What went wrong for Will Brown, Cam Waters in NASCAR Cup debuts

Cameron Waters and Will Brown made their NASCAR Cup Series debuts at Sonoma International Raceway

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The NASCAR Cup Series had some Australian flavour Sunday when Supercars Championship stars Will Brown and Cameron Waters made their series debuts in Sonoma Raceway’s Toyota/Save Mart 350.

While the versatility of NASCAR‘s Next Gen car has made it appealing for international racing stars to give stock car racing a spin, Brown and Waters were probably hoping their forays had gone a little better.

Waters was no stranger to NASCAR before Sonoma. The 2020 and 2022 Supercars runner-up had already entered two Craftsman Truck Series races earlier in the year to familiarise himself with the discipline, to rather middling finishes as he took part on ovals outside his element.

Meanwhile, Brown arrived in America as the current Supercars points leader in partnership with Richard Childress Racing, who frequently collaborates with his Erebus Motorsport team back home.

Brown quickly showed his skill in a stock car when he set the third fastest time in practice, while Waters was less fortunate as his #60 RFK Racing Ford spun through Turn 1 and into the dirt. Both qualified in the lower half, Waters as far back as 31st and Brown 24th after being set back by a throttle problem.

Despite starting so far back, the two worked their ways through the order, aided by three cautions,and ran as high as 11th. Waters placed 18th in Stage 1 while Brown finished 26th.

However, things started to unravel after that. Just three laps into Stage 2, Brown‘s car stalled in Turn 10 due to an electrical issue, forcing a caution flag to come out; he was held a lap during the pause for cutting the course on his way to the pits, further dropping him down to 36th once his team got the problem addressed.

Waters was the next victim when Josh Berry barrelled into a pack of cars in the Turn 11 hairpin, collecting Waters as well. He suffered a broken toe link and “massive steering damage” that he attempted to continue with, before dropping out after 66 laps and finishing 35th. Brown managed to reach the finish in 31st and three laps down.

Although a disappointing end to his maiden Cup race, Waters is more than happy to try again.

“It’s a bucket list thing for me to come over and do one of these races. Part of it was doing the Truck stuff on the ovals and that was absolutely awesome, and then to do a road course in a Cup car, which is a car that is similar to what we race at home, was so cool,” Waters explained. “To have all of my family and some friends here was super special.

“I definitely want to do it again, so hopefully I can get the call up and hopefully something doesn’t clash on the track and I can come over and have another crack.”

The Supercars invasion of NASCAR continues

In the 2000s, open-wheel stars from IndyCar and Formula 1 eagerly tried their hand at stock car racing with a mixed bag of results. While drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya and A.J. Allmendinger became mainstays in NASCAR, Dario Franchitti and Jacques Villeneuve were unable to stick around long.

Two decades later, the Next Gen car has encouraged a similar infusion of drivers from series like Supercars. The seventh-generation Cup vehicle was designed to be more capable on road courses, taking heavy inspiration from Supercars and GT3 cars.

Shane van Gisbergen is perhaps the most notable example, leaving behind a decorated Supercar career to win in his NASCAR début at Chicago last year. Van Gisbergen won the Xfinity Series race at Sonoma on Saturday before becoming Brown’s spotter for the Cup Series.

Shane van Gisbergan won the 2024 NASCAR Xfinify Series race in Sonoma | NASCAR
Shane van Gisbergan won the 2024 NASCAR Xfinify Series race in Sonoma | NASCAR

During his 2023 Supercars championship campaign, Brown‘s Erebus team-mate Brodie Kostecki entered the Cup race at Indianapolis alongside Van Gisbergen and finished 22nd.

While Kostecki previously raced in NASCAR‘s regional tiers in 2013 and 2014, the Next Gen’s drivability inspired him to dabble in it. Kostecki was due to make select Cup starts in 2024 before plans fell through amidst ongoing turmoil at Erebus.

Sonoma was the first time a Cup Series race had two Australians since Marcos Ambrose and Owen Kelly raced the 2013 Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen. Although, Van Gisbergen raced alongside Kostecki at Indianapolis in 2023, the former is from New Zealand.

As more Aussies head to America to try out NASCAR, could we see the opposite? Perhaps. RCR driver Kyle Busch has been long linked to a potential Supercars one-off, with rumours suggesting he could enter the season-ending Adelaide 500 in November.

Justin Nguyen
Justin Nguyen is Total-Motorsport.com's resident NASCAR aficionado and is also the off-road reporter for The Checkered Flag.
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