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Cole Custer's Portlandia Experience

Cole Custer drives the No. 00 Haas Ford Mustang at Portland International Raceway during morning practice.
Cole Custer drives the No. 00 Haas Ford Mustang at Portland International Raceway during practice. (Photo: Joe Samaniego | GRID Network)

PORTLAND, Ore. - It's becoming clear that Portland International Raceway's 1.967-mile layout is not an ordinary road course on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule as the heavy rain and poor weather conditions from last year's race didn't stop fans from attending a wild Pacific Office Automation 147 that saw plenty of drama and intense action.

Cole Custer qualified second but had to drop back to the rear of the field, due to unapproved adjustments after qualifying. Then, he received another penalty during the race for missing Shelton Chicane, sending him to the back for a second time. Despite the chaos, Custer managed to edge John Hunter Nemechek by inches to win Stage 2 and ultimately hold off Justin Allgaier to win at Portland.

"Man, I’m just so happy," Custer said. "I’ve never won a road course race before. I’ve been so close, so many times. It’s just awesome to win this. I can’t thank Haas Automation, everybody at Stewart-Haas and the Xfinity program… and the Cup program.

"This is just a great day. JT (Jonathan Toney) just for coming in to crew chief… it’s awesome to get this trophy and get that out of the way. I’m pumped for the rest of the year. We got fast cars, and starting to put it all together.”

Considering there weren't any competitive pit stops to pick up positions during the stage breaks, this made it harder to win the race as Custer told GRID Network during the post-race press conference.

Last year, AJ Allmendinger won from the back after an eventual day where the Kaulig Racing driver experienced numerous issues but still found his way to Victory Lane on a rainy day. Now, under clear and sunny skies, Custer showed that a fast car and smart driving could end with victory, regardless of starting position.

Allgaier was in a great position to earn his second consecutive Xfinity win until a late-race caution sent the race into NASCAR Overtime. Parker Kligerman made it three-wide entering the Shelton Chicane, causing Allgaier to miss the chicane and allowing Custer to sneak by for the win. This was the first time a race at Portland has gone past the scheduled distance.

Road Course Races Like A Short Track

Portland International Raceway is one of the shortest road courses on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule. Some road-course enthusiasts may pass on Portland for longer tracks with more elevation changes, but NASCAR fans showed up to the Pacific Northwest in numbers to take in a road-course race with characteristics of a short track.

Most of the action occurred in the Shelton Chicane during restarts as 38 cars tried to funnel into the chicane created for Indy cars when they first started racing at Portland years ago. Turns 4-7 are narrow and slower, which allows someone to get a run and give a bumper entering Turn 7. This leads to Turn 8 and the long backstretch. Turn 12 was another chaotic corner as several drivers, including Sheldon Creed, went for a spin on the final lap of Stage 2.

The race also saw some hot tempers between Joe Gibbs Racing teammates as John Hunter Nemechek and Sammy Smith got into an on-track conflict. Smith got into Nemechek, spinning him around in the Shelton Chicane, which led to Smith later getting door slammed by Nemechek exiting the chicane in retaliation. Physical racing also led to Chandler Smith and Jeb Burton getting into a post-race scuffle.

Motorsports: Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest had strong representation for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and ARCA Menards Series West doubleheader weekend at Portland International Raceway as fans from Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon came out to the track.

Many utilized the MET public transit to go from the downtown area to the track, and plenty of campers at the track enjoyed the concerts and late-night fun. The crowd was larger than last year’s rain-soaked crowd. For the second consecutive year, the race weekend took place during the Rose Festival in Portland.

The Grand Prix of Portland used to take place during the Rose Festival but has been held in September on Labor Day Weekend since returning in 2018.

This year, there were more local food trucks from Portland and local sponsors from the Pacific Northwest, including Portland Gear, a popular apparel brand that made several racing-theme hats, t-shirts and coats resembling NASCAR leather coats. Other notable regional companies were Columbia Sportswear which sponsors Bubba Wallace and Nike from Oregon.

2024 is the final year of a three-year deal that brought the NASCAR Xfinity Series to Portland. While there are rumors that another strong showing could eventually produce a Cup Series race at PIR, history doesn't guarantee this will happen. The Xfinity Series has raced at road courses in places like Mexico City, Montreal and Mid-Ohio. None of those tracks have seen a Cup race yet. Road America has a long history of hosting the Xfinity Series and Cup races in the last two years before losing its date to the Chicago Street Course this year.

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