Feeling the love at Talladega

NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie Jessie Love (2) leads the field as they come out of Turn 4 on the final lap of double overtime during Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway. Love went onto win for his first Xfinity Series victory. Photo by David Barks.

NASCAR rookie Jesse Love scores his first career Xfinity win in Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway

TALLADEGA, Ala – NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie Jesse Love started second and finished first during Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 on Talladega Superspeedway’s 2.66-mile tri-oval.

It was a bittersweet victory – the first of his Xfinity career – and a bit of redemption for Love who was leading the last superspeedway race in Atlanta only to run out of gas on the final lap.

Jesse Love, driver of the #2 WAT Chevrolet, gestures a hand heart to fans after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 20, 2024 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

“Just a great group of guys (on my team) and it’s been such a journey to get to this point,’’ said Love. “I had PTSD flashbacks from Atlanta. I love Talladega. I love the speedway and I love the fans.”

Fuel was again a concern for many of the drivers as the race went to double overtime.

A couple ran out of gas just before and after the final restart but Love had enough gas to power his way to his first career Xfinity victory.

”I thought I had enough fuel at the end,” said 19-year-old Californian Love who drove a Richard Childress Racing Chevy Camaro. “I was in a good spot to win and was running low on fuel. I lost a lot of track position when we had a two-tire (and final) pit stop but it was a mixed blessing. We packed the car with fuel and I was able to run about half-throttle to save gas while in the pack so I thought we had enough at the end.”

Riley Herbst finished second, followed by Anthony Aldredo, rookie Leland Honeyman, Brennan Poole, Sheldon Creed, Caesar Bacarella, Matt DiBenedetto, Jeb Burton, and Cole Custer.

This was also the second Dash 4 Cash race of the Xfinity season.

Pole sitter Austin Hill (21) and Jesse Love (2) lead the field at the start of Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway. Love won the race. Hill finished 14th. Photo by David Barks.

The top four finishers at last week’s race at Texas Motor Speedway were eligible – Ryan Sieg, AJ Allmendinger, Sam Mayer, and Justin Allgaier.

The one that finished highest would win a $100,000 bonus.

Allgaier had the hot hand early. He was running fifth on Lap 24 when he lost traction on the backstretch, hit the wall, and was knocked out of the race in 38th (last) place.

Mayer and Allmendinger were caught up in an 11-car wreck on Lap 65, ending Mayer’s day and seriously hampering Allmendinger’s chances.

But looks can be deceiving.

Sieg had his right front tire go down on Lap 91, sending him to the pits, putting him behind Allmendinger, and making him one lap down.

So it looked as if the Dash money would go to Sieg.

But the fresh tires gave him the chance to catch Allmendinger. Sieg came in 17th, and Allmendinger 19th, to give Sieg’s family-owned team a quick $100,000.

“It’s huge for our small team. We have 14 employees – total,” said Sieg. “Sponsorship is hard to come by and we can use that money for a lot of things – salaries, parts, maybe even to hire some new people.

“I thought I threw it away when that tire went down but luckily we got a caution that got me a lap back and gave me the chance to catch back up.”

Sieg will get another chance to win $100,000 next Saturday in the season’s final Dash 4 Cash race at Dover Speedway. Love, Herbst, and Alfredo will be the other drivers eligible for the Dash.

It was a wild finish for the scheduled 113-lap race.

On Lap 111, just before the white flag came out, there was a nine-car crash coming through Turn 4.

Austin Hill, Love’s Richard Childress Racing (RCR) teammate, had just grabbed the lead from Love when he was hit by Parker Kligerman, sending Hill into the wall and setting off a chain-reaction pileup.

Jordan Anderson and Patrick Emerling were knocked out of the race while the others lost significant track position.

Parker Kligerman, who was involved in that wreck, was able to stay on the track – but not for long.

Kligerman started overtime in the lead but that lead was gone in an instant when Sheldon Creed, trying to move from third to first on Turn 1, went around, collecting Kligerman, and several others, and sending the race into double overtime.

Love – the seventh Xfinity racer to notch his first series win at Talladega – led the field on the final restart, held off a challenge from Honeyman, and, on the final lap, from Herbst.

“This is huge for our team,’’ Sieg said. “It was a rough one. I thought I threw it away, but were lucky enough to get the caution at the end and come back and beat the 16. So it all worked out and is pretty extraordinary for our small team.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – Ag-Pro 300

Talladega Superspeedway

Talladega, Alabama

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Statistics provided by NASCAR

          1. (Started 2)  Jesse Love #, Chevrolet, 124 laps.

          2. (8)  Riley Herbst, Ford, 124.

          3. (11)  Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 124.

          4. (33)  Leland Honeyman #, Chevrolet, 124.

          5. (27)  Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 124.

          6. (10)  Sheldon Creed, Toyota, 124.

          7. (29)  Caesar Bacarella, Chevrolet, 124.

          8. (28)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 124.

          9. (35)  Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 124.

          10. (4)  Cole Custer, Ford, 124.

          11. (38)  Mason Massey(i), Chevrolet, 124.

          12. (31)  Hailie Deegan #, Ford, 124.

          13. (25)  Kyle Sieg, Ford, 124.

          14. (1)  Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 124.

          15. (13)  Taylor Gray(i), Toyota, 124.

          16. (36)  Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, 124.

          17. (24)  Ryan Sieg, Ford, 124.

          18. (17)  Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 124.

          19. (14)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 124.

          20. (9)  Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 124.

          21. (5)  Sammy Smith, Chevrolet, 124.

          22. (18)  Shane Van Gisbergen #, Chevrolet, 124.

          23. (26)  Blaine Perkins, Ford, 123.

          24. (19)  David Starr, Chevrolet, 123.

          25. (7)  Chandler Smith, Toyota, 123.

          26. (37)  Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 123.

          27. (20)  Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, DVP, 120.

          28. (30)  Dawson Cram #, Chevrolet, 120.

          29. (3)  Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, Accident, 117.

          30. (21)  Parker Retzlaff, Chevrolet, Ignition, 113.

          31. (32)  Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, Accident, 111.

          32. (12)  Patrick Emerling, Chevrolet, Accident, 111.

          33. (23)  Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, Accident, 65.

          34. (6)  Ryan Truex, Toyota, Accident, 65.

          35. (22)  Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, Accident, 65.

          36. (15)  Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, Accident, 65.

          37. (34)  Jeffrey Earnhardt, Toyota, Engine, 46.

          38. (16)  Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, Accident, 24.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  131.323 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 30 Mins, 42 Secs.

Margin of Victory:  0.141 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 28 laps.

Lead Changes:  34 among 16 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Hill 1-23;J. Love # 24-26;M. DiBenedetto 27;J. Love # 28-30;A. Hill 31-33;C. Custer 34-36;R. Sieg 37-42;C. Smith 43;R. Truex 44;C. Smith 45-46;A. Hill 47-51;J. Anderson 52;J. Love # 53-56;B. Jones 57-60;R. Sieg 61;S. Smith 62;S. Van Gisbergen # 63;S. Smith 64;A. Hill 65-68;D. Starr 69;A. Hill 70-72;R. Herbst 73-81;A. Hill 82-83;R. Herbst 84-86;P. Kligerman 87-88;R. Herbst 89;P. Kligerman 90;A. Alfredo 91-96;P. Kligerman 97;C. Custer 98;T. Gray(i) 99;J. Love # 100-110;A. Hill 111;P. Kligerman 112-117;J. Love # 118-124.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Austin Hill 7 times for 41 laps; Jesse Love # 5 times for 28 laps; Riley Herbst 3 times for 13 laps; Parker Kligerman 4 times for 10 laps; Ryan Sieg 2 times for 7 laps; Anthony Alfredo 1 time for 6 laps; Cole Custer 2 times for 4 laps; Brandon Jones 1 time for 4 laps; Chandler Smith 2 times for 3 laps; Sammy Smith 2 times for 2 laps; Shane Van Gisbergen # 1 time for 1 lap; Taylor Gray(i) 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Truex 1 time for 1 lap; David Starr 1 time for 1 lap; Jordan Anderson 1 time for 1 lap; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 2,48,21,81,16,20,97,9,98,00

Stage #2 Top Ten: 21,2,16,39,9,81,48,98,27

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