Motorsport: Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen struggles in NASCAR Cup series opener in Texas

Kiwi driver Shane van Gisbergen has finished off the pace in his first official NASCAR Cup race in Austin, Texas on Monday (NZ time).

Starting 12th on the grid, the former Supercars champion struggled to gain any traction with the frontrunners, ultimately finishing in 21st place.

While van Gisbergen made his NASCAR debut in a one-off appearance in Chicago last year, where he drove to an historic victory on debut, Monday's race represented his first official drive as a fully fledged member of Kaulig Racing.

The result comes a day after he missed out on earning his first win in the NASCAR Xfinity Cup series, when a penalty for shortcutting relegated to 27th after leading the majority of the race.

Polesitter William Byron used a quick final pit stop to win the first road-course race of 2024 at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday in Austin, Texas.

Byron passed Ross Chastain with 25 laps left and sat on pit road as his Hendrick Motorsports team serviced his No. 24 Chevrolet three seconds faster that Chastain's No. 1.

Shane van Gisbergen.
Shane van Gisbergen. Photo credit: Getty Images

The 26-year-old then roared to his 12th career win in 222 races, beating a charging Christopher Bell by 0.692 seconds.

The season-opening Daytona 500 winner, Byron became the first two-time winner through six 2024 events and won for the first time ever from the pole.

Ty Gibbs, Alex Bowman and Tyler Reddick completed the top five.

Making his third Cup start, New Zealand's Shane Van Gisbergen, who won in Chicago last July, was nabbed for speeding on pit road late in Stage 2 and ended up 21st.

In his 2024 debut, Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi started his No. 50 23XI Racing Toyota 25th and finished 30th after spinning twice.

After winning his first pole of the season and fifth career on a road course, Byron led the 39-car field to the new restart off Turn 20, farther away from the flagstand.

Problems arose immediately for the Toyotas of Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace, who pitted on Lap 2 after contact with each other to start the race.

However, Byron had no problem at all keeping his No. 24 Chevrolet up front as he built a nearly four-second lead after six circuits, with Reddick and Gibbs behind him.

Choosing a strategy that would help at race's end, most drivers pitted in the final laps before the 15-lap Stage 1 concluded, but Bell, already having won at Phoenix two weeks ago, stayed out to get the maximum bonus points and beat second-place Daniel Suarez.

After Kyle Larson's Chevrolet spun from contact with Bell's Toyota, the No. 20 Camry XSE - the only car not to pit - headed for service with six laps to go in Stage 2 while running fifth, setting Bell up with a strategy for two final stops to the end.

Denny Hamlin, last week's winner at Bristol, stayed out and won his first segment this season and second ever at COTA.