PROJECT91 concept.

“As far as PROJECT91 goes, this was a shower idea,” Marks said. “It was me thinking, I'm a huge fan of all different kinds of motorsports and I've raced in all different kinds of motorsports. I wanted to bring my love of global motorsport to NASCAR and put a brand around it and create sort of a landing spot for the elite talent globally that wanted to come and try NASCAR instead of just putting them in a car and crossing our fingers and watching them do that, but actually building a program that's catered to elite motorsport talent and have a training protocol and preparation protocol so we can be successful. A lot of work went into that.

“For us to be in Victory Lane with PROJECT91, it's hard to find the words. It's incredibly, incredibly humbling. Kimi Raikkonen and Chevrolet were a big part of getting this thing going, and for us to be able to grab a guy like Shane, who I'm a huge fan of and have been a fan of for a long time, to put him in this position and watch him do his thing was not just great for our company, but an incredibly compelling thing for the fans and for the industry and for everybody that was here this weekend.”

PROJECT91 gives elite race drivers from international motorsports the opportunity to experience NASCAR racing at the top level.

Van Gisbergen proved on July 2 with the stunning skyline of Chicago as the backdrop for one of the most impressive victory lanes in NASCAR history that big dreams can come true, even in a “concept car” such as PROJECT91.

“For us to put it in Victory Lane, it just shows the world that this PROJECT91 is a very, very elite effort,” Marks said. “It's not about vanity. It's not about just sponsorship. It's not about social media. It's about putting a program together that can actually win and tell great stories.

“I think the fact that we put it in Victory Lane, it just galvanizes our mission in trying to attract the greatest motorsport talent in the world.”

CAN YOU KEEP UP?

Want to get all the latest news about the action on and off the track? Sign up for the Trackhouse newsletter!

 

Copyright © 2023 Trackhouse Racing. All rights reserved.