Saturday July 20th, 2024 12:24AM

Hill wins 2nd straight Xfinity race to open season as teammate Love runs out of gas at Atlanta

By The Associated Press

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Austin Hill won his second straight NASCAR Xfinity race to open the season, surging to the lead on an overtime restart when teammate Jesse Love ran out of gas, for a dramatic ending on Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday.

Love, 19, finished 12th after leading 157 laps.

“Jessie ran an awesome race,” Hill said of his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet teammate. “To lead that many laps, he should be sitting here."

Clean racing kept cars on the track — and away from opportunities to pit for fuel. Before the late fuel drama, Love appeared to be in control.

“I was thinking if I can't win, let my teammate win,” Hill said.

With Love holding the lead, four Fords ran out of gas with four laps to go, including Riley Herbst, who was then in second. Cole Custer, Hailie Deegan and Ryan Sieg also ran out of gas, forcing a caution.

Love remained on the track during the caution, gambling he would have gas remaining for the overtime. Instead, his Chevrolet faltered during the restart.

“Obviously there was no way we were going to pit there,” Love said. “When we got up to third gear (in the restart) it died.”

Hill said Love burned more gas by leading most of the laps.

“He was trying to save as well, but you can’t save as much when you’re the leader,” Hill said.

Hill, a Georgia native who has University of Georgia “G” logos on his racing shoes, took advantage by claiming the lead. He even had sufficient gas for a celebratory spin in the grass under the fireworks. He has won three of the last four Xfinity Atlanta races.

“I just said, ‘Hey, I’m going to just run the shortest distance to the end and hope it’s enough,' and it was,” said Hill of his overtime strategy.

Chandler Smith, from Talking Rock, Georgia, finished second in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Shane Van Gisbergen was third.

Hill opened the Xfinity season last week with his third consecutive series-opening win at Daytona. Tony Stewart in 2008 was the last driver to win the first two Xfinity races in a season.

Hill won Atlanta Xfinity races in 2022 and 2023. John Hunter Nemechek won 2023’s spring Atlanta race, when Hill was fourth.

Love became the first driver to win poles in his first two career NASCAR Xfinity starts by claiming the top spot on Friday. Love also won the pole for last week’s season-opening Daytona Xfinity race won by Hill. Love finished 20th at Daytona.

Love took advantage of wreck-free racing to dominant the first two stages. There had been an average of nine cautions in the four Xfinity races since Atlanta Motor Speedway was reconfigured following the 2021 season, but there was only one caution caused by an incident in the first two stages.

Love faced a challenge when he came off pit row in fourth place to begin stage 3, when AJ Allmendinger took the lead. Helped by a push from Custer, Love passed Allmendinger, who finished 13th, to reclaim the lead on lap 93.

Defending Atlanta champion Nemechek finished 32nd.

UP NEXT

The NASCAR Xfinity Series moves to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 2.

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

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