Motorsport: Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen finishes 12th in NASCAR Xfinity debut at Daytona

Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen has taken a big step in his NASCAR education, finishing 12th in his debut race on the second-tier Xfinity championship at Daytona.

After switching from the Australian Supercars series, the three-time champion has already made in impression in the United States, with a maiden NASCAR Cup victory on a Chicago street circuit last July, but is grappling to master the 'superspeedway' tracks used for most races.

While many of his rivals contested the iconic Daytona 500, van Gisbergen has spent his first fulltime weekend competing on the NASCAR undercard, crashing out of an ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) event, before making his Xinity debut.

Shane van Gisbergen in action at Daytona.
Shane van Gisbergen in action at Daytona. Photo credit: Getty Images

Qualifying fifth for the 300-mile (480km) event, he again struggled to master the subtleties of circuit racing, but regrouped to finish in the top dozen.

"That was another wild race," tweeted van Gisbergen. "Got some good momentum going, really enjoyed the flow of it all and learnt a lot.

"Got involved in other people's messes, but made my own mistake at the end, misjudged the side draft and spun out the 27, trying to pull into line. Sorry to him.

"Other than that, it was an awesome job by our crew to keep us in the fight. Twelfth after all of that is pretty cool." 

With a tightly packed field of 38 cars running so close together, trust is a major factor in racing successfully and newcomer van Gisbergen is still earning that among his fellow competitors. He nudged Jeb Burton off the track with about 25 laps remaining.

"I'm pretty pissed and disappointed with myself for misjudging the 27," he reflected. "I spun him out and hurt him.

"He was coming around me quick and as I went to get up, I hung him back a bit and misjudged. I'm pretty pissed at myself for that and the WeatherTech Chevy is pretty beat up, but the guys did a great job all night."

After qualifying second, American Austin Hill won the race for the third consecutive year, after leading nine of the 120 laps.

Van Gisbergen faces another step in his progression with another Xfinity outing at Atlanta Motor Speedway next week.

"Atlanta is going to be tough," he said. "The first lap I ever see the joint is qualifying.

"It's going to be tough with no practice, but it is what it is. I just have to prep as much as I can on the simulator, adapt and see how we go in the race."

Van Gisbergen will race just seven top-flight NASCAR Cup events this year, with his first scheduled for March 25 (NZ time) at Circuit of the Americas at Austin, Texas.

Catch live stream coverage of the NASCAR and Xfinity series on ThreeNow