In the inaugural race at the Chicago Street Course, Shane van Gisbergen became the first driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race in the No. 91 car in more than seven decades.
This past NASCAR race weekend at the brand-new Chicago Street Course was a weekend of firsts in many ways, and that trend held true throughout the conclusion of Sunday night’s rain-delayed and darkness-shortened Grant Park 220 Cup Series race.
Driving the No. 91 Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing Team, three-time Australian Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen became the first driver to win his Cup Series debut since Johnny Rutherford won at Daytona International Speedway in February 1963.
The 34-year-old New Zealander also pulled off a feat that hadn’t been achieved since nearly a full decade prior in May 1953 when Tim Flock won at Hickory Motor Speedway for Ted Chester.
During the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, the Justin Marks and Pitbull-owned team announced the creation of PROJECT91.
This initiative was designed to give international renowned race car drivers the opportunity to compete in select Cup Series events. Former Formula 1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen debuted the No. 91 Chevrolet at Watkins Glen International last August and returned at Circuit of the Americas back in March.
But it was van Gisbergen, in only PROJECT91’s third appearance, who became the first driver to win a Cup Series race in the No. 91 car since Flock’s Hickory victory more than 70 years ago.
The victory around the 12-turn, 2.2-mile (3.541-kilometer) temporary street circuit in Chicago, Illinois made van Gisbergen only the second driver in Cup Series history to win a race in the No. 91 car, despite the fact that several drivers have driven it since 1953. Flock had been responsible for all 16 of its victories in 329 starts.
Sunday’s 78-lap race marked the No. 91 car’s 240th Cup Series race with somebody other than Flock behind the wheel. The No. 91 car hadn’t appeared in a Cup Series race prior to last year since 2012, when Humphrey Smith Racing fielded it in 11 races.
Van Gisbergen does not currently have plans to get back behind the wheel of the No. 91 Chevrolet, and Trackhouse Racing Team have yet to announce additional plans for PROJECT91. Van Gisbergen has not ruled out a move to NASCAR in 2024.