Kiwi IndyCar ace Scott McLaughlin expects former rival Shane van Gisbergen to excel on American roads, when he dips his toe into the NASCAR stock format in July.
The pair have a history of competition on the Aussie Supercars circuit, before three-time champion McLaughlin took his talents to the United States, where he is currently in his second full season.
With three Supercars crowns now under his belt, van Gisbergen has also begun to embrace other motorsport challenges, announcing his much-anticipated NASCAR debut at Chicago on July 2.
While the move suggests van Gisbergen may not stay in Australia too much longer, McLaughlin insists the move is another feather in the cap for the Supercars circuit.
"It's great for Supercars," insisted McLaughlin. "Whether it's me or him going well over there, it just proves how good Supercars and the talent pool is downunder."
Since his shift to Indycars, McLaughlin has taken time to adapt, but was named 2021 Rookie of the Year and finished fourth overall in his second season. He has logged four career wins and currently sits fifth in the championship, after prevailing at Alabama last month.
During their Supercars rivalry, he and van Gisbergen weren't always on friendly terms.
At Pukekohe in 2018, racewinner van Gisbergen infamously parked his car so close to McLaughlin's in Parc Ferme, his opponent could not get out without backing up.
As fellow Kiwis, they have been inextricably linked and maintain a more civil relationship, now they are on opposite sides of the Pacific. McLaughlin sounds genuinely enthusiastic to catch up with his former adversary again.
"I've texted him a couple of times about it," he said. "We going to try and catch up when he's here in Charlotte, getting his seat fitted - that's going to be cool.
"It's a big opportunity for him. I think it's going to be his cup of tea, being on a street circuit in a place where no-one's driven before. The only thing he's got to learn is the car and, as we know about Shane, he's very adaptable to many conditions and different driving techniques.
"I personally believe he will be right there and I hope it goes well for him, because he's a huge talent and someone I've been keeping an eye on since coming over here."
Van Gisbergen has already shown his versatility behind the wheel, with success across the motorsport spectrum, including victory in the 2021 NZ Grand Prix, competing at iconic Le Mans and the occasional rally drive, when schedules allow.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, he even excelled at esport sim racing, but McLaughlin stops short of encouraging him to make the switch fulltime.
"To each their own," said McLaughlin. "I've always wanted to do it, but I don't know what Shane wants to do, whether it interests him at all.
"My dream was maybe different to his, but he's a shoe that just wants to drive anything.
"Whether he wants to drive NASCAR fulltime, I don't know, but I'd encourage him, if he wants to do something, do it, because right now, the respect level for Supercars is very high and I'm sure he could get a drive anywhere he wanted."
McLaughlin is currently preparing for his third drive at the legendary Indy 500 on Monday (NZ time), while van Gisbergen's next Supercars outing will come at Darwin next weekend, as he tries to resurrect his title defence.2023-05-25T23:46:47Z dg43tfdfdgfd