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Nemechek holds Xfinity points lead heading into Portland race

Last year’s inaugural event happened in a downpour

By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer
Published: June 2, 2023, 5:01pm

After last season’s wet-and-wild debut in Portland, the NASCAR Xfinity series returns under considerably sunnier conditions.

Saturday’s 75-lap race on the 12-turn road course at Portland International Raceway is set to be run under a clear sky in temperatures hovering around 80.

That’s a big difference from the downpours last year, when A.J. Allmendinger said afterward it was one of the craziest races he’d ever won.

Allmendinger led just six overall laps in his eighth career road-course victory and 12th overall series win. He crossed the finish line in the Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 2.879 seconds in front of Myatt Snider.

Now full-time on NASCAR’s Cup series, Allmendinger is not in Portland to defend the title.

Thirty drivers are set to run in the Pacific Office Automation 147, a rare standalone event on the Xfinity Series, a step below the NASCAR Cup series.

The race on the 1.97-mile course north of downtown Portland is part of the city’s Rose Festival festivities in June. Last year’s race marked the first NASCAR event in the region in 22 years.

John Hunter Nemechek leads the Xfinity series standings. The 25-year-old son of veteran Joe Nemechek has won twice this year in the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, and finished second at Charlotte on Memorial Day. Justin Allgaier won the rain-delayed race in the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports.

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It was the first win of the season for Allgaier, who came in fifth at Portland last year. Allgaier is third in points this season, behind leader Nemechek and runner-up Austin Hill, with seven finishes in the top five.

“We have a lot of momentum on our side right now, especially after getting the win last week in Charlotte and I know that (Crew Chief Jim Pohlman) and the guys on this No. 7 team are ready to get after it again and race for the win on Saturday,” he said.

Allgaier, a former NASCAR rookie of the year, was the 2018 Xfinity series champion and has 20 career wins on the series.

Hill, who was third in Portland last year, trails Nemechek by 10 points. Hill has won three times on the Xfinity series this year and has nine top-10 finishes in the Richard Childress Racing’s No. 20 Chevy.

One driver looking to improve on last year’s showing in Portland was Sam Mayer, who finished last after crashing 12 laps into the race.

“Obviously, I got the short end of the stick last year, but we had a lot of speed in the wet weather conditions. So, maybe if it’s dry this year, it’ll be a little different for us. I’m looking forward to redemption either way,” said Mayer, driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports.

Also in the field is a local driver, Woodland’s Eric Johnson Jr., who is making his series debut.

The NASCAR Cup series is in Madison, Ill., for Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300.

IF YOU GO

Who: NASCAR Xfinity Series

What: Pacific Office Automation 147 race

When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday. (Gates open at 8 a.m.)

Where: Portland International Raceway, 1940 N. Victory Blvd., in north Portland.

Cost: Depending on location, prices are $75, $65 and $60. Kids 12-under get in free. Purchase online at https://raceportland.com/nascar

TV: FS1 (cable Ch. 408, 723). Radio: AM 1080

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