Race Weekend Central

Xfinity Breakdown: Shane van Gisbergen Goes 2-for-2 Out West With Sonoma Win

The NASCAR Xfinity Series completed the second leg of its two-race West Coast Swing on Saturday (June 8), making its second annual trip to a newly-repaved Sonoma Raceway for a 79-lap showdown.

Much like the other West Coast race at Portland International Raceway, it was Shane van Gisbergen who ended the day on top.

After entering Portland with only two top 10s in Xfinity competition, van Gisbergen has now won back-to-back races after dominating from the pole at Sonoma. With the win, van Gisbergen becomes the first international driver to accomplish such a feat in any of NASCAR’s premier series.

It wasn’t an easy victory to take, as varied pit strategy shook up the running order several times throughout the evening. Additionally, van Gisbergen’s No. 97 battled a litany of internal issues between voltage and steering. The stat sheet may have showed that he dominated, but he had to earn it.

In fact, the Kiwi didn’t even take the lead for good until the final restart with 11 laps to go, using up Austin Hill to do so. The two have history after their spirited battle for the win at Circuit of the Americas in March.

With Hill in the rearview mirror, van Gisbergen pulled away from the field to win comfortably at his de facto home track (Sonoma is the closest racetrack to his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand).

Van Gisbergen is not done for the weekend, though his time behind the wheel is complete.

He will now turn his attention to spotting for his former Repco Supercars Championship mate Will Brown in his Cup Series debut.

See also
Austin Hill Pleads the 5th After Late Dust-Up with Shane van Gisbergen

The Winners

Finishing runner up behind van Gisbergen was Sheldon Creed.

While Creed came up short of his first career victory yet again, it wasn’t by way of some heartbreaking loss like some of his losses have reflected. Not to mention, it’s his best finish this season since his runner-up run in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Creed wasn’t really a factor in the top five until late in the going on Saturday, only reaching second for the first time with just a handful of laps to go. The No. 97 was the class of the field when he was out front, so Creed was likely just racing for second anyway. Second always stings, but this one is likely near the bottom of the heartbreak list for the driver of the No. 18.

Looking behind Creed, how about Austin Green?

The son and nephew of Xfinity champions David and Jeff Green scored his best career finish of fourth in just his third series start. Driving a third Jordan Anderson Racing entry, Green now has an average finish of 8.6 in his part-time stint this season.

Green also pitted before the end of stage two, meaning he was one of just four drivers who had to run longer than anybody else on fuel. The fuel lasted and Green ended up finishing best of the quartet that played that strategy. Green has made the absolute most of his limited Xfinity starts this season, and is more than deserving of a bigger part-time or even full-time opportunity to truly showcase his abilities.

If you had told Chandler Smith he’d rebound for seventh after suffering major damage from a crash, there’s a chance he’d tell you you’re crazy.

Smith was turned to begin the final stage and ended up igniting a huge crash that took out several frontrunners and badly twisted the front of his No. 81.

Unlike many that crashed around him, Smith’s car took mostly cosmetic damage and was able to keep pace. He was able to take advantage of another caution and earn a hard-fought top 10 at day’s end.

The Losers

One of the drivers collected in the big accident at the beginning of the final stage was Ty Gibbs. When van Gisbergen was clearly out front, the only driver who could even hold a candle to the No. 97’s speed was Gibbs’ No. 19. In fact, Gibbs’ stage two victory was the only thing standing in van Gisbergen’s way of a perfect points weekend.

Unfortunately for Gibbs, his No. 19 Toyota suffered irreparable damage in the crash, bringing his day to an early end. He wasn’t the only one however, as Brandon Jones and Josh Williams also saw their runs cut short in a race they both needed a good finish in to get momentum rolling.

Boris Said made his first Xfinity start since 2021, driving for Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 17.

The last time that car was on track, it won with Chase Elliott at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But Said didn’t even sniff the front. A practice crash forced the veteran to a matte black backup, and he could barely crack the top 20 before spinning in stage two.

He rose into the top 15 during the final stage, but Said ultimately finished 28th, a poor outing for the powerhouse team.

Much like his teammate van Gisbergen, AJ Allmendinger expects to be a threat to win at road courses. After two top 10s at COTA and Portland, Allmendinger looked to be a contender late, but was tagged by Creed in turn 7 on the restart with 11 to go and could only rally back to a 17th-place finish.

Like Allmendinger, Ryan Sieg was also poised for a top 10 before he was punted by Parker Retzlaff with three laps to go, plummeting the No. 39 to 20th at the checkered.

The two had words for each other after the race.

DGM Racing praised Retzlaff for the move, calling it karma after Sieg and DGM driver Kyle Weatherman got into it in Portland, with the latter driver later fined $25,000.

The biggest entity that lost out following the race was FOX Sports. This race marked the final time NASCAR on FOX will cover the Xfinity Series for the foreseeable future.

NBC takes over coverage from here, but starting with the final eight races of the 2024 season, The CW will serve as the exclusive home for the Xfinity Series until 2032 at the earliest.

After a decade of covering the second-tier series, FOX Sports has officially said its final goodbye to the Xfinity Series.

The Playoff Pit

It’s been a while since we’ve looked at the playoff picture for the Xfinity Series, and with 12 races to go, the picture is slowly beginning to take shape.

Hill, Smith and van Gisbergen are now all tied for the most wins on the year with two. Justin Allgaier, Jesse Love and Sam Mayer join them as locks for the playoffs with one win apiece.

Cole Custer currently holds the regular season championship lead by 12 points over Hill and Smith, who are both tied for second. At the cut line, Sammy Smith holds an 11-point cushion over Sieg. As for the other five drivers currently in the playoff grid that aren’t locked in via wins, they all have at least 50 points on Smith and Sieg.

With 12 races to go before the playoffs, no lead is safe, and no one can get too comfortable yet. But if the season continues the way it has, the playoff picture is beginning to come together.

Slowly, but surely.

Scheme of the Week

Brad Perez returned to the racetrack with SS-Green Light Racing. Weiss and Refology hopped aboard Perez’s No. 14, creating an intensely-bright purple and pink machine that made it easy to spot the fan favorite on track.

Perez stood out in the Sonoma sun as he raced his way to a 24th-place finish.

Fuel For Thought

It’s one thing to start races later on the east coast so those on the west coast can actually catch the race, but this race started late even for the west coast.

The green flag flew around 5:20 p.m. PT (8:20 p.m. ET), an abnormally late start time for Sonoma. Most of the time, fans across the United States can expect a green flag at or around 3:30 p.m. ET, or 12:30 p.m. PT, regardless of what race is held or where it’s held.

See also
Austin Hill Pleads the 5th After Late Dust-Up with Shane van Gisbergen

That stipulation softens when NASCAR goes to a track with lights. Sonoma doesn’t have lights, and the sunset was around 8:30 p.m. PT. Those two factors made starting late a confusing call based on the fact that it would leave NASCAR with roughly three hours to try and get the race in.

If the race went caution-free (with the exception of the stage cautions), it would be easily doable. But if the event were to see an influx of cautions, or even a red flag, the field would be pushing daylight and could see the race shortened due to darkness.

The big crash to begin the final stage could’ve (and probably should’ve) warranted a red flag to clean up the track instead of burning laps under caution. But that window of daylight likely influenced NASCAR to keep the yellow flag out in order to make sure all the laps were completed by sunset.

There wasn’t a ton of on-track activity prior to the race, only Xfinity and Cup qualifying. Those things could have easily been completed earlier in the day to push the Xfinity race up by around an hour – just to give the series a cushion in case the worst case scenario happens as far as race pace.

And it almost did with that crash.

Some might be asking: The ARCA Menards Series starts late all the time on tracks that don’t have lights. And that’s a fair point. Friday’s West race started pretty late in the afternoon. But those races are generally a lot shorter than a premier series race. It’s a lot easier to ‘squeeze’ ARCA races in on weekends.

In short, it’s probably not the best idea to start a race so late in the day on a track with no lights. It doesn’t leave much room, if any, for error. Had this race had any more cautions (or, as mentioned, had the red flag actually came out), it could’ve easily become a race against darkness.

Maybe NASCAR should take a look at the weekend schedules to make sure we’re not starting longer races that late again.

Where to Next?

The Xfinity Series makes its triumphant return to Iowa Speedway on Saturday, June 15. It is the first time since 2019 that the series returns to the 0.875-mile oval in Newton. Christopher Bell won the last race there.

Coverage for the Hy-Vee PERKS 250 begins at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 15. As mentioned, television broadcasts will now move to NBC-affiliated networks; this race will be televised on USA Network, with Motor Racing Network providing the radio broadcast.

About the author

Frontstretch.com

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. 

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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Tom B

No mention of the hissy fit Ty Gibbs did in that big wreck. Almost all the cars were stopped except for Gibbs right in the middle of the wreck, gas peddle to the floor, doing doughnuts, having a tantrum, causing more damage. Joe Gibbs has to be embarrassed by this no class kid. They preach about God, but act like the Devil. NASCAR should give him a big fine and ban him from participating in anymore Xfinity events. Joey Logano was the only one who commented on Gibb’s fit of rage.

WJW Motorsports

Awful – I’d suspend the little brat. Already enraged because he missed the pit window to short pit the stage and has to fight his way through – so he’s now entitled to just plow through wide open – as you said literally doing donuts in the middle of a wreck. And then he hits Boris.

Steve

Wow. There is more ads in this article than paragraphs.

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