Race Weekend Central

Xfinity Breakdown: Jesse Love Earns 1st Xfinity Win at Talladega

Low fuel? No problem for Richard Childress Racing rookie Jesse Love. The No. 2 survived two overtimes and held off several underdogs to score his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Talladega Superspeedway Saturday (April 20).

See also
Jesse Love Saves Enough Fuel, Wins at Talladega

Love got the lead late after getting squirrelly while racing with Parker Kligerman and Sheldon Creed on the first overtime restart. Creed’s car went up the track and tagged the left rear of Josh Williams, who was turned down into Kligerman, bringing out the caution.

In overtime number two, Love was the lead car and blocked others’ advances in the final two laps. He crossed the finish line as other cars went to different lanes, jockeying for positions.

Riley Herbst somehow worked his way through to finish in second, while Anthony Alfredo finished third. Leland Honeyman and Brennan Poole rounded out the top five.

Winners

Love’s strong race started in the first 30 laps when he passed his teammate Austin Hill for the lead just before the caution flew for Justin Allgaier on the last lap of stage one. He then followed that up with a second-place finish in stage two.

The final stage saw other drivers at the front of the pack, with Hill taking the lead four different times. But attrition is often the name of the game for superspeedways, and Saturday was no different. The race had two Big Ones, the second of which was set off by a spinning Hill in front of the field.

Somehow Love was able to get by all of the carnage and take first around lap 100. That wasn’t the only thing he worried about, though.

With the race going in overtime, the topic of fuel-saving was once again brought up and was deja vu for the No. 2 driver. See, back at Atlanta Motor Speedway in February, Love had the opportunity to win his first race. What spoiled his plan? You guessed it, he ran out of gas.

Fast forward to April 20, and Love once again was concerned about fuel. This time, however, he had enough fuel in the tank to conquer two overtimes while other cars dropped like flies when they ran out.

Talladega is likely a special track for Love, as it’s the place where he earned the first of 10 wins last year en route to the ARCA Menards Series championship. But to magically save fuel in a little bit of a longer race, and to compete at Talladega for the first time in an Xfinity car with no practice, that’s special. He’ll be one to watch this year, not just for more wins, but possibly contending for the championship.

Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Herbst and Cole Custer had good days, with Herbst coming home second and Custer in 10th after pitting during the final caution. It’s not easy for the Fords to battle so well against the RCR drivers, but Herbst and Custer both made strategic moves to put themselves near the front.

It was a much-needed result for Herbst, who now has two top fives and three top 10s and sits sixth in the standings. The No. 98 had five consecutive finishes outside the top 10 leading up to ‘Dega, so a runner up could bring him back on the right track.

Let’s hear it for the underdogs for avoiding major damage in those big accidents and earning good finishes. Our Motorsports’ Anthony Alfredo and Young’s Motorsports’ Leland Honeyman claimed top fives. Plus, Alpha Prime Racing had two drivers finish in the top 10: Brennan Poole and Caesar Bacarella.

Matt DiBenedetto secured eighth for Viking Motorsports and RSS Racing, and Jeb Burton, who was caught up in the second big incident, earned a ninth.

These pack-racing tracks tend to allow for some Cinderellas to contend for the win, and though they didn’t break through this time around, they still had good results.

Lastly, shout out to Ryan Sieg who won the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash prize. When his other competitors were caught up in crashes, he looked to have the win in the bag. However, he had a flat tire after hitting the wall slightly and pitted.

Sieg never gave up and finished 17th, two spots ahead of AJ Allmendinger who had some major nose damage.

Losers

JR Motorsports had the opposite results from RCR. First, Allgaier got loose and spun out on the backstretch, hitting the wall hard. Then, Brandon Jones and Sam Mayer crashed in the first Big One shortly after Jones led some laps. Their days were done on lap 65.

Finally, it looked like Sammy Smith would be the one to carry the team to a good finish. That is, of course, until he ran out of fuel while under the last caution.

Smith wound up 21st, Jones was 33rd, Mayer placed 36th and Allgaier was last. Ouch.

The good news is all four drivers have had some good finishes at Dover Motor Speedway, so there’s something to look forward to as they put ‘Dega in the rear view. (Allgaier’s so good at Dover, in fact, that he hasn’t finished outside the top three since spring 2017 when he was 11th).

Smith was one of quite a few drivers who ran out of gas in overtime. Shane van Gisbergen, Blaine Perkins, Chandler Smith and Ryan Ellis were some of those unfortunate racers. Van Gisbergen was out right as the field went green for the first overtime; he ended up 22nd.

The No. 81 ended up out of fuel just before the last caution that sent the race in overtime, while Perkins ran out during that caution. Perkins placed 23rd, while Smith was 25th.

Then, in the second overtime restart, Ellis was out of fuel on the backstretch. He got it refired, though, and the race stayed green. He finished just behind Smith in 26th.

Fuel for Thought

I touched on this after Atlanta, but it deserves to be brought up again. Fuel saving creates quite a bit of drama in a race, but none more so than at a plate track.

When late crashes lead to overtime finishes, it sometimes ruins crew chief’s fuel strategies (as it did at Talladega). Yet Love was able to save enough to make it to the end and do some burnouts. How?

If you look at the final long green-flag run, Love had dropped to the back half of the top 10 until about lap 95 when he started moving up. If a car is further in the field, it’s likely not using as much fuel as the leader is.

That, as well as his team possibly putting in just a little more fuel than everyone else, is the only thing I can think of as to how Love did it.

However he did it, it worked out.

Where to Next

Up next, the Xfinity Series travels to Dover Motor Speedway. Ryan Truex won last year’s event at the Monster Mile for the first time in his career.

The race is set to begin Saturday, April 27 at 1:30 p.m. ET and airs on FOX Sports 1.

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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