Race Weekend Central

Leighton Sibille Wins at Talladega, Makes Monday Night Racing Playoffs

Leighton Sibille won a wild Interstate Batteries Monday Night Racing Pro Series event at the virtual Talladega Superspeedway to close out the regular season.

Sibille survived the mayhem on the third overtime and held off a few cars behind him to claim his spot in the playoffs.

He joins fellow winners Chase Cabre, David Schildhouse, Garrett Smithley, Corey Heim, Presley Sorah and Adam Cabot in the fight for the championship, starting next week (Jan. 9) at Richmond Raceway. Joey Padgett, Collin Fern, Nick Olsen, Matt Stallknecht and Ryan Vargas also made it in on points.

Tonight’s Action

The NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen cars took on Talladega in the regular season finale, and the racing did not disappoint.

It started with Schildhouse on the pole and Justin Melillo on the front row, with the former holding on to the lead for at least a lap or two. Melillo ended up falling back and wasn’t quite in the front half for much of the race.

Schildhouse, Bailey Turner, Gary Sexton, Fern, Sorah and Cabot all jockeyed for first place in the beginning. James Bickford then maneuvered his way through to the lead just before he got turned and crashed. Newcomer Dale Tanhardt, Vargas, Preston Pardus and Fern were all involved in this early wreck.

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During this caution, several pit strategies were in play, as some chose fuel only or two tires.

Sexton and Turner were in the front two spots after Canadian Tire Motorsport Park winner Sage Karam got out of line after the next restart. Cabot and Padgett joined Sexton in the lead, while Will Rodgers also got up front, albeit briefly. 

However, about halfway, Schildhouse once again grabbed the first position during the long green flag run.

With about 43 laps remaining, the caution came out, allowing for some more varying pit strategies. Rodgers took the lead with 39 laps to go, while eventual winner Sibille got the position on the bottom after Heim had a connection issue and dropped to the apron out of the way.

Though there was another smaller incident, the race stayed green through some more pit stops with about 22 to go. A few leaders, along with Melillo, pitted, but Melillo was caught speeding and was shown the black flag.

Sibille was among a few others who also sped when they made their pit stops, which put Sibille a lap down with about 20 laps to go.

Turner led after the pit cycle, just before the caution came out for Ronnie Osmer and several other drivers. And as the saying goes, cautions breed cautions.

Shortly after the following restart, a big crash occurred involving Brett Baldeck, George Balfanz Jr., Josh Slate, Melillo, DJ Cummings, Heim and Rodgers. Baldeck made a move and wasn’t clear of Balfanz, causing the incident.

This set off the first overtime, which didn’t stay green for very long. Connor Barry and Bickford were among those caught up in this wreck.

Overtime number two saw another yellow flag for Steve Auffant, Heim, Kase Kallenbach and others. It started when some cars went four and five wide while racing, which often leads to disaster at a plate track.

The final overtime saw a huge crash on the first lap and another crash on the final lap. Somehow Sibille was able to weave his way through the chaos and secure the win and a place in the playoffs.

The super late model cars kick off the playoffs at Richmond Raceway next Monday, Jan. 9. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on Podium eSports’ Twitch and Frontstretch’s YouTube.

About the author

Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor and involved with photos, social media and news editing. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.

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