Shane van Gisbergen reportedly will join NASCAR in a developmental deal for 2024. What would be the best plan for him?
Amy Henderson: I really like that Shane van Gisbergen has said he wants to take a path that will allow him to learn. He’s a very talented driver, but running different series to learn not only the tracks but how these drivers race one another and how to race up front with them is a smart, smart approach for long-term success in the NASCAR Cup Series. Yes, he’s 34, but he could have 10 or more quality years in NASCAR if he chooses, so there is no reason at all to rush and every reason to do it right.
Taylor Kornhoff: Van Gisbergen should race at least one of every track type and preferably in the Cup Series, with a NASCAR Xfinity Series or NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start accompanying each to get him further acclimated outside of his comfort zone. The Cup tracks that have to be on his schedule are the Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum, Daytona International Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Martinsville Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Phoenix Raceway. Surely he will be in the field at road courses as a trophy hunter regardless.
Andrew Stoddard: The best path to jumpstarting van Gisbergen’s NASCAR career is a full-time Xfinity ride with a part-time Cup Series slate in 2024. Running the full Xfinity schedule would give him the opportunity to vie for a championship and see how the demands of a full NASCAR schedule differ from his current ride in SuperCars. His Cup races should be carefully handpicked and cover a wide variety of tracks to help him gain valuable experience. He should also be entered in the crown jewel races like the Daytona 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. The brand of racing in the Truck Series is too chaotic for the growth of a major NASCAR prospect.
Mark Kristl: Run him in multiple different series at many racetracks. SVG needs to learn oval track racing. For superspeedways, field him in the ARCA Menards Series. Those two races will be less pressure filled. For short tracks, either ARCA and or the Truck Series because he’ll have to learn how to run in traffic. SVG should run the Xfinity Series at intermediates to compete against the best drivers and teams outside of the Cup Series. As for Cup, it comes down to the almighty dollar. If Trackhouse Racing secures sponsorship, then van Gisbergen ought to run a few races.
Luken Glover: At 34 years old and given his Supercars success, van Gisbergen could jump into Cup full time and quickly learn. At the same time, I respect and agree with the intention to have him race in multiple series. All signs point to Trackhouse Racing signing him for some sort of deal in 2024. With that in mind, he should definitely run most of, if not all the road courses depending on Trackhouse’s desires. Additionally, he should run some of the short tracks like Bristol Motor Speedway, Martinsville and Richmond Raceway. These are tracks that provided other opportunities for former international drivers to excel on when they moved to Cup. Beyond that, he should compete in several intermediate races in the Xfinity Series, as well as a couple of the superspeedways.
Chase Folsom: Van Gisbergen is an extremely talented racecar driver, so as soon as he starts racing on ovals more often, production shouldn’t be too far behind. Running Cup oval races will be important, and Truck and Xfinity starts can’t hurt either. Outside of that, Trackhouse has a late model program, so bring him over for the Snowball Derby, World Series of Asphalt, Icebreaker, etc. Just get him as much seat time as possible.
Six international drivers competed in the Cup race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Who other than van Gisbergen impressed you enough to deserve a long-term opportunity?
Kristl: I’d be interested to see Kamui Kobayashi back in NASCAR because of his background. As a Japanese driver, he is the same nationality as Hattori Racing Enterprises owner Shigeaki Hattori. So from a marketing perspective, it would behoove Toyota to have Kobayashi drive for HRE. Kobayashi has run many different racing series, so he is adept and would be competitive in Trucks.
Glover: Brodie Kostecki‘s weekend was marred by his practice crash and having to start at the rear. However, he showed impressive speed many times and did so with very limited time in the seat. He deserves another shot. Mike Rockenfeller did a really solid job in the No. 42 for Legacy Motor Club, too. In a car that has had nowhere near front-running speed, let alone top-15 runs, he did a solid job managing his day and getting a top 25 out of it. I would like to see what he could do with better equipment.
Mike Neff: Let’s be fair, none of them finished in the top 20. They all can get another shot ,but none of them were impressive.
Folsom: None of them outside of maybe Kostecki even view NASCAR as a long-term option or goal in the future, and none of them really showed up and lit the world on fire. Kostecki showed up and had speed, he just couldn’t put the whole weekend together.
Kornhoff: Kostecki impressed because of the pace he was setting before his qualifying crash. He had even less experience going into it than van Gisbergen did at the Chicago street course, still finished respectably for a stock car debut and came home better than Austin Dillon does on a weekly basis to boot.
Will competing in the ARCA Menards Series race at Watkins Glen International help Corey LaJoie in his Cup race there?
Stoddard: It won’t help a lot, but it can’t hurt either. Corey LaJoie has struggled mightily at Watkins Glen, with a paltry average finish of 29.5 in four Cup starts. In fact, LaJoie has never finished in the top 10 at a road course, with a best finish of 11th earlier this year at Circuit of the Americas. By hopping into an ARCA car, LaJoie will get some additional reps to help him get a handle on braking zones and the best racing line around The Glen. On the other hand, the Next Gen car is a different animal, so his experience in the ARCA race will not fully translate to the Cup Series.
Kornhoff: It won’t help LaJoie with his road course skills in Cup directly, but more seat time during a race weekend usually helps a driver. Take Kyle Larson, Ty Gibbs and Alex Bowman earlier this year, for example. While they’re spending a lot of time in racecars, they usually perform well; perhaps it keeps drivers in the zone and ready to do their jobs. Plus, a win in another series can equate to some momentum to bring into the Cup Series.
Folsom: I mean, no matter what discipline or level of competition, seat time can’t ever hurt. Especially for Lajoie, road courses not really being a strong suit of his. He can probably use all the laps he can get.
Henderson: It can’t hurt, and if he learns something, like a line or braking point that can make him faster on Sunday, then why not? Cup drivers have used ARCA in the past as a way to get more track time and felt it was beneficial; it used to happen quite often at Pocono before the Xfinity cars started racing there.
Neff: Getting more road course time is good for almost anyone. LaJoie is a good driver and he is getting better with every race. More laps in a stock car at any track is helpful to his career.
Should the Camping World SRX Series visit a new racetrack in 2024?
Glover: Absolutely. Part of the fun of that series is seeing which tracks it will visit each year. It keeps the schedule fresh, allows fans from different regions to experience blue-collar short track racing, and opens the door for various guest drivers to join. One track I would like to see the series visit is Hickory Motor Speedway, as that track carries a lot of history and meaning in the racing community. Of course, a lot of it depends on where NASCAR is at due to several drivers also competing in Cup, too.
Kristl: Keep in mind the series already has awarded a race to Thunder Road SpeedBowl due to its event cancellation. Still, I’d like to see the series visit Flat Rock Speedway. Located near Detroit, SRX could market itself as visiting the Motor City. Plus, Flat Rock is a quarter-mile short track, so there’d certainly be nonstop racing action.
Stoddard: Absolutely. There are many short tracks across America starving for money and attention, and SRX could bring the viewers and revenue needed to boost their profile. I recommend Dominion Raceway in Virginia or Florence Motor Speedway in South Carolina. Florence hosted the South Carolina 400 last year, with a lengthy entry list that included Dale Earnhardt Jr., so the facility could definitely host SRX.
Henderson: Yes. The more the merrier; it’s good for the fans because there’s less predictability in races. Keep it a real challenge by not letting the drivers get comfortable on any track. It’s also a great way to give short tracks all over the country a shot of publicity and give a boost to the gate receipts for the week.
Neff: It should go to six new racetracks. There are myriad tracks around the country that would love to host it, and fans deserve to have the chance to see the series.
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