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Austin Hill snatches dramatic Xfinity victory at Atlanta in overtime

In an event dominated by rookie Jesse Love, teammate Austin Hill captured the final spotlight by claiming a dramatic, overtime victory in the RAPTOR King of Tough 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday, February 24, for his second consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series victory to commence the 2024 season.

The 29-year-old Hill from Winston, Georgia, led the final two of 168 over-scheduled laps in an event where he was poised for a potential top-10 result while teammate Jesse Love dominated the event from pole position and had won the event’s two-stage periods. Following a caution period with two laps remaining that sent the event into overtime and with fuel becoming a concern for a multitude of front-runners, Love’s dominant quest to victory came to a halt at the start of overtime as he stumbled to keep up to pace. Love’s misfortune parted the seas for Hill to move into the lead. From there, Hill was able to fend off Chandler Smith for two laps to grab his second consecutive Xfinity victory to commence the 2024 season.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, February 23, rookie Jesse Love notched his second consecutive pole position of the 2024 season after posting a pole-winning lap at 173.935 mph in 31.874 seconds. Joining him on the front row was teammate Austin Hill, winner of this year’s season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway, after he clocked in the second-fastest qualifying lap at 173.706 mph in 31.916 seconds.

Prior to the event, the following names that included Brandon Jones, Patrick Emerling, Jeb Burton, Parker Retzlaff, Joey Gase, Ryan Ellis and Brennan Poole dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective entries.

When the green flag waved and the race started, teammates Love and Hill dueled for the lead for a full lap in front of two tight-packed lanes until Love managed to lead the first lap by a hair. By the conclusion of the second lap, Love had both lanes to his control with the lead while Riley Herbst was battling Hill for the runner-up spot.

By the fourth lap, Josh Williams had fallen off the pace due to a flat tire on his Kaulig Racing entry. Amid Williams’ issues, the race remained under green flag conditions as Love also retained the lead followed by Herbst, Sam Mayer, Ryan Truex and John Hunter Nemechek while Chandler Smith, Sheldon Creed, Hill, Parker Kligerman and Sammy Smith occupied the top 10 by the fifth lap mark.

Through the first 15 scheduled laps, Love continued to lead in front of a long single-file line of competitors that included Herbst, Mayer, Truex and Nemechek while Hill, Kligerman, AJ Allmendinger, Sammy Smith and Justin Allgaier trailed in the top 10.

Fifteen laps later, Love retained the lead ahead of Herbst, Mayer, Kligerman and Truex in the draft while Allmendinger, Allgaier, Creed, Sammy Smith and Ryan Sieg were running in the top 10.

When the first sage period concluded on Lap 40, Love, who has led every lap thus far, captured his second Xfinity stage victory of the 2024 season. Herbst settled in second while Mayer, Truex, Kligerman, Allmendinger, Allgaier, Creed, Ryan Sieg and Sammy Sith were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, a majority of the field led by Love pitted. During the pit stops, Brandon Jones was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation while Poole was also penalized due to his crew members being over the pit box too soon.

The second stage period started on Lap 47 as Love and Kligerman occupied the front row. At the start, Love and Kligerman dueled for the lead through the first two turns until Love muscled the No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro ahead with the lead with drafting help from Allgaier. Kligerman, however, would spend the next two laps battling dead even with Love for the top spot until Love muscled back ahead by the Lap 50 mark.

Nearing the Lap 60 mark, the caution flew after JJ Yeley spun off the front nose of Kyle Weatherman exiting the frontstretch and entering the first turn. During the caution period, some drivers, including Shane van Gisbergen, Brandon Jones, Allmendinger and Kyle Sieg pitted while the rest led by Love remained on the track.

During the next restart on Lap 63, Love battled against teammate Hill for nearly a lap until he muscled ahead from the outside lane as he was pursued by Allgaier and Herbst while Hill remained as the lead competitor on the inside lane. As the laps progressed, Nemechek made contact with the outside wall in Turn 3 and Hill drifted outside the top 10 while he continued to run the inside lane. Amid the events, Love continued to lead the race.

When the second stage period concluded on Lap 80, Love captured his second consecutive stage victory of the 2024 Xfinity season. Allgaier settled in second while Herbst, Truex, Sammy Smith, Chandler Smith, Cole Custer, Hill, Allmendinger and Creed were scored in the top 10.

During the stage break, nearly the entire field led by Love pitted while Jeb Burton remained on the track. Shortly after, Burton would surrender the lead to pit, which gave the lead to Allmendinger, who only pitted for fuel.

With 76 laps remaining, the final stage commenced as Allmendinger and Love occupied the front row. At the start, Allmendinger and Love dueled for the lead in front of two packed lanes. Allmendinger and Love would then swap the lead during the next seven laps before Love assumed control of both lanes with the top spot with 67 laps remaining.

With 50 laps remaining, Love was leading ahead of Allmendinger, Herbst, Truex and Kligerman while Hill, Brandon Jones, Custer, Mayer and Sammy Smith occupied the top 10 in front of Allgaier, van Gisbergen, Chandler Smith, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ryan Sieg, Creed, Retzlaff, Anthony Alfredo, Leland Honeyman and Ryan Ellis.

Fifteen laps later and with the majority of the field running in a long single-file line towards the outside lane, Love continued to lead ahead of Herbst, Truex, Kligerman and teammate Hill. By then, Allmendinger, who was stuck on the inside lane, had slipped within the top 15.

Another 15 laps later, Love retained the lead as part of a 15-car breakaway followed by Herbst, Truex, Kligerman and Hill.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event and with the leaders approaching lapped traffic, Love maintained the lead in front of Herbst while Truex, Kligerman and Hill remained in the top five, though fuel was becoming a concern for the front-runners.

Then with three laps remaining, Custer, who was running in the top 10, fell off the pace through the frontstretch after he ran out of fuel. Teammate Herbst then met the same fate entering Turns 1 and 2, but the event remained under green flag conditions. With two laps remaining, however, the caution flew after Ryan Sieg came to a stop on the backstretch due to running out of fuel.

During the caution period, some including Brandon Jones, Chandler Smith, van Gisbergen, Allmendinger, Creed, Retzlaff, Jeremy Clements and Alfredo pitted while the rest led by Love remained on the track. With the event sent into overtime, disaster struck for Allgaier, who was running toward the front but was forced to pit after he ran out of fuel prior to the start.

At the start of overtime, Love along with Kligerman and Allmendinger fell off the pace after all three ran out of fuel through the frontstretch. With Love stumbling on gas, Austin Hill shoved Ryan Truex out of his path to assume the lead through the first two turns and the backstretch followed by a hard-charging Chandler Smith while Shane van Gisbergen followed suit in third.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Hill remained as the leader by a narrow margin over Chandler Smith and van Gisbergen. With Smith unable to gain enough momentum amid the draft to mount a final lap charge, Hill was able to maintain control of both lanes and cycle his way back to the frontstretch to claim his second consecutive checkered flag of the 2024 season.

With the victory, Hill notched his eighth career win in the Xfinity Series, his sixth on a superspeedway venue and his third victory in his previous four starts at Atlanta, his home track. Hill also became the first competitor to win the first two events on the schedule since Tony Stewart made the last accomplishment in 2008.

“I just gotta thank my guys, everyone on this No. 21 Bennett Chevrolet,” Hill said on FS1. “We all worked through it. I was really thinking we were down and out. I was thinking [Love] was going to go get ‘em, and hey, if I can’t win, let my teammate win. We were riding there in fourth or fifth, whatever it was. I was saving fuel. We came to the restart zone and I’m like sloshing it around and we go through the gears. When I went to shift from third to fourth [gear], I actually stumbled and [Chandler Smith] hit me really hard, and that woke it back up, and I had enough fuel to complete the lap.

“But I’ve got to take this moment to congratulate, Jesse Love, my teammate. He ran an awesome race. To be a rookie and to lead that many laps, he should be sitting in Victory Lane right now. The No. 2 team did a hell of a job. So awesome to win here at my home track again for the third time. Man, what a race. I thought we were down and out. I really did. I thought we were just gonna run second or third and here we are in Victory Lane.”

Chandler Smith settled in the runner-up spot followed by Shane van Gisbergen, who achieved his first top-three result in the Xfinity circuit. Sheldon Creed came home in fourth place followed by Retzlaff while Jeremy Clements, Alfredo, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ryan Truex and Sammy Smith finished in the top 10.

Jesse Love, who led a race-high 157 laps, ended up in 12th place ahead of Allmendinger after he came up two laps shy on his dry tank of fuel.

There were 11 lead changes for five different leaders. The race featured four cautions for 23 laps.

Following the second event of the 2024 Xfinity Series season, Austin Hill continues to lead the regular-season standings by 17 points over Sheldon Creed, 28 over Riley Herbst, 30 over both Chandler Smtih and Jesse Love, and 36 over Parker Retzlaff.


1. Austin Hill, two laps led

2. Chandler Smith

3. Shane van Gisbergen

4. Sheldon Creed

5. Parker Retzlaff

6. Jeremy Clements

7. Anthony Alfredo

8. Jeffrey Earnhardt

9. Ryan Truex

10. Sammy Smith

11. Sam Mayer

12. Jesse Love, 157 laps, Stage 1 & 2 winner

13. AJ Allmendinger, eight laps led

14. Brandon Jones

15. Riley Herbst

16. Cole Custer

17. Kyle Weatherman

18. BJ McLeod

19. Parker Kligerman, one lap led

20. Brennan Poole, one lap down

21. Leland Honeyman, one lap down

22. Ryan Sieg, one lap down

23. Jeb Burton, one lap down

24. JJ Yeley, one lap down

25. Ryan Ellis, one lap down

26. Nick Leitz, one lap down

27. Hailie Deegan, one lap down

28. Justin Allgaier, one lap down

29. Joey Gase, two laps down

30. Blaine Perkins, two laps down

31. Dawson Cram, two laps down

32. John Hunter Nemechek, three laps down

33. Patrick Emerling, three laps down

34. Garrett Smithley, three laps down

35. CJ McLaughlin, four laps down

36. Kyle Sieg, four laps down, one lap led

37. Josh Williams, nine laps down

38. Jordan Anderson – OUT, Steering

Next on the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is The LiUNA! At Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event is scheduled to occur next Saturday, March 2, at 5 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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