Race Weekend Central

Xfinity Breakdown: Shane van Gisbergen Earns Playoff Spot With Win at Portland

The twists and turns of a road course often bring excitement and off-track excursions, and that’s exactly what happened in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Portland International Raceway on Saturday (June 1).

Cars darted to three- and four-wide on the restarts, including the penultimate one. Occasionally, some clipped the grass within a turn and kicked up some dust, causing either themselves or a car behind them to spin out and off track.

In the end, Shane van Gisbergen survived the chaotic restarts and took the lead from Justin Allgaier in the closing laps to claim his first Xfinity victory and his spot in the playoffs.

Allgaier took second, and his JR Motorsports teammate Sammy Smith took third. AJ Allmendinger and Ed Jones rounded out the top five.

See also
Shane van Gisbergen Earns 1st Career Xfinity Win at Portland

Winners

Everyone knew van Gisbergen would be a contender when the series visited a road course. This is his skill set, and even though he’s never visited Portland and had limited time to practice, he’d still adjust well to the track.

Boy, did he ever adjust! Van Gisbergen started the race on the front row and immediately got the lead from polesitter Sam Mayer. However, Riley Herbst scooted by him on the first lap to get and held the lead for the opening 15 laps. Van Gisbergen then got by Herbst, but on lap 23, Allgaier took the lead to win stage one while the No. 97 hit pit road.

Van Gisbergen continued to get comfortable on the 1.967-mile course and – even though he fell to the back half of the top 10 – thanks to some late yellows, challenged Allgaier for first, taking the spot within the opening esses on lap 72.

It’s his first victory in the series and one that his team and Kaulig Racing as a whole needed. Prior to this race, van Gisbergen had just one top five and two top 10s — a third at Atlanta Motor Speedway and a sixth at Phoenix Raceway. SVG had two consecutive 15ths coming into Portland, but he never really contended for the win, except at Circuit of the Americas.

This win was more impressive than his NASCAR Cup Series win at the Chicago street course because he was racing against drivers who had competed at Portland before. SVG worked for this victory, which makes it that much sweeter.

He also had a cool celebration to boot (see what I did there?).

Fellow Kaulig teammates Allmendinger and Josh Williams scored top 10s at Portland, showing where the organization’s strength lies. They were hard-fought results, too, with Allmendinger starting from the rear with a backup car after crashing in qualifying, and Williams began 22nd.

For Williams, it was only his third top 10 of the season and second in a row. His other top 10s came at Martinsville Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. Sonoma Raceway is on tap for next week, so Williams has another good chance to earn his fourth top 10 of the season in California.

Allmendinger wanted to win this one, I’m sure, but he had his work cut out for him when he crashed his car at the end of round one in qualifying. And when you have van Gisbergen for a teammate, you have to work even harder to earn a win on a road course. Still, he sits sixth in points, so he has a good chance of making it to the playoffs.

Runner-up finisher Allgaier may have found another way to lose a race, but he still claimed his fourth top five and sixth top 10 of 2024. He also earned his 10th stage win of the year, the first driver to do that in the first 13 races. Allgaier has now won six consecutive stages, a first in Xfinity Series history since stage racing began in 2017. Stage points will be valuable for the No. 7 team in the playoffs and should give him a better chance of making the Championship 4 again.

Ed Jones made just his second Xfinity start and earned a top five. He spoke with Frontstretch and shared what he learned during the race. He also discussed how he managed his tires over a longer run while others struggled with their cars near the end of the stages.

Some other drivers I’d like to shout out are the Parkers, Parker Kligerman and Parker Retzlaff, who finished eighth and ninth, respectively, after getting off track at some point during the race.

Also, how about Retzlaff’s Jordan Anderson Racing teammate Austin Green? He brought home a top 15 in only his second Xfinity start.

Last but not least, Wile E. Coyote is a winner for successfully making his way off the racetrack.

Losers

Normally, I don’t put a driver who earned a top 15 in the losers section, but I’m doing that with Sheldon Creed. He was up front battling for the lead with van Gisbergen and Allgaier when the caution came out for debris. On the ensuing restart, Creed got out of line a bit too early and had to drop to the back on the following restart.

He wasn’t very happy about the penalty.

Though Creed rallied back to 13th, I’m sure he felt he had a car that should’ve finished in the top five at least.

Mayer had a rough day that likely should’ve been a top five. To start, van Gisbergen got Mayer off track at the start, for which van Gisbergen apologized at the start of his FOX Sports interview.

Mayer eventually got back in the top 10 by the end of stage two and contended for the lead in the final few laps. However, he clipped the end of the tire barrier coming out of a turn, causing slight damage to the left rear. He then cut a tire and dropped back all the way to 28th.

The Wisconsin native surely had a car capable of winning since he battled van Gisbergen and Allgaier near the end. Instead of claiming his fourth straight top five, Mayer finished a lap down. Mayer has a win under his belt and is locked into the playoffs, but he’ll want to leave his trip to Portland in the rear-view mirror.

Ryan Truex was another driver who ran well to start, finishing eighth in stage one and ended up going off track in the final laps. A 27th isn’t where the part-time Joe Gibbs Racing driver wanted to finish, especially since he has a win already at Dover Motor Speedway.

At least Truex doesn’t have the kind of luck that Brandon Jones has.

Jones’s team had to work on his car after qualifying, too, so he began the race in the back. While not as fast as his JRM teammates, Jones still reached the top 15.

Then, mayhem broke loose.

A couple laps after a late restart, Chandler Smith blew an engine and brought his car outside the track. In the next few turns, several cars got turned on both the right and left sides. Blaine Perkins‘ car spun around right in front of Jones, and both cars ended up in the tires. Jones’ No. 9 got the worst of it, as it was literally stuck and had to be pulled out.

It’s Jones’ fourth DNF of the season and certainly one he hoped to avoid after finishing second at Charlotte and 10th at Darlington. He’ll look to have a better run at Sonoma.

See also
Tracking the Trucks: We're All Just Living on Heim Time

Fuel for Thought

Some people may feel that the Cup Series or even the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series should join Xfinity at Portland, but I’d argue for it to be left the way it is.

Each series should have something that sets it apart from the others, and Xfinity does that with the amount of road courses on its schedule. This year it only has six, compared to eight last year. That’s partly because NASCAR decided not to return to Road America and returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.

In 2022, there were six road course races in Xfinity, the same number as this year.

This season, Cup will visit only five road courses. From 2021-2023, it had at least six each year. However, in the several years before 2020, Cup went to just two or three road courses.

Meanwhile, the Trucks used to have at least one dirt race each year from 2013 until this season (except for 2020 due to COVID). Now? It’s not even going to a dirt track. To me, dirt races (especially at Eldora Speedway) were what helped set the Trucks apart from the other series. It does go to a couple of short tracks that Xfinity and Cup don’t attend, but it still feels weird not to see dirt on the Truck schedule.

Let Xfinity continue to run at Portland by itself. The series needs something different and doesn’t need to be like the Cup Series; Xfinity is its own animal.

(I think the Truck race, should it be on the same weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway, should run on Friday night, while ARCA Menards Series West in Portland run on Saturday.)

Where to Next

Xfinity drivers will visit Sonoma Raceway next Saturday, June 8, for just the second time in series history. Aric Almirola won the inaugural Xfinity event there last year.

The Zip Buy Now, Pay Later 250 is scheduled to run at 8 p.m. ET and airs on FOX Sports 1, the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR radio. Qualifying runs at 3:30 p.m. ET that same Saturday. On Friday, there will be a 50-minute practice session that runs at 4:05 p.m. ET.

About the author

Joy Tomlinson

Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor and involved with photos, social media and news editing. A California native, Joy was raised watching motorsports and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.

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Ellenjay

Back flips brought sideshows to victory lane, and was all it took to get in the hall of fame.

Ellenjay

I’m by myself on this I suppose.
Y’all like the sideshow or the hall of fame choice better ?

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