CHEVROLET NCS AT NASHVILLE: Justin Marks and Shane Van Gisbergen Press Conference Transcript

(No Mic)

Van Gisbergen: “No Audio… I got fitted up in the car, met the guys and see how it all works. It’s really impressive. There’s a lot of anticipation from everyone for what the first street race is going to be like next. I’m looking forward to it. The track is similar in some ways to tracks we have, but also pretty different with not much run-off and how narrow it is in spots. It’s going to be intense. Just trying to take it all in. this week and see how it all works. The pit stops are quite different from what I’m used to, so just trying to understand that and how it works and get ready for it.”

 

FOR SHANE, HOW DOES SOMEONE WHO SPENDS MOST OF THEIR LIFE IN NEW ZEALAND AND AUSTRAILIA FIRST DEVELOP AN INTEREST IN NASCAR, BUT THEN ALSO THE DESIRE TO WANT TO COMPETE IN IT?

Van Gisbergen: “Yeah, it’s on every Monday there. It’s funny.. I was a big Tony Stewart fan when he was racing, and then of course Darian (Grubb) was his crew chief. So now getting to work with him is very cool and getting to know him. But yeah, the last few years, still kept in touch. Then of course with the opportunity this year, I’ve been watching most races trying to study. Always been a fan of it, so to get to jump straight into the Cup Series is pretty exciting.”

 

JUSTIN, LAST YEAR YOU COMPETED IN THE TRUCK RACE AT MID-OHIO. YOU SORT OF MADE IT KNOWN THAT YOU WEREN’T GOING TO BE DOING MUCH MORE RACING, BUT YOU’VE BEEN GETTING IN THE CAR A LOT MORE LATELY. WHAT HAS CHANGED YOUR MIND?

Marks: “I tell people that I don’t know that I’ve actually really met a fully retired race car driver. Maybe Carl (Edwards), but other than that, once it takes hold, it’s hard. Me walking away from what was basically kind of full-time professional racing was to do this Trackhouse project. I maintain a love for racing and I wanted to be able to do it part-time and just have some fun. I’ve been able to do a lot of racing in my Trans Am car, which is a really fun car to drive.

 

Al Niece and the folks at Worldwide Express came to me and offered me that Mid-Ohio race last year. When someone says to come drive for me in NASCAR, you just say yes. I didn’t think it would ever happen again.

 

With Chicago, it’s interesting because I never really had an interest in coming back to the Xfinity Series or the Cup Series to do any racing. But street racing is pretty much my favorite type of racing that there is. I just kind of got this idea in my head like – I’ve been running my Trans Am Car and it would be fun to jump back in and experience that. I raced in the first race in the Xfinity Series that ran in the rain, and now to have this opportunity to race this first one on a street course was just something I wanted to put on my resume. I just sort of socialized it lightly and it really came together when we started talking to Kaulig Racing. They couldn’t put AJ (Allmendinger) in the No. 10 car since the Cup drivers can’t race. Obviously that’s the fastest road course car in the series and that opportunity was there. And then our partners at Jockey said – if that’s something you want to do, we’d love to be a part of it and came on board for it. It all just came together organically, so it’ll be fun.

 

And then beyond that, I do think it will be somewhat of an asset to Trackhouse on Sunday next week because I’ll be able to do the race and communicate with these guys about how the surface changed, how the race went, things that I saw, things that I experienced. Be able to finish that race and then go sit with the three of them and just talk about what I experienced and hopefully give them some information that will help them in the race on Sunday.”

 

JUSTIN, WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE LOOKING LIKE FOR THE PROJECT91 CAR FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON? I’M GUESSING IT’S STILL GOING TO BE ROAD COURSES OR ARE YOU LOOKING AT DOING AN OVAL ANY TIME?

Marks: “So there’s two things – one, it’s commercially driven. We need partners to be able to do it. We got really, really fortunate to have Enhance Health to be able to get the car on the race track at Chicago.

 

I would like to do another one. I wouldn’t like this to be the last one. I think obviously we got a lot of notes and data from Watkins Glen (International), so it would be nice to put something together there. We don’t have anything in stone right now. I think critical mass for PROJECT91 is probably three or four races a year, and then beyond that, you’re really starting to actually build a third team. So if we get a partner and they say – hey, we love PROJECT91 and we want to be a part of it across the board, then that gives us a piece of business where we can actually asset up around PROJECT91. We haven’t hired anybody for PROJECT91. We’re pulling people off of other jobs. I’m throwing Darian (Grubb) on top of the pit box to crew chief it. So that’s what will really determine it, is commercial.

 

And then like I said, you get to a point pretty quickly where – I don’t want it to be a drain on the No. 1 and 99 teams, so I would say three to four races is probably our max. But as of right now, it’s just all about Chicago.”

 

SHANE, WHAT’S KIND OF STOOD OUT TO YOU ABOUT THIS CAR THAT IS DIFFERENT? YOU’VE GOT MORE STREET COURSE EXPERIENCE THAN ANYBODY ELSE IN THE FIELD, SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN OR WHY DOES THAT MATTER?

Van Gisbergen: “Yeah, well the first thing is sitting on the other side of the car is tough. And then climbing through the window (laughs).. I’ve never done that before. Yeah, it’s quite different. But the technical side of things is pretty similar in the way the car is built. A big, heavy car. A lot of horsepower. It’s similar to what we have. It looks difficult. I’m going to find out tomorrow what it’s like at Charlotte (Motor Speedway) – I get a small run. But yeah, I’m just looking forward to it. I’m trying to keep my eyes open – try to learn this week and try to not have too many expectations about the street circuit. It looks so different to what NASCAR has done before. When you watch the COTA race and how crazy that was, it was a bit eye-opening. But I hope it’s not like that at Chicago.. that’d be crazy.”

 

JUSTIN, OBVIOUSLY GREAT FOR YOU GUYS TO HAVE ROSS (CHASTAIN) ON THE POLE TODAY. THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF TALK OVER THE LAST FEW WEEKS THAT THE RESULTS HAVEN’T BEEN THERE AND ROSS ISN’T AS AGGRESSIVE AND YOU’VE HAD THAT TALK WITH HIM. WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE HE IS AND FOR THOSE WHO SUGGEST THAT THIS IS LIKE LAST FALL WHERE HE BEING NOT AS AGGRESSIVE AND IT HURT HIM THAT HAS HE FALLEN INTO THAT TRAP AGAIN?

Marks: “I think that the sitting down, the talking to and all that is a narrative that’s sort have taken on a life of its own over the last couple of weeks. I’ve not sat down with Ross (Chastain) and said – hey do this, do that, slow down. I’ve not had that conversation with him. The conversation has been – hey, let’s not waste opportunities we have to win because winning is so hard and we need to win right now and we don’t want to be losing opportunities. We want to be good partners with our key partners within the Chevrolet camp.

 

As of right now, I mean look – the last couple of weeks, we were really, really fast. We were fast at Charlotte (Motor Speedway). We’ve just had some things not go our way; not executed for him the right way. But I mean I think he’s in a really good headspace right now. Obviously we brought a really fast car here to Nashville (Superspeedway). He’s super motivated to win. I’ll just say the same thing that I’ve said for a while – he’s going through this process and it does take time. There are drivers that have gone through this before, a number of drivers that have gone through this before. We can all pull up footage of fights after races with guys that haven’t been in that fight for a long time now because they’ve sort of figured it out but it’s taken them some time. Us at Trackhouse, we’re huge fans of his talent – his drive, determination, passion and his possibility. So we’re trying to empower that. We’ve had a tough couple of weeks, just performance and execution-wise. But there’s obviously tons of speed there and I think he’ll be on-kill trying to win this race tonight.”

 

SHANE, YOU MENTIONED CHARLOTTE TOMORROW. WHAT WILL YOUR WEEK OF PREPARTION ENTAIL?

Van Gisbergen: “Yeah, so tomorrow, we’ve got a bit of short test – hopefully the weather stays fine for it. And that’s just to get a feel and make sure I’m comfortable in the car and everything’s working. And then it’s all simulator stuff, really. I think I get two sessions in the simulator – just trying to learn and just get comfortable with the car. And then also the dynamic of the team with the engineers and crew chief and working out how that communication works. The strategy is quite different, so I have to do a lot of study on that. The pits closed when the yellow comes out. Don’t have a pit speed speedometer and stuff like that, so just learning how to manage that side of the race. It’s quite different.

 

And then obviously we’re not racing for points, so we don’t have to focus on the stages and stuff like that. But yeah, going to come in and do our best, but also have to race with respect, as well. These guys are fighting for a championship every week. But yeah, got to come in and try to stay out of trouble I guess, too.”

 

WHAT ARE YOUR REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR THE CHICAGO STREET RACE?

Van Gisbergen: “Well I don’t really have anything, results-wise. I just want to do my best. I’ve prepared as well as I can, and I know the Trackhouse team runs some awesome cars. Meeting everyone and seeing how motivated they are. They’re nothing wrong with the equipment and the preparation. So yeah, I have no expectations, results-wise, but if I’m prepared the best I can be, we can achieve anything.”

 

YOU’RE ONE OF THE MOST DIVERSE DRIVERS ON THE PLANET. ARE YOU GOING TO TRY TO TWIST HIS ARM FOR AN OVAL TRACK RACE?

Van Gisbergen: “We had a small chat about that earlier. I’ve never really thought about ovals too much, but yeah you’d love to have a go at it. Like watching yesterday and how committed the guys were in qualifying – they had the practice and then you sit around all day and you get one lap. To see how committed everyone was and see who was braver than the others into turn one, it was pretty cool to watch. It sucked watching, I wanted to be out there. So, yeah I’d want to have a go at it one day.”

 

SHANE, WHAT’S THE GOAL IN THE SENSE OF IS THIS A THING FOR FUN? IS THIS SOMETHING THAT IF IT GOES WELL, YOU’D COME TO AMERICA AND RACE WHETHER IT’S HERE OR INDYCAR?

Van Gisbergen: “I think all of the above. It was a pretty exciting opportunity. I love Supercars and what I’m doing now, but starting to speak to Justin (Marks) about it last year and this year obviously sparked my interest in doing other things. I really just want to see how it goes. I haven’t been to America since before COVID time, so to be able to travel now and experience things again – yeah, we’ll see how it goes and maybe it will lead to more.”

 

JUSTIN, WITH YOU BEING A COMPETITOR AND AN OWNER NEXT WEEK AT CHICAGO, HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS FOR NASCAR AND ITS FUTURE IN STREET COURSE RACING? WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FANS CAN EXPECT WITH THIS TYPE OF RACING?

Marks: “There’s obviously a lot of unknowns. I’m generally a fan of street racing because you get to bring an exciting product to the people. I tell this story – I raced in the Long Beach Grand Prix in one of the support divisions six or eight years ago. I remember Sunday morning before the race, I sort of had this lightbulb moment where I was like this race works so well because there’s 100,000 people here and 95,000 of them aren’t race fans.. they’re here because something is happening in their town and it’s exciting and came right to their front doorstep. So I think that’s an important element of street racing. We run a race in Nashville and there’s so many people that come that don’t know much about INDYCAR racing. They just think it’s cool that there’s race cars coming to their city and racing through the streets and it’s quite a spectacle. So from that standpoint, I’m a huge fan NASCAR doing it.

 

As far as expectations, I don’t know. Street racing requires more discipline in patience and race craft in any kind of racing in the world. This group of guys have the tendency to waiver a little bit late in the race – we see that a lot of times with green-white-checkers on a road courses and stuff. My hope is that we get to see a lot of green flag racing. I think there’s a risk that a portion of the race, a substantial portion of the race, will be behind the safety car. I hope that’s not the case because I think street racing can put on some of the best racing than anyone can see. Especially late in the races when fuel is burned off and the tires are sliding around and people are getting more courageous. I think it’s really, really exciting. In talking to some of the other competitors, I mean it’s all over the map, as far as what people think we’re going to see, which I think is exciting.”

 

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