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Love Saves Enough Fuel, Wins 1st Xfinity Race at Talladega


Jesse Love celebrates his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

LINCOLN, Ala. — Jesse Love felt a little deja vu.

Similar to the second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the 19-year-old from Menlo Park, California, knew he was running out of fuel. But this time at Talladega Superspeedway, he saved just enough.

Love miraculously survived two attempts in NASCAR Overtime to win Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300, earning his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory.

“I think a little bit of flashbacks from Atlanta — in a good spot to win and running low on fuel,” Love said in his winner’s press conference. “I was thinking about an overtime finish the second that we left pit road and I saved the entire time. I was saving and I wasn’t dragging brake — I was saving with the gas pedal and the entire time trying to just do everything I could to not burn fuel … I probably needed to lose Atlanta to win Talladega in a sense.”

In what’s become no surprise, Love and his Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Hill swept the front row in qualifying with Hill taking the pole and Love slotting in second. Hill controlled the first 23 laps of the race before Love took his first lead with two to go in the stage, winning the opening segment after a Justin Allgaier wreck on the final lap.

Otherwise, the race stayed relatively clean. Stage 2 stayed green in its entirety and Hill swapped back with his teammate to win. But on Lap 67, Ryan Sieg and Parker Kligerman made contact racing toward the front and sparked the first “big one,” claiming contenders such as JR Motorsports teammates Brandon Jones and Sam Mayer.

A few laps after the restart, another caution came out for debris — which set up an epic dash toward the closing laps. Love surrendered the lead to Hill with two to go, but as Hill tried to block Kligerman coming to the white flag, he went around and caused a wreck to send the race into NASCAR Overtime.


Parker Kligerman and Austin Hill get together with two laps to go, sparking a crash in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Naturally, fuel saving became an issue.

On the first attempt, Shane Van Gisberven ran out of gas just before another crash among the leaders. Sammy Smith got pushed into Sheldon Creed, causing a chain reaction that claimed Kligerman and Josh Williams. Somehow, Love snuck by unscathed.

As many of the contenders were out of contention, Love essentially needed to beat a chain of underfunded cars for the win. He jumped out in front of Leland Honeyman and others and seemingly had the race won with just half a lap to go. Brennan Poole made a frantic dash coming out of Turn 4 and at one point got in front of Love, but the RCR driver pulled back ahead coming through the tri-oval for the victory.

“I was in a very superior car to the people around me, and that was a blessing and a curse because it was also really easy to get too far out front,” Love explained. “Then [Poole] got alongside me coming to the checkered and I just tried to not get side-drafted too early to where he was gonna go get it back before we got to the start/finish line, which took a lot of patience because it was really easy to get up there and do it right away.

“I was just trying to shut people out and lead the lane, and I thought if I could lead the lane, I’d be the most beneficial to compare to everybody else with how fast my car was.”

Riley Herbst persevered to finish second, earning his top-five finish of the season.

“It was hectic, for sure, with a lot of people battling fuel mileage,” Herbst said. “I’m just really, really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and Monster Energy. We kind of know that we have lacked a little bit on the superspeedways to the RCR cars, but I felt like we’re as good as them now. I felt like we could beat them, but it was a weird race. It’s kind of been an up-and-down start to the year, but I’m proud of everybody on this No. 98 team for sticking with me.”

Stage 1 Top 10
  1. Jesse Love
  2. Parker Kligerman
  3. Austin Hill
  4. Chandler Smith
  5. AJ Allmendinger
  6. Ryan Truex
  7. Shane Van Gisbergen
  8. Brandon Jones
  9. Riley Herbst
  10. Cole Custer
Stage 2 Top 10
  1. Austin Hill
  2. Jesse Love
  3. AJ Allmendinger
  4. Ryan Sieg
  5. Brandon Jones
  6. Chandler Smith
  7. Parker Kligerman
  8. Riley Herbst
  9. Jeb Burton
  10. Cole Custer
Ag-Pro 300 Full Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 2 2 Jesse Love WAT Chevrolet Running
2 8 98 Riley Herbst Monster Energy Ford Running
3 11 5 Anthony Alfredo Dude Wipes Chevrolet Running
4 33 42 Leland Honeyman Mezrano Injury Lawyers Chevrolet Running
5 27 44 Brennan Poole CW & Sons Infrastructure Chevrolet Running
6 10 18 Sheldon Creed Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Toyota Running
7 29 45 Caesar Bacarella Prime Bites Chevrolet Running
8 28 38 Matt DiBenedetto Viking Motorsports Ford Running
9 35 27 Jeb Burton Puryear Tank Lines Chevrolet Running
10 4 00 Cole Custer Haas Automation Ford Running
11 38 14 Mason Massey Fan Controlled Chevrolet Running
12 31 15 Hailie Deegan AirBox Ford Running
13 25 28 Kyle Sieg North Country Ford Ford Running
14 1 21 Austin Hill Bennett Transportation Chevrolet Running
15 13 19 Taylor Gray Operation 300 Toyota Running
16 36 92 Josh Bilicki Insurance King Chevrolet Running
17 24 39 Ryan Sieg Sci Aps Ford Running
18 17 35 Joey Gase Fireside RV Rental Chevrolet Running
19 14 16 AJ Allmendinger Celsius Chevrolet Running
20 9 11 Josh Williams Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet Running
21 5 8 Sammy Smith Pilot Flying J Coffee Chevrolet Running
22 18 97 Shane Van Gisbergen Wendy’s Chevrolet Running
23 26 29 Blaine Perkins Ollie’s Ford Running
24 19 66 David Starr Chevrolet Running
25 7 81 Chandler Smith QuickTie Toyota Running
26 37 43 Ryan Ellis Four Loko Jungle Juice Chevrolet Running
27 20 91 Kyle Weatherman Chevrolet DVP
28 30 4 Dawson Cram Chevrolet Running
29 3 48 Parker Kligerman Spiked Lite Coolers Chevrolet Accident
30 21 31 Parker Retzlaff EasyCare Chevrolet Ignition
31 32 32 Jordan Anderson Bommarito Automotive Group Chevrolet Accident
32 12 07 Patrick Emerling BIG Studio Group Chevrolet Accident
33 23 9 Brandon Jones Menards/Criterion Appliances Chevrolet Accident
34 6 20 Ryan Truex The Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota Accident
35 22 51 Jeremy Clements One Stop/All South Electric Chevrolet Accident
36 15 1 Sam Mayer First Bank of Alabama Chevrolet Accident
37 34 26 Jeffrey Earnhardt ForeverLawn Toyota Engine
38 16 7 Justin Allgaier BRANDT Chevrolet Accident


Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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