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June 1, 2024

Shane van Gisbergen earns first Xfinity Series win at Portland

New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen claimed his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in Saturday’s Pacific Office Automation 147 at Portland 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 35-year-old three-time Australian Supercars champion, but he had to work for it. The series rookie — who won the inaugural Chicago Street Race in his first Cup Series start last summer – led laps early in the No. 97 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet but struggled with race restarts for much of the day.

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

RELATED: Race results | At-track photos: Portland

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 0.941-second victory over the series veteran, who led a race-best 46 of the race’s 75 laps.

JR Motorsports’ Sam Mayer, van Gisbergen’s Kaulig teammate AJ Allmendinger — who started last in the field — and Sam Hunt Racing’s Ed Jones — an IMSA and IndyCar veteran – rounded out the top five.

“What a day, really cool, had some great racing,” said van Gisbergen, who immediately apologized to pole winner Sam Mayer, the driver 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 sixth consecutive stage win which is 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.

“I don’t know [what I could have done differently],” a discouraged Allgaier said. “On those restarts, we were so free taking off, and the car was just struggling to get grip.

“I think that’s the hardest part, once he 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.”

MORE: Xfinity Series schedule | Xfinity Series standings

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 Raceway road course next Saturday (8 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Aric Almirola is the defending race winner.

NOTE: No issues were found during post-race technical inspection, confirming van Gisbergen as the race winner. No vehicles will be taken back to the NASCAR R&D Center for teardown inspection.