Shane van Gisbergen is reportedly closing in on a deal to compete for Trackhouse Racing Team throughout the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Three-time Australian V8 Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen made his NASCAR Cup Series debut through Trackhouse Racing Team’s PROJECT91 initiative in the series’ inaugural street course race at the new Chicago Street Course back in early July.
PROJECT91 was introduced by the Justin Marks and Pitbull-owned team during the 2022 season as a way to give internationally renowned race car drivers the opportunity to compete in select races at NASCAR’s top level.
Former Formula 1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen was the No. 91 Chevrolet’s first driver at Watkins Glen International last August, and he returned at Circuit of the Americas in March. Van Gisbergen’s start at Chicago marked the program’s third event.
The 34-year-old New Zealander became the first driver to win on debut since Johnny Rutherford pulled off the feat back in 1963, and Trackhouse Racing Team have since confirmed that he is set to return behind the wheel of the No. 91 Chevrolet for this coming weekend’s race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Before van Gisbergen competed in Chicago, it was believed that he would not be able to pursue full-time NASCAR opportunities until 2025. But after winning — and, quite frankly, dominating — his first race, it was reported that he was free to pursue such opportunities for 2024. He later confirmed those reports.
While a number of landing sports emerged as possibilities for van Gisbergen, including but not limited to Stewart-Haas Racing and Kaulig Racing, Marks recently stated that if the PROJECT91 race winner was going to run full-time in the Cup Series, he might as well do so for the team with which he won on debut.
That possibility appears to be on its way to becoming a reality.
Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern has reported that Shane van Gisbergen is finalizing a deal to compete for Trackhouse Racing Team in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Stern described the deal as a “wide-range development deal” and also made mention of the fact that it would allow him to land the full-time ride he has been seeking.
There are, of course, still some questions that need to be answered. Will van Gisbergen be running the full 36-race Cup Series schedule, or will his “full-time” plan consist of races across the top three national series as a part of the “developmental” process?
The obvious option would be a 36-race Cup Series schedule, but that in itself would bring to the forefront several other major questions.
Will Trackhouse Racing Team be expanding from two to three full-time entries in 2024, and if so, from where will they acquire a third charter? Could they run a third car full-time without a charter? We have seen teams do it in the past from time to time, most recently JTG Daugherty Racing in 2021?
If they expand, does that mean that PROJECT91 is officially a thing of the past? Granted, the addition of van Gisbergen to the series full-time would certainly be an extension of that initiative, but such a scenario would effectively close the door on the possibility of other international stars competing for the team, unless they opt to run a fourth car in select events.
But what if they don’t expand? We know that Ross Chastain is safe behind the wheel of the No. 1 Chevrolet, factoring in both his performance since joining the team last year and his recently announced long-term sponsorship deal with Busch Light, but what about Daniel Suarez?
Suarez is also said to have signed a contract extension with the team that keeps him behind the wheel of the No. 99 Chevrolet through 2024, but just how watertight is that deal if he fails to make it back to the playoffs?
It will be interesting to see the specifics of van Gisbergen’s deal and how everything plays out. But one thing appears certain: the Chicago winner is set to be competing full-time next year, and the team that gave him his Cup Series chance won’t be one of the teams competing against him.