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Why NASCAR at Indy will be a must-watch for all fans

This weekend's NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis will feature a list of international stars from every corner of the racing world.

Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse Racing, Enhance Health Chevrolet Camaro celebrates his victory

Photo by: Lesley Ann Miller / Motorsport Images

With just three races to go until the NASCAR Cup playoffs, the 82-lap race around the Indianapolis road course will be action-packed with high drama and even higher stakes for those not yet locked in.

But there's another element to this Sunday's race: An F1 world champion, two Le Mans 24 Hours winners, a DTM champion, a three-time Supercars champion,and the current Supercars points leader will also be on track.

 

Jenson Button

Button will be making his third and final planned Cup start of the year. After finishing 18th in his debut in Austin, he qualified eighth at Chicago and finished 21st. He will once again be driving the #15 Rick Ware Racing Ford.

The 43-year-old British racing driver also ran a highly modified NASCAR stock car at Le Mans this year, winning hearts and minds when he and co-drivers Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller completed the 24-hour event in the popular Garage 56 entry.

He said after Chicago: "I think it’s going to be tricky in Indianapolis. I’m a little bit worried, but I’ll look forward to it and do the best that I can."

 

Kamui Kobayashi

The 36-year-old sportscar ace and former F1 driver will be making his NASCAR Cup debut this weekend, driving the #67 23XI Racing Toyota Camry.

Kobayashi will become the first Japanese driver to start a Cup race since Hideo Fukuyama over 20 years ago at Sonoma.

He said earlier this year that to "one day to race in NASCAR was my dream" as a child. Even after starting 75 F1 races and winning overall at Le Mans in 2021, the dream of competing in NASCAR remained.

"[The] first racing on TV was actually NASCAR [that I watched]," he said earlier this year. "When I was like four or five years old. I said, 'wow, that's cool'. And the first time when I raced a go-kart, honestly I didn't know Formula 1."

Now, he will finally get the chance to live that childhood dream and will get to do so in race-winning equipment. 23XI won earlier this season at COTA, and Travis Pastrana finished 11th with the #67 car in this year's Daytona 500.

Race winner Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse Racing, Chevrolet Camaro

Race winner Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse Racing, Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: David Rosenblum / NKP / Motorsport Images

Shane van Gisbergen

This New Zealander may have needed an introduction for NASCAR fans before Chicago, but not anymore. The three-time Supercars champion (2016, 2021, 2022) became the first driver in 60 years to win on debut when he drove from 18th to first in the inaugural running of NASCAR's Chicago street race.

He's made clear his intentions of making a permanent move to NASCAR, and will get another taste this weekend. Once again driving the Project91 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet, he will try to keep his 100% win record alive.

"This whole NASCAR experience has been a dream come true," van Gisbergen said this week ahead of his second Cup start. "I can't wait to get to America then Indy. It will certainly be different than Chicago. I'll need to get up to speed quickly, but we plan a lot of simulator time and I know [crew chief] Darian [Grubb] will be thoroughly prepared for Indy.

"We have got to come in and do our best, but you also have got to race with respect as well. These guys are fighting for their championship every week, so I have got to come in and stay out of trouble."

Van Gisbergen will also be running the Truck race at IRP this weekend, making his NASCAR oval debut with Niece Motorsports.

And he won't be the only Supercar driver in the Cup field on Sunday...

Brodie Kostecki, Erebus Motorsport Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Brodie Kostecki, Erebus Motorsport Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Photo by: Edge Photographics

Brodie Kostecki

A Perth native, Kostecki currently leads the Supercars championship and has some experience driving stock cars in the USA. He actually started 16 ARCA East races between 2013 and 2014.

This weekend, he will make his Cup debut driving the #33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

RCR are the defending winners of at Indianapolis, and Kostecki has both the skill and the car under him to make some noise on Sunday.

“It’s an honour to compete at such an iconic venue and against some of the biggest names in motorsport," he said after the announcement. “Racing is at the core of everything I do, and NASCAR has been a lifelong goal of mine after spending years growing up in the sport's heartland in North Carolina."

#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Mike Rockenfeller

#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Mike Rockenfeller

Photo by: Marc Fleury

Mike Rockenfeller

Yes, Kobayashi won't be the only Le Mans 24 winner in the field. The German racing driver won the event overall in 2010, and also earned a class victory there in 2005. Additionally, he won a DTM championship in 2013.

And as previously mentioned, he was part of the trio that piloted the popular Garage 56 NASCAR entry at this year's Le Mans.

He will be driving the #42 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet at IMS, a team co-owned by his friend and Le Mans co-driver Johnson.

Rockenfeller made two Cup starts last year driving for Spire Motorsports. He finished 30th at Watkins Glen and 29th at Charlotte.

“After racing with Jimmie in IMSA for two years and together in the Garage 56 programme not only were we team-mates, but we are now great friends,” said Rockenfeller earlier this week. 

“To get to race for him in the NASCAR Cup Series for LEGACY M.C. with him as a co-owner is such a true honour. It’s going to be a huge challenge as I have never raced at Indy. I was dreaming about being in a Cup car again and I’m thankful for the opportunity. I will try my best in this short timeframe to come together with the team and have a great race in Indy.”

Seven countries spanning four continents will be represented in the race, and it's not often star drivers from such diverse racing backgrounds come together in one event like this. Regardless of what happens on track, this Sunday's race at Indianapolis is certain to be a special one for any fan of any form of motorsport.

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