Shane van Gisbergen running first double-duty weekend at COTA

Shane van Gisbergen running first double-duty weekend at COTA

AUSTIN, Texas — Eyes are pointed directly on Shane van Gisbergen this weekend at Circuit of The Americas. For the first time, he will be pulling double duty in the NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series.

With van Gisbergen‘s background in Supercars, he isn‘t foreign to COTA. In 2013, he competed at the track, though not at its full 3.42-mile layout. Back then, at the end of the esses, there was a chicane with a jump immediately following it. But it didn‘t take long for him to realize on the weekly track walk, in which he walked his dog, Ronald, that the track surface has changed drastically over the past decade.

“The surface looks really different, and then obviously looking at the back few corners, which I hadn‘t seen before,” van Gisbergen said during a media availability on Friday. “And you just forget how much elevation this place has. Like walking up turn one, you‘re puffing straight away. It‘s really steep. Yeah, I had forgotten that.”

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Compared to normal race weekends, van Gisbergen estimates putting double the amount of time on the Chevrolet simulator. He also utilized Trackhouse Racing‘s static simulator at the team‘s race shop. He believes the biggest challenge of going back and forth between the Xfinity and Cup cars will be the difference in shifting.

“Just going from sequential back to the H-Pattern, just to not make mistakes,” van Gisbergen said, regarding using simulators. “We‘ve seen guys do that in the past. But I think the gears and the shift points are quite different, so shouldn‘t have any problem there. But yeah, it‘s not going to be easy.”

On Thursday evening, van Gisbergen chatted with seven-time NASCAR winner, and one of his mentors, Marcos Ambrose about what to expect between both races. He also prepared by watching different on-board cameras for each series to get a better understanding of the track and its limits.

“[Ambrose] said the Xfinity car will be unlike anything I‘ve ever driven,” van Gisbergen said. “The way it brakes and the way the rear end works. He said it‘s probably similar to the Cup cars he was racing, so hopefully those things help and helps me speed up the learning process.”

COTA will mark the first of six road-course races on the Xfinity Series schedule. It will be the first time that van Gisbergen goes heads up against his Kaulig Racing — and winningest road-course driver in series history — teammate AJ Allmendinger in equal equipment on a road course.

That in itself is a highly-anticipated battle.

“[Allmendinger is] obviously at the top of his game and pretty impressive in those cars, and on the road courses here, as well,” van Gisbergen said. “I‘ve learned a lot from him, watching him on the simulator. I look forward to battling him on track, too. Hopefully we push each other forward and try to beat everyone else before we beat ourselves.”

It was an impressive start to the weekend for van Gisbergen, setting the fastest time in Xfinity Series practice by nearly four-tenths of a second. He will take the green flag for Saturday‘s Focused Health 250 on Saturday from second position (5 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).