Rookie Jesse Love claims 1st NASCAR Xfinity Series win in another wild Talladega finish

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Nineteen-year-old rookie Jesse Love won the first NASCAR Xfinity Series race of his career in a crash-marred, double-overtime finish at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday.

Love held off Brennan Poole, who pulled alongside roaring into the trioval, and took the checkered flag 0.141 seconds ahead of Riley Herbst. Anthony Alfredo and Leland Honeyman claimed the next two spots, Poole faded to fifth, and one last crash sent Joey Gase spinning behind the frontrunners.

“Let's go playoff racing!” Love screamed over the radio.

Hailie Deegan went into the final restart with a shot at becoming the highest-finishing woman in Xfinity Series history, but she slipped all the way to 12th. Danica Patrick retains the distinction with a fourth-place showing at Las Vegas in 2011.

Pole-sitter Austin Hill — Love's teammate at Richard Childress Racing — won the first stage, led a race-high 41 laps and was at the front of an 18-car train with two laps to go when the usual Talladega chaos erupted.

Parker Kligerman appeared to give Hill a couple of slight taps to the rear bumper, though Kligerman insisted over his radio that he never touched the leader's car. Nevertheless, Hill suddenly went into a spin that ended his hopes of his third victory of the season and sent the race to overtime.

Kligerman was out front when the green flag waved, but that didn't last long. Shane Van Gisbergen seemed to run out of gas and Love got into Kligerman going for lead, sending the the No. 48 car smashing into the wall.

Several other contenders had to duck into the pits for fuel before the second overtime, which extended the race from 113 to 124 laps.

In the end, Love had enough fuel to get to the line, erasing memories of another strong run at Atlanta where he went dry at the end.

Chandler Smith came in as the points leader, but he finished 25th.

THE FIRST BIG ONE

Early in the final stage, the first big crash of the day collected at least a dozen cars, knocking four of them out of the race.

Kligerman and Ryan Sieg sparked the incident on lap 65, trading paint when both went for an opening in the middle of the track during three-wide racing through the trioval. That slight bump set off a chain-reaction crash that left cars spinning, sliding and smashing into each other from the outer wall to the inside grass.

“You have to be aggressive,” said Brandon Jones, whose car was too damaged to continue. “The only way be aggressive is to get up front.”

The day also ended for Sam Mayer, Jeremy Clements and Ryan Truex, while several cars returned to the track with significant damage. A.J. Allmendinger kept going with with his rear bumper cover barely hanging on.

Mayer has failed to finish four of the first nine races, but he's locked into the playoff after winning last week at Texas in a photo finish with Sieg.

KIDS RULE

Teenagers won both preliminary races at Talladega leading up to the NASCAR Cup race on Sunday.

Before Love took the checkered flag, 18-year-old Jake Finch led from start to finish in the ARCA Menards Series event.

FIRST ONE OUT

Justin Allgaier, who arrived at Talladega ranked fourth in the point standings, was the first one out of the race.

His No. 7 Chevrolet got loose coming off of turn two while running in a big pack of cars, sliding sideways off the track and smashing hard into an inside wall.

Allgaier wasn't injured, but the 38th-place finish was by far his worst of the season.

“A disappointing day,” he said. "The car was fast.”

Allgaier remained tied with Kyle Busch for the most top-10 finishes in Xfinity Series history with 266. He equaled the mark last week with a third-place showing at Texas.

It was a tough day for JR Motorsports, which had three of its four drivers — Allgaier, Mayer and Jones — wiped out by crashes. Sammy Smith was the only one to make it to the checkered flag in 21st.

UP NEXT

The series moves to Dover Motor Speedway next Saturday.

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing