CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 02: Shane Van Gisbergen, driver of the #91 Enhance Health Chevrolet, and crew celebrate by spraying champagne in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course on July 02, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Shane van Gisbergen Reacts to His Shocking Win in NASCAR Chicago Street Race

The New Zealand driver was overcome with emotion after climbing from his No. 91 car.

It has been a year of historic events during the 75th anniversary season of NASCAR, and even more history was made this past weekend in the streets of downtown Chicago.

Not only was it NASCAR's first-ever street race, but it was also the first career start for V8 Supercar racer Shane van Gisbergen of New Zealand. The driver did not disappoint, as he stole the show by beating NASCAR's best in the Grant Park 220.

It was his first-ever start in a one-off opportunity of a lifetime. And, boy, did he deliver as he piloted Trackhouse Racing's Project 91 car to victory lane.

Van Gisbergen became the first driver in NASCAR's modern era to win his Cup Series debut. That had not occurred in the sport since 1963. He joins a list of some of NASCAR's founding father drivers who won in their first career starts, including Jim Roper (Charlotte, 1949), Jack White (Hamburg, 1949), Harold Kite (Daytona Beach, 1950), Leon Sales (North Wilkesboro, 1950), Marvin Burke (Oakland, 1951) and Johnny Rutherford (Daytona, 1963).

Van Gisbergen adds to an already elite resume? in his V8 Supercar career, being a three-time champion with 80 career victories.

He faced plenty of tough competition in Chicago, with the likes of Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick seemingly the ones to beat throughout the race. A number of issues late in the race knocked both out of contention for the win, and it ultimately came down to van Gisbergen holding off charges from Justin Haley and Chase Elliott.

Van Gisbergen was overcome with emotion after climbing from his No. 91 car and being asked by NBC Sports if he ever thought it was possible for him to win such a race.

"No, of course not. But you always dream about it," van Gisbergen said. "Thank you so much to the Trackhouse team. ... What an experience in the crowd out here. This is so cool. It's what you dream of. Hopefully, I can come and do more. ... The racing was really good, everyone was respectful. And it was tough, but a lot of fun."

His victory made van Gisbergen the sixth foreign-born driver to win in the NASCAR Cup Series. He joins a list that includes fellow V8 Supercar great Marcos Ambrose (Australia), Mario Andretti (Italy), Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia), Earl Ross (Canada) and Trackhouse teammate Daniel Suarez (Mexico).

Though Sunday was van Gisbergen's only scheduled NASCAR start, it might not be the last time we see the 34-year-old from New Zealand behind the wheel in NASCAR.

"I'm doing one more year in (Australia), and then I'd love to come over here," he said.

If he does return, what will he do to follow his stellar performance? This will be a hard act to follow.