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Shane van Gisbergen, Austin Hill fall short at COTA after heated overtime Xfinity battle

AUSTIN, Texas — Shane van Gisbergen and Austin Hill fought tooth and nail in overtime of Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Circuit of The Americas. Naturally, neither one of them took home the checkered flag.

Kyle Larson was the benefactor of the late-race bumping and banging between two of the toughest Xfinity Series regulars — even if SVG is a rookie still learning the stock-car ropes.

RELATED: Race recap | At-track photos: COTA

Van Gisbergen led 20 laps in the Focused Health 250, tied with Kaulig Racing teammate AJ Allmendinger for most of Saturday’s race. His No. 97 WeatherTech Chevrolet controlled the final restart in NASCAR Overtime, but Hill stayed glued to his bumper up the hill into the tight hairpin of Turn 1. SVG ran wide and Hill scooted into the lead, suddenly storming to a potential third win of 2024.

But New Zealander SVG had more to say with his front bumper, running into Hill’s back bumper into Turn 15 and pushing both cars wide — allowing Larson to charge left past both of them on the way to the win.

Van Gisbergen, winner of his Cup debut last July in the inaugural Chicago Street Race, crossed the line second but was levied a 30-second time penalty post-race for shortcutting the track on the final lap, dropping him to a 27th-place finish. Hill ended as the runner-up.

“That last restart, he just drove through me at (Turn) 1. I guess that’s how it is here,” van Gisbergen told FOX Sports. “I just stood up for myself. But it was some pretty awesome racing with AJ, Kyle and at the end it just turned into a mess. But that’s how it is. Really fun but wish we could’ve got the lead, but Kyle just snuck in there.”

Hill explained to reporters that he caught SVG’s rear bumper at the start/finish line surprisingly quick, almost as if SVG “semi-missed a shift,” Hill speculated.

“So I hit him and as we went up the hill, there’s some bumps far left. We were both going over the bumps,” Hill said. “I was obviously hitting him. And then I got off of him once we got to the corner, and it looked like he was wheel-hopping at that point, slid up, so then I was like oh, this is my time and took the lead.

“We took the white and I was trying to drive in as deep as I could in the corners to not let them get to me, and then I kind of drove into (Turn) 13, started to slide the front end a little bit, and then I got really loose on exit of 14. I’d have to watch the replay, but getting into 15, I’m trying to protect and it felt like from my perspective, the 97 just ran through us. And I mean you see his front end; it’s caved in really bad, so he didn’t even give us a chance to make the corner obviously.”

Austin Hill drives a NASCAR Xfinity Series car at COTA.
Austin Hill drives a NASCAR Xfinity Series car at COTA.

With neither making the corner, Larson was able to escape with his first Xfinity win of 2024. The 2021 Cup champion was able to partake in some fierce battles with SVG and Allmendinger earlier in the contest, with all three leaning on each other, dicing up with crossovers and charging corners during a run. Larson couldn’t help but simply enjoy the moments.

“He’s just better than us,” Larson said. “He’s just way better than we all are at this. Like AJ is a level up from me, and he’s a level up from AJ. I got too caught up in the moment having fun there. I should have just forfeited the spot and realized that we were racing time at that moment and I shouldn’t have been racing him.

“I wanted to get to the lead. And he kind of surprised me when he got to my right side off of 13 — I didn’t know that he was there. Then he surprised me again when he got to my left side because I thought he was still out there on the right side. I was like, OK, this is going to be fun. I’m just gonna race him. We’re gonna have some fun here. And then AJ got out and I’m like, man, I just screwed myself.”

Getting lost in the joys of racing, though, is naturally a good thing — at least for Larson, who ended up in Victory Lane. Van Gisbergen enjoyed it too and smiled through the frustration of losing, but couldn’t quite shake the defeat. As for his post-race emotions? He was feeling “a bit of everything.”

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “The cars are awesome to drive, awesome to race. But yeah, gutted to bend it and gutted not to win at the end. Thinking so many things in my head, what I could have done different. But at the restart, I couldn’t have done much different. I was on the inside and just got driven through, but we’ve seen that here every year. That’s kind of how it is, so I was expecting it I guess.”