Love Finally Drafts To First Xfinity Series Victory

April 20, 2024: NASCAR races at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. (HHP/Chris Owens)

TALLADEGA, Ala. – The third time on a drafting track turned out to be the charm for NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie Jesse Love.

Finishing the job that he couldn’t quite achieve two months ago at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway, Love made an extended fuel run of 55 laps pay off Saturday in double overtime at the end of the Ag-Pro 300.

Using several perfectly timed moves at the front of the lead pack at Talladega Superspeedway, Love fended off a turn-four run by Brennan Poole, then flashed to the bottom lane as the field went four-wide behind him to ultimately secure his first Xfinity Series win in his ninth career start.

Driving the No. 2 Whelen Aerospace Technologies Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Childress Racing, Love took the checkered flag .141 seconds ahead of a surging Riley Herbst, who ended as the runner-up.

After a jubilant celebration with his team over the radio, the 19-year-old Love burned the left-rear tire off his car during a long-awaited burnout before an emotional post-race interview.

“This is just a great group of guys, man,” said Love. “It’s been such a journey to get to this point. Give all the glory to God; I can’t give enough thanks to everyone that’s been a part of this opportunity with RCR.

“I wanted this so bad. I love Talladega; this is my favorite speedway and we got it done!”

Love took the lead for good on the first overtime restart at lap 118, when he snuck to the bottom underneath Parker Kligerman just before Kligerman got clipped and turned into the turn-one SAFER Barrier by Josh Williams in a chain-reaction crash.

That restart, which began its chaos when Shane van Gisbergen’s Chevrolet ran out of fuel coming to the start-finish line, led to Sammy Smith getting into the back of Sheldon Creed’s Toyota. Creed’s car then washed up into Williams’ Chevrolet, which turned Williams into the right-rear fender of Kligerman’s car.


Smith got through the incident unscathed, and appeared to be in the catbird’s seat in second, having pitted for fuel seven laps later than Love had. His No. 8, however, had to come down for a splash of fuel under the final caution and was removed from contention for the win as a result.

Moments later, the yellow flag was extended an extra lap after Kyle Weatherman’s car ran out of fuel and stalled on track, bringing up frantic memories of Love’s late-race heartbreak at Atlanta for the Menlo Park, Calif., young gun.

“I was definitely having PTSD flashbacks to Atlanta,” he said with a wry grin of the seconds before the final restart.

Love led the field back to green at lap 123, getting quickly away from Leland Honeyman and dropping to the bottom with a big advantage as Honeyman and Hailie Deegan raced for second behind him.

Further back, a spinning Ryan Ellis nearly brought out another caution, but was able to get his car turned around and moving in race direction by the time Love reached the white flag.



Jesse Love (2) leads the field on the final lap Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway. (HHP/Chris Owens photo)


Love was unchallenged until the end of the backstretch, when Poole used a push from Anthony Alfredo to get to the right-rear fender of the No. 2, side-drafting to make the battle for the win a side-by-side affair through turn four.

A last-gasp push from Honeyman in the tri-oval gave Love the surge he needed to shoot clear for the victory, while Herbst came rocketing through the middle of a four-wide scrum to secure second.

“That was hectic, for sure,” said Herbst. “A lot of people were battling fuel [mileage] there, but I’m really, really proud of everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s been no joke that we’ve lacked a bit on the [restrictor] plate tracks compared to the RCR cars … but I think we’re as good as them now and feel like we can beat them. It just didn’t quite happen on that last lap.

“A really weird race, honestly,” he added. “It’s been an up-and-down start to the year, but this is great momentum for us and we’re ready to go win $100,000 [in the Dash 4 Cash] at Dover.”

Alfredo finished third for Our Motorsports in a near-photo finish with Herbst, followed closely by Honeyman, who notched his career-best Xfinity Series finish of fourth in just his 17th career start.

Poole closed the top five, ahead of Sheldon Creed, Caesar Bacarella, Matt DiBenedetto, Jeb Burton, and defending series champion Cole Custer.

Love’s Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Hill led seven times for a race-high 41 laps, but sustained damage in a lap-112 crash in turn four that scuttled his shot at racing for the win.

That crash with two laps left in regulation saw Hill get sucked around in turn four in the midst of a battle for the lead with Kligerman. Hill’s Chevrolet then spun down into the pack, sparking a nine-car accident.

Hill, who won the first two drafting races of the season at Daytona (Fla.) Int’l Speedway and Atlanta in February, ended up 14th.

The biggest crash of the day came on lap 66, when Brandon Jones got turned on the frontstretch after chain-reaction contact between Ryan Sieg and Kligerman sent Kligerman down into Jones’ No. 9.

That incident ended the race for Jones, Sam Mayer, Jeremy Clements, and Ryan Truex.

Justin Allgaier, one of the presumed favorites prior to the race, brought out the first caution on lap 25 after he got turned hard into the inside wall on the backstretch.

Though Allgaier’s No. 7 was destroyed, the veteran Xfinity Series driver climbed out under his own power.

Sieg ended up collecting the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus check with a 17th-place finish, rallying from a tire issue that put him a lap down late in the going after getting the free pass under the final caution.

The Georgia driver then battled past the wounded car of A.J. Allmendinger to bank the six-figure payday.

NASCAR Xfinity Series teams will return to action Saturday, April 27 at Dover Motor Speedway with the running of the BetRivers 200. Truex is the defending winner of the event at the one-mile concrete oval.

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