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June 9, 2024

Shane van Gisbergen, Austin Hill rekindle tensions after Sonoma Xfinity race


Shane van Gisbergen was giddy with excitement, showering smoke everywhere as he burned out his rear tires around the 1.99-mile Sonoma Raceway road course to celebrate his second straight NASCAR Xfinity Series win. But in the clouds of that smoke stewed more fumes — particularly in the cockpit of the No. 21 Chevrolet.

Austin Hill was less than pleased to finish fifth in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race, especially since the victorious SVG used the bumper to score the second win of his budding Xfinity career.

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“I’m just gonna leave it to the keyboard warriors on this one. I’ll let them figure out what happened,” a frustrated but restrained Hill told FOX Sports. “I’m sure no matter what comment I say, it’ll be wrong.”

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity results | At-track photos

The latest instance of their on-track disagreements came on a restart with 11 laps to go in the Zip Buy Now, Pay Later 250. Hill, who was the leader under caution, chose the left lane for the re-fire with SVG alongside him on the front row. Hill got the edge through the left-handed sweeping Turn 1, but van Gisbergen had the preferred inside line up the hill to Turn 2.

Van Gisbergen charged hard into the corner, but Hill didn’t appear to leave much room. The two collided, sending Hill sliding toward the grass and ruining his momentum while van Gisbergen scooted away for the eventual victory.

“I plead the fifth. I’m not gonna say anything about it,” Hill said. “We’ll just go onto the next one. Good, hard racing. Bennett Chevrolet was fast as Xfinity internet. We were holding off SVG there for a while, had that caution and I knew it was gonna be tough on the restart. Then, it didn’t work out, but we had a good points day, finished in the top five. Can’t ask for more than that.”

WATCH: Extended highlights from Saturday’s race

This wasn’t their first run-in, though. In March, the two faced a similar duel in a double-overtime restart at Circuit of The Americas. On that day, Hill lined up in the second row just behind SVG and shoved the New Zealander deep into Turn 1, enough to move him out of the way and allow Hill to move through to the lead. But SVG got back to him on the final lap, moved Hill, and both of them subsequently lost to Kyle Larson.

So, after that incident more than two months ago, was it simply “fair game” no matter what happened on the final Sonoma restart?

“One-hundred percent,” van Gisbergen said.

Austin Hill looks on after the Xfinity race at Sonoma.
Brittney Wilbur | NASCAR Digital Media

Van Gisbergen, a three-time Australian Repco Supercars Championship series champion, is still learning the ropes of stock-car racing. He stunned the world last summer with a win in his NASCAR Cup Series debut on the Chicago Street Course and made an additional start on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, but the 2024 season marks his first full-time campaign stateside, driving the No. 97 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Through the opening five months, those on-track lessons have proven to include contact and managing the frustrations of both himself and his competitors as a grueling season wears on.

“I hate racing and thinking like that, but to me, we’ve both taken a race win off each other now,” van Gisbergen said. “I don’t know. I didn’t go into the corner planning to take him out. Like, I wasn’t going to hit him off the track, but I was gonna try to pass him and I did everything I could. And when he kept choosing left on restarts, I was like ‘oh, that’s surprising,’ because I chose the left on the first restart and it was a mistake. And if I had the opportunity again I would have chosen the right every time.

“So as soon as he chose the left, I knew, OK, this is a good opportunity to hang around the outside (of Turn 1) and force my way to the inside at Turn 2. And, like, I didn’t take him out properly, you know? I just made a hole and got through.”

MORE: Xfinity standings

Hill has also been no stranger to confrontation throughout his career-or even the last few weeks. Contact with Cole Custer at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25 sent both Hill and Custer into the outside wall, with both receiving heavy damage. Hill showed his displeasure by then intentionally turning Custer’s wrecked car on the backstretch, sending the No. 00 Ford into the inside SAFER barrier and resulting in a $25,000 fine issued to Hill.

The tensions haven’t quite reached that fever pitch between Hill and SVG – yet. A new rivalry may have seen its latest chapter written in Napa Valley, with more to come.

“That last restart, I was just making a hole no matter what,” van Gisbergen said. “And yeah, it pretty felt like a pretty cool move, and hopefully it’s good to watch, but yeah, that was just hard racing, you know? Pretty stoked to come away with it.”

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