Haley sweeps Talladega; clinches Round of 8 spot

Emerging as a serious dark horse candidate for this year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series championship battle, Justin Haley won the Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway after rallying from a late pit road penalty, taking the lead with two laps remaining and retaining his advantage following a multi-car wreck on the final lap. The victory was Haley’s third of his Xfinity career and of the season as he punched his ticket into the Round of 8 in the Playoffs.

The starting lineup was based on four stats: the current owner points standings, driver’s and owner’s results from a previous Xfinity race and the fastest lap recorded from a previous Xfinity race. With that, Chase Briscoe, coming off his dominating win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, started on pole position and was joined on the front row with Noah Gragson. 

Prior to the race, Austin Hill’s No. 61 AISIN Group Toyota Supra failed pre-race inspection twice, resulting with his team losing pit road selection for next weekend’s series race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. In addition, drivers like Brandon Jones and Joe Graf Jr. were not in their respective cars as the command to fire engines was given, resulting with both competitors having to hustle to their cars as the engines from the rest of the field were being ignited.


American Muscle

When the green flag waved and the race started, Briscoe jumped ahead with an early lead on the inside lane and was able to move in front of Noah Gragson on the outside lane in Turn 2 to retain the lead. He returned to the inside lane entering the tri-oval, but Gragson gained a run on the outside lane to emerge ahead and lead the first lap.

The following lap, Justin Allgaier left teammate Gragson out to dry on the outside lane to lead the second lap by a nose over Briscoe as the field expanded to two lanes while battling for positions. 

By the third lap, Briscoe emerged with the lead to lead a lap for himself for the first time. Behind, Austin Cindric settled behind Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang followed by Anthony Alfredo and Justin Haley while Allgaier was the first competitor running on the inside lane followed by teammate Michael Annett.

Following the first five laps of the race, Briscoe continued to lead followed by Cindric, Alfredo, Allgaier as the field continued to run in two lanes while remaining in the draft and close to one another in a pack.

Five laps later, on Lap 10, Briscoe and Allgaier battled dead even for the lead and in a double lane battle within the pack. By then, Haley moved up to third place behind Cindric while Alfredo dropped back to 20th place.

With the field reaching its halfway mark of the first stage, Briscoe continued to run ahead of the pack followed by Cindric, Haley, Brandon Jones, Allgaier, Riley Herbst, Annett, Brandon Brown, Harrison Burton and Ryan Sieg while Ross Chastain and Noah Gragson were running inside the top 16 on the track. 

With five laps remaining in the first stage and the early double-wide pack racing breaking apart, Briscoe led a single-file line with seven cars on the inside lane while Annett was the first car running on the outside lane in eighth place. By then, A.J. Allmendinger, who started at the rear of the field, cracked the top 15 while Alfredo and Daniel Hemric were running in the top 10 and as the highest-running non-title contenders on the track.

When the final lap of the first stage started, the field started to expand to two lanes as a multitude of Playoff contenders battled for spots in the top 10 for stage points. When the first stage concluded on Lap 25, Briscoe emerged out in front as he collected his eighth stage victory of the season. Cindric settled in second place followed by Brandon Jones, Haley and Alfredo while Herbst, Sieg, Harrison Burton, Hemric and Allgaier settled in the top 10. By then, Playoff contenders Brandon Brown, Gragson, Chastain and Annett failed to secure stage points.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Briscoe emerged with the lead following a two-tire pit stop, with Jones, Burton, Cindric and Herbst following behind after two-tire stops.

The second stage started on Lap 29 with Briscoe and Jones on the front row. At the start, Briscoe moved in front of Jones on the bottom lane to retain the lead. 

The following lap, Jones led a lap for the first time by a nose over Briscoe on the inside lane and with teammates Harrison Burton and Herbst tucked behind Jones’ No. 19 Menards/Swiffer Toyota Supra. Leading the outside lane was Briscoe followed by Cindric, Sieg, Alfredo, Chastain and Haley.

Not long after, the outside lane led by Briscoe prevailed with a number of cars opting to run on the outside lane while the inside lane led by Jones fell back due to a lack of cars. Cindric continued to settle in second place behind Briscoe while Alfredo and Sieg made aggressive moves while attempting to move to the front. 

By Lap 35, drivers like Haley, Hemric, Allgaier, Gragson and Chastain moved up behind Briscoe and Cindric with nearly the entire field opting to run in a single-file line on the outside lane.  

Five laps later, on Lap 40, Briscoe continued to lead followed by Ford teammate Cindric and Haley while JR Motorsports’ teammates Hemric, Allgaier and Gragson settled in fourth through sixth. Chastain was in seventh place followed by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Harrison Burton and Herbst. Brown and Sieg were in 11th and 12th while Annett was back in 21st place behind Jeffrey Earnhardt. Allmendinger was in 16th place in front of Alfredo and Josh Williams while Myatt Snider, Brett Moffitt and Austin Hill were in the top 15.

On Lap 42, the caution flew when Austin Hill, in an attempt to side draft Herbst, made contact, turned and sent Herbst for a spin in Turn 4 before he made hard contact into the inside wall at the driver’s door near the pit road entrance before he drove through the tri-oval grass and limped back to his pit stall.

Under caution, few like Gragson, Annett and Allmendinger pitted while the rest led by Briscoe and Cindric remained on track.

Prior to the restart with four laps remaining, the leaders stacked up the field and Chastain, who ran into the rear bumper of Hemric in the top 10, was hit by Harrison Burton, who was getting pushed by Sieg and Moffit, as he spun and touched the outside wall before he came back down and was hit by Colby Howard on the right side of his No. 10 Dyna-Gro Seed Chevrolet Camaro. Following the incident, the race was red-flagged for nine minutes due to fluid on the track.

When the red flag lifted, Chastain limped to pit road as his pit crew went to work to repair the damage and to ensure the car will reach minimum speed under NASCAR’s Damaged Policy guidelines. He was able to return back on the track and in front of the field with the field coming to the restart.

On a one-lap dash to conclude the second stage, Briscoe retained the lead over Cindric and Haley. When the second stage concluded on Lap 50, Briscoe was able to fend off Cindric and the field to collect his ninth stage victory of the season. Cindric settled in second followed by Hemric, Haley and Allgaier while Harrison Burton, Brandon Jones, Sieg, Brandon Brown and Gragson settled in the top 10.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Gragson emerged with the lead following a fuel-only pit stop. Briscoe followed behind in second place and on two fresh tires followed by Annett, Cindric, Hemric and Jones. Chastain and Harrison Burton pitted to have their respective cars repaired with both on the lead lap. Prior to this, Herbst took his No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota Supra to the garage and retired from the race following his late incident in the second stage. 

“It just sucks,” Herbst said at the infield care center on NBCSN. “This is the fastest race car I have ever had on a superspeedway. I was really excited for that. I want to thank everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing for that. It just sucks when a Truck Series guy comes in here to have fun. I’m really good friends with Austin [Hill], so I just hate to see that. If I went into the Truck Series and wrecked his Playoff hopes, he would be upset with me. I’m a little upset. We are not out of it yet. It’s going to be tough at the Roval, but we will see what we will have with the Monster Energy Supra.”

Following the pit stops, Allgaier was sent to the rear of the field due to having too many crew members over the pit wall. In addition, he also pitted again to address possible fluid concerns to his No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro, an issue first noted following the red flag period in the second stage, where he re-fired his car and a billow of smoke was puffing out of the tailpipes of his Camaro.

With 58 laps remaining, the final stage commenced as Allmendinger, Timmy Hill and Moffitt emerged out in front followed by Gragson and Briscoe. Entering the backstretch, the field expanded to three lanes, but Allmendinger retained the lead followed by Gragson, Annett, Hemric and Haley. Briscoe, meanwhile, was in seventh place while Cindric continued to run behind Briscoe.

At the halfway mark between Laps 56 and 57, Allmendinger continued to lead a bevy of cars running on the outside lane while Briscoe and Cindric fell back inside the top 20 and in front of Allgaier while stuck on the inside lane.

With 50 laps remaining, Allmendinger continued to lead followed by JRM’s Gragson, Annett and Hemric while Haley, Allmendinger’s teammate at Kaulig Racing, was in fifth place. Sieg was in sixth place followed by Austin Hill, Alfredo, Snider and Jesse Little. Meanwhile, Brandon Jones and Brandon Brown were in 12th and 13th while Briscoe, Chastain, Cindric and Allgaier were in 20th through 23rd behind Ryan Vargas. Harrison Burton was in 25th place behind Jeffrey Earnhardt.

With 40 laps remaining, Allmendinger and his No. 16 Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet Camaro continued to lead the way over a multitude of competitors racing on the outside lane. Gragson was in second place followed by teammates Annett and Hemric while Haley, Sieg, Austin Hill, Alfredo, Snider and Little were scored in the top 10. Jones and Brown were still in 12th and 13th, Chastain was in 17th and Allgaier was in 19th. Cindric and Briscoe were back in 20th and 22nd while Harrison Burton was in 26th.

Two laps later and while a majority of competitors led by Allmendinger moved to the inside lane and were slowing down in an attempt to make a pit stop under green, Austin Hill got hit from behind from Alfredo while backing off the pace and spun before he made head-on contact into the inside wall. Behind, Cindric slipped sideways as he also made contact into the inside wall and damaged the front nose of his No. 22 CARQUEST Auto Parts Ford Mustang beyond repair. The caution immediately flew as Jeffrey Earnhardt was also involved in the carnage. Though the wreck knocked Cindric out of contention for the remainder of the race, the stage points he earned by finishing in second place in both stages kept him above the top-eight cutline in the Playoff standings and with a decent cushion of transferring to the second round of the Playoffs.

“I just got smoked from behind,” Cindric said at the infield care center on NBCSN. “I had no chance of making it to pit road. It is really unfortunate. Obviously we hit the wall a ton. I really wanted to have a great run for our CARQUEST Ford Mustang and their first race on the car for us. It is really cool to have them back in the sport. We ran up front all day. Unfortunately, circumstances kept me and [Briscoe] from being up front with the way the slower cars stayed out…We were hoping to get ourselves locked into the next round today but we will have to go fight for it next week.”

At the time of caution, a handful of competitors led by Allmendinger entered pit road at the time the pit road entrance was closed. While some like Allmendinger and Gragson drove through pit road without service, Annett, Ryan Vargas and Haley received service and all three were penalized for pitting too soon.

Under caution and with the leaders pitting, Brown exited in first place followed by Allgaier, Jones, Chastain and Briscoe, all of whom opted for a fuel-only stop.

With 30 laps remaining, the race restarted under green with Brandon Brown and Allgaier on the front row. At the start, Brown retained the lead on the inside lane followed by Jones and Chastain while Allgaier and Briscoe battled in the top five. 

The following lane, Briscoe gained a huge run on the outside lane and drew himself alongside Brown for the lead followed by Allmendinger. Shortly after, the field started to expand into three lanes with Alex Labbe leading a small pack of cars on the outside lane and Jones leading Allgaier, Chastain and a number of competitors on the middle lane while Briscoe moved into the lead over Brown.

With 26 laps remaining and with Briscoe back in the lead ahead of Allmendinger, Josh Williams moved inside the top five while Brown was shuffled out of the inside lane and back in the middle lane, thus falling out of the top 10. 

Three laps later, with 23 laps remaining, the outside lane led by Briscoe prevailed with a bevy of competitors opting to run on the outside lane. By then, Briscoe was leading Allmendinger, Jones, Chastain and Labbe while teammates Gragson and Hemric were in sixth and seventh while running on the inside lane. 

Not long after, the caution flew due to debris on the frontstretch. Under caution, the mechanical issues for Allgaier returned with smoke starting to puff out of the tailpipes of his No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro.

With 18 laps remaining, the race restarted under green and with Briscoe and Allmendinger on the front row. At the start, the inside lane prevailed as Briscoe retained the lead followed by Labbe, Gragson and Hemric while Allmendinger got shuffled back.

A lap later, Allgaier, who was still dealing with mechanical issues, took his car to the garage and retired for the remainder of the race. At the front, teammates Gragson and Hemric along with Chastain moved up to second, third and fourth while Briscoe continued to lead. In addition, Harrison Burton moved up to fifth place followed by Snider, Moffitt, Alfredo, Sieg, Brown and Jones.

With 15 laps remaining and a majority of competitors settling on the outside lane in a single-file line, Briscoe, the lone Ford competitor towards the front, continued to lead followed by Chevrolet teammates Gragson, Hemric and Chastain while Burton, the highest-running Toyota competitor, was in fifth place ahead of Alfredo.

With 10 laps remaining, Briscoe was still scored as the leader followed by teammates Gragson and Hemric with Chastain and Harrison Burton in the top five. By then, Brandon Jones and Brandon Brown were in eighth and ninth followed by Haley, who rallied from his late pit road penalty, while Annett was back in 16th place and the first car on the inside lane.

With eight laps remaining, Haley started to make moves to the front as he moved into sixth place, two spots behind teammate Chastain, and after making bold moves on the inside lane before settling back in the draft on the outside lane. A few laps later, teammate Allmendinger made his move on the inside lane and started to move into the top five. By then, Briscoe continued to lead over Gragson, Hemric, Chastain and Burton with five laps remaining and with the field starting to jumble up for runs to the front and for the finish.

With three laps remaining, Haley started to form a line on the inside lane in an attempt for the lead while Briscoe continued to lead the race on the outside lane. Entering Turn 4, Gragson got Briscoe sideways following a bump, but Briscoe was able to prevent the car from spinning out in front of the pack as he continued to battle Gragson on the inside lane for the lead. 

With two laps remaining, Briscoe moved up the track to block Gragson, which allowed Haley to gain a run on the inside lane and challenge for the lead. In Turn 3, Haley moved into the lead followed by Annett and Sieg while Briscoe and Gragson made contact again, resulting in Briscoe scraping the outside wall and falling out of contention for the win.  

At the start of the final lap, Haley was still in the lead followed by Annett and Sieg while Gragson continued to battle on the outside lane in fourth place next to Jones. Through the backstretch, a multi-car wreck ensued that involved Harrison Burton, Allmendinger, Snider, Little, Moffitt and Brown. The wreck ended the race under caution as Haley emerged out in front and was able to grab the win. 

With his win, Haley joined Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the only competitors to achieve three consecutive Xfinity Series superspeedway wins. In addition, Haley became the first Xfinity competitor to win two series races at Talladega in one season as he recorded the fourth victory of the season and the sixth overall for Kaulig Racing. Ironically, five of Kaulig Racing’s six career wins in NASCAR have occurred on superspeedway venues.

“Three in a row is pretty hard to do on luck,” Haley said on NBCSN. “We had that penalty there. We struggled to get back, just bunny hopping. Thankfully, Kevin Hamlin, my spotter, was able to guide me through the bunny hops, being able to go from the bottom. We were so far back with 10 [laps] to go. This LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, these ECR Engines, [Richard Childress Racing], Matt Kaulig, we love you! We got this thing in the Round of 8, that’s the most important. Just super thankful to everyone. This is a blessing.”

Annett initially settled in second place for his best result of the season since winning the 2019 Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Following the race, however, Annett was disqualified due to his No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet Camaro being deemed too low in the left front. As a result, he was credited with a 37th-place result (last place in the field) and dropped from ninth to 12th in the Xfinity Playoff standings, also leaving him with a 38-point deficit entering next Saturday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

With that, Sieg was promoted into second place while Gragson, Brandon Jones and Hemric rounded out the top five on the track.

“A win would’ve been a lot better, but we’re still on the positive side [in the standings],” Sieg said on NBCSN. “You never know what can happen at the road courses. We’ll do a little bit of a different strategy or you never know what can happen [at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval]. We’re excited to go to the Roval plus 23 [points]…Points day, it was great.”

“This is probably a really impressive day for a superspeedway because I’ve never really been a part of running great all the stages and then, getting that finish that we needed there at the end as well,” Jones said on NBCSN. “These guys did a really good job from the last superspeedway that we went to to try to get our Menards Supra as fast as Xfinity Internet. I think we showed up with something that contended almost for the win there. Really excited, I think the Roval’s gonna be pretty good for us. We had such a good run at Daytona earlier at the road course that I think is gonna be really strong next week. Looking forward to it.”

Chastain rallied from his share of challenges throughout the race by finishing in sixth place while Josh Williams, Garrett Smithley, Brandon Brown and Alex Labbe rounded out the top 10.

“It’s just about the fight, the fight of this No. 10 team,” Chastain said on NBCSN. “It’s no different than some farmer putting Dyna-Gro Seed to the ground and hoping for that rain. It’s the same thing with us…My Chip Ganassi Racing pit crew did an awesome job. Those guys are some unsung heroes today. [The car]’s toed in, the crush panels are knocked out of it. It was a hard hit… Our Dyna-Gro Seed guys, they did what a farmer does and we kept fighting. We came out of here and gave ourselves a shot at the Roval.”

“That was really cool to be able to get out and get our Larry’s Hard Lemonade No. 68 upfront,” Brown said on NBCSN. “I was like, ‘Man, we got the Xfinity Internet speed in this thing.’ We were gonna go all the way to the front, but it’s Talladega. It was a lot of highs and lows. Getting shuffled all the way to the rear and it feels like your race is over, but then you get a line that moves you to the front. It was a lot of fun all day to do that and battle back and forth with these guys…I think we came out and we showed how strong we can be.”

Briscoe, who won both stages, led a race-high 73 laps and was in position to win until the final two laps, fell all the way back to 19th place.

“Obviously, there at the end, you’re doing everything you can to protect the runs,” Briscoe said on NBCSN. “[Gragson]’s trying to make moves, just part of racing here. It was exciting at least on my end. I was about wrecked two or three times trying to block. I knew that he had talked to Dale [Earnhardt Jr.] about how to run this place and obviously, I talked to Dale how to run this place. It was weird because I knew what [Gragson] was trying to do every time. So, I just kept trying to protect it and just, it’s part of racing here. But overall, a really good day for our Ford Performance Racing Ford to win two stages. That’s huge going into the next round. So, 20th, obviously, doesn’t tell the whole picture, but it’s part of racing here. We’re going on to the Roval next week and have some fun.”

“There’s so much going on. I don’t remember what happened,” Gragson said on NBCSN. “It’s pretty wild out there, racing for the win in the Xfinity Series. This is all I’ve ever dreamed of as a kid is to come to these races and have an opportunity to race for the win…It was definitely wild. [Briscoe] was throwing big blocks. That’s what you gotta do in the lead. I thought he did a pretty damn good job up there, but definitely unfortunate letting [Haley] get through for the win. I don’t love sitting here watching people do burnouts. Hopefully, we can go get a burnout at the Roval and take home a checkered flag.”

There were 13 lead changes for nine different leaders. The race featured seven cautions for 25 laps.

Results.

1. Justin Haley, two laps led

2. Ryan Sieg

3. Noah Gragson, two laps led

4. Brandon Jones, one lap led

5. Daniel Hemric

6. Ross Chastain

7. Josh Williams

8. Garrett Smithley

9. Brandon Brown, four laps led

10. Alex Labbe

11. Chad Finchum

12. Anthony Alfredo

13. Caesar Bacarella

14. Timmy Hill

15. Tommy Joe Martins

16. Joe Nemechek

17. Mike Harmon

18. Josh Bilicki

19. Chase Briscoe, 73 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner

20. Jeremy Clements

21. Matt Mills

22. Vinnie Miller

23. Harrison Burton

24. A.J. Allmendinger – OUT, Accident, 24 laps led

25. Jesse Little – OUT, Accident, five laps led

26. Myatt Snider – OUT, Accident

27. Brett Moffitt – OUT, Accident

28. Kody Vanderwal, three laps down

29. Justin Allgaier – OUT, Engine, one lap led

30. Ryan Vargas – OUT, Suspension

31. Joe Graf Jr. – OUT, Engine

32. Jeffrey Earnhardt – OUT, Accident

33. Austin Hill – OUT, Accident

34. Austin Cindric – OUT, Accident

35. Riley Herbst – OUT, DVP

36. Colby Howard – OUT, Accident, one lap led

37. Michael Annett – DISQUALIFIED

Playoff standings.

1. Chase Briscoe – Advanced

2. Justin Haley – Advanced

3. Austin Cindric +50

4. Noah Gragson +47

5. Brandon Jones +34

6. Ryan Sieg +27

7. Justin Allgaier +19

8. Ross Chastain +7

9. Harrison Burton -7

10. Brandon Brown -19

11. Riley Herbst -36

12. Michael Annett -38

Next on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval on Saturday, October 10, where the Round of 12 in the Xfinity Playoffs will conclude and the first round of eliminations will occur. The race will air at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.


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