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April 18, 2024

It’s anyone’s race in the Xfinity Series at Talladega this weekend

General view of racing at Talladega
Sean Gardner
Getty Images

When it comes to racing on the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway’s high banks, everyone on the grid typically feels like they stand a chance to hoist the big trophy. This brand of all-out, pedal-down racing is a specialized artform for the drivers and Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 (4 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is always a fan favorite, must-see event.

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There are only two former race winners among the season’s NASCAR Xfinity Series field. Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger won in 2022 and Jordan Anderson Racing’s Jeb Burton is a two-time winner, including last Spring when he triumphed over Sheldon Creed in a tremendously exciting overtime finish.

Both Allmendinger and Burton arrive in Alabama highly motivated, racing for their first victories of the year. In Burton’s case, he’s competing for his first top-10 finish of the season after several hard-luck finishes.

MORE: Talladega schedule | Xfinity Series standings

As so often happens racing on superspeedways, the finishes in this race are typically wide-open with an anyone-can-win feel. That may be a good thing for several of the 2024 championship leaders, who have not typically fared particularly well at ‘Dega.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Chandler Smith brings a 19-point advantage atop the Xfinity Series driver standings over reigning series champion Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer. He has a 33-point lead on Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill and is 56 points ahead of JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier.

Smith, the driver of the No. 81 JGR Toyota, has crashed out in both of his previous starts at Talladega with finishes of 38th and 25th place. Custer, the driver of the No. 00 SHR Ford, is batting .500 with two top-10 finishes in four starts. He finished fourth last year.

Hill has been a victim of Talladega’s aggressiveness, with zero top-10 finishes in four starts-twice he’s crashed out. His best finish was 14th place in 2022. However, Hill has started on the front row in the last three races and won pole position in the last two.

The sustained qualifying achievements certainly show Hill – who has three wins at the series’ other big track, Daytona International Speedway – knows his way around a superspeedway. And he is optimistic about his chances on Saturday working with rookie teammate Jesse Love, who won pole position in the Daytona season-opener that Hill won.

“So, I think that going into this weekend, a lot of guys are going to do all they can to split the 2 (Love) and the 21 (Hill) up and try to keep us from leading the field,” said Hill, a two-race winner this season. “Because if we’re leading the field, him and I both, we do a really good job of stringing the line around. Yes, we have fast race cars, but we know what to do with them as well.”

This week marks the third race of the season’s Dash 4 Cash incentive program. Last week’s Texas winner, Sam Mayer (No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet), his Texas runner-up Ryan Sieg (No. 39 RSS Racing Chevrolet), Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) and Allmendinger (No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet) will compete for the money this week. The highest finishing driver among this quartet pockets an extra $100,000 check. The top four eligible finishers will then qualify for the final leg of the Dash 4 Cash program next week at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway.

There is no practice session for the field at Talladega. Qualifying is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET on Friday (FS1).