Shane van Gisbergen grabs first NASCAR Xfinity Series win in Portland


Shane van Gisbergen celebrated the hard-earned win with a burnout all the way around the 1.967-mile road course and then climbing out of his Chevy and

Shane van Gisbergen celebrates after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race at Portland International Raceway. (AP)

New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen claimed his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in Saturday’s Pacific Office Automation 147 at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway.

The popular Kiwi celebrated the hard-earned win with a burnout all the way around the 1.967-mile road course and then climbing out of his Chevy and topping it off by kicking a soccer ball into the thrilled crowd.

It was a popular win all-around for the three-time Australian Supercar champion, but the 35-year-old had to work for it.

The series rookie — who won the inaugural Chicago Street Race in his first NASCAR Cup Series start last summer — led laps early in the No. 97 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet but struggled with race re-starts for much of the day.

He lost positions on the early restarts and even had to overcome a couple of miscues — dropping his tyres off the track into the dirt — before steadily and masterfully working his way forward in the closing laps to challenge for the win.

He passed the day’s most dominant driver, JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier, on the final restart with four laps to go and pulled away to a .941-second victory over the series veteran, who led a race-best 46 of the race’s 75 laps.

JR Motorsports’ Sammy Smith, van Gisbergen’s Kaulig teammate A.J. Allmendinger (who started last in the field) and Sam Hunt Racing’s Ed Jones — an IMSA sportscar and IndyCar veteran — rounded out the Top 5.

“What a day, really cool, had some great racing,” said van Gisbergen, who immediately apologized to pole-winner Sam Mayer, whom he collided with and spun on the opening turn of the race.

“I need to get better on my restarts and learn how to position, but that was so much fun. Really cool racing. I love these cars, they’re great.”

It was a particularly crushing runner-up showing for Allgaier, who finished second in this race last year as well. At various points, his No. 7 Chevrolet held a nearly three-second advantage on the field, but two cautions in the final 12 laps essentially equalized the competition and van Gisbergen steadily made his way forward on the restarts before taking the lead in Turn 5 with four laps to go.

Allgaier not only led the most laps but swept both stage wins for the third consecutive race — the six consecutive stage wins are a series record. His series-leading 10 stage victories on the season are the most ever through the opening 13 races.

But it just wasn’t enough for the trophy on Saturday. Allgaier said he didn’t know what he could have done differently.

“On those restarts, we were so free taking off and the car was just struggling to get grip,” Allgaier said.

“I think that’s the hardest part, once (van Gisbergen) got by me there, I probably overdrove it trying to get back to him and probably didn’t help my cause any,” he added. “Really proud of this team. All the effort this team puts forward is incredible. To come in second two years in a row stings a little bit, but at the same time, really proud of everybody.”

Last year’s Portland winner Cole Custer finished sixth in the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford with Kaulig’s Josh Williams, Big Machine Racing’s Parker Kligerman, Jordan Anderson Racing’s Parker Retzlaff and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst rounding out the Top 10.

With his sixth-place finish Saturday, Custer takes the championship lead by 18 points over Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Chandler Smith. Hill — who was fined 25 points and $25,000 for purposefully wrecking Custer last week at Charlotte — finished 11th and Smith, whose No. 81 JGR Toyota suffered a late race engine problem, finished 35th.

The series stays on the West Coast with the Zip Buy Now, Pay Later 250 on the Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway road course next Saturday (8 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Aric Almirola is the defending race winner.

First Published Date: 02 Jun 2024, 11:49 AM IST



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