Joe Gibbs Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek completely dominated in his first NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Martinsville Speedway last weekend as he led 198 of the 250 laps, swept all the stages, and put up a Perfect Driver Rating (150.0) leading him to his second win of the season.
Nemechek has had a hot start to his first full-time season in the Xfinity Series since 2019, posting a top-five or top-10 finish in all but one race. His success on the track thus far has him out front in the points standings with 319 points.
The Mooresville, North Carolina native will tackle Talladega Superspeedway next where he has posted two top-10 finishes in his three Xfinity Series starts at the track. Although his last stint at Talladega in the Xfinity Series was in 2021, Nemechek hasn’t lost his touch on superspeedways. In the season-opener at Daytona, he posted a second-place finish.
Nemechek isn’t the only JGR driver who had a stand-out performance at Martinsville – teammate Sammy Smith was right behind him to post a runner-up finish. The 18-year-old, Smith, is in his first full-time season in the Xfinity Series and has already become a popular name in the sport. He’s posted one win (Phoenix), three top fives, three top 10s and las led 152 laps this year.
He’ll be posting his first start at the iconic superspeedway in Talladega this weekend.
Back for some superspeedway action: Talladega up next
After some short track racing, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be doing a 180 and heading to Talladega Superspeedway for the Ag-Pro 300 on Saturday, April 22 at 4 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio.
The 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway has hosted 34 Xfinity Series races, producing 28 different race winners and 23 different pole winners. Only three drivers have won races from the pole or first starting position – Joe Nemechek (1998), Tony Stewart (2008) and Justin Haley (2020).
Cup Series regular Martin Truex Jr. has posted the most wins at Talladega in the Xfinity Series but it’s Joe Nemechek who holds the most records – most poles (five), top 10s (nine), lead lap finishes (14), laps completed (2,153), laps led (202), and is tied with Joey Logano for most top fives at seven. Nemechek also holds the qualifying record with his 1997 speed of 193.517 mph.
Only one previous winner is entered in this weekend’s Ag-Pro 300 – Jeb Burton. He snagged his win in the spring of 2021 and led a total of 20 of the 90 laps. In total, Burton has six starts under his belt at Talladega, posting one win (2021), two top fives and three top 10s.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will be skipping practice this weekend and heading straight for qualifying on Friday, April 21 at 5:35 p.m. ET, streamed on FS1.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Ag-Pro 300
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Saturday, April 22
The Time: 4 p.m. ET
The Purse: $1,438,641
TV: FS1, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300.58 miles (113 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 113)
Fans can always expect the unexpected on superspeedways, but some drivers have learned to hang on until the end or simply have a knack for the action-packed racing.
One of those drivers is RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg. The 35-year-old has yet to post a NASCAR Xfinity Series win but has proved that he can hang out front at Talladega. In his 12 starts at the 2.66-mile track, he’s posted four top fives and five top 10s. In both Talladega Superspeedway races last season, he posted fourth-place finishes and nearly pulled off his first win in 2020 (finished runner-up). Keeping the momentum on superspeedways in 2023 (Daytona), he pulled off an eighth-place finish.
JR Motorsports’ Josh Berry is still on the hunt for a win this season and Talladega may be the place where he gets the job done. In his most recent start at the track (2022), he posted a fifth-place finish. In total, he’s posted four starts with one top-five and two top-10 finishes.
JRM teammate Brandon Jones is still trying to find his groove with his new team and after a solid run last weekend at Martinsville, there’s no doubt he’ll be carrying that energy into this weekend’s Ag-Pro 300. Jones has 10 starts at the Alabama track, posting three top fives and four top 10s. He almost got a taste of victory at the track in 2018 and 2021 after posting runner-up finishes.
Dashin at ‘Dega: Dash 4 Cash continues
Last week at Martinsville, Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry, Chandler Smith and John Hunter Nemechek were racing to the finish line for the second $100,000 bonus prize after Allgaier snagged the first check at Richmond. With the race win, Nemechek took home the money and secured his spot in the third segment of Dash 4 Cash at Talladega Superspeedway. He will be joined by JGR teammate Sammy Smith, Stewart Haas Racing’s Cole Custer, and JR Motorsports’ Josh Berry.
Nemechek has made three starts at Talladega, posting two top-10 finishes while his teammate, Smith, will be making his Xfinity Series debut on the Alabama superspeedway.
Custer has given the Talladega track a go three times, posting one top-10 finish (2018).
Berry has four starts under his belt at ‘Dega, posting one top-five and two top-10 finishes.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings – With eight races down, the Sunoco Rookie class heads to Talladega with Chandler Smith leading the pack with 285 points. He sits in third in the overall points standings, 34 points back from John Hunter Nemechek in first.
Sammy Smith holds the second-place spot with 254 points. He has racked up one win (Phoenix), three top fives and three top 10s.
Parker Retzlaff sits in third with 149 points. He kicked off his 2023 season with a fourth-place finish at Daytona and will look to have another great finish on Talladega’s 2.66-mile track.
Closing out the competition is Blaine Perkins with 61 points.
Riley Herbst pulling double duty – Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst will be running in this weekend’s Ag-Pro 300 then coming back the next day to run in the Cup Series’ Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
He will be behind the wheel of the No. 15 Ford for Rick Ware Racing. This will be Herbst’s second career start in the Cup Series.
Although he has yet to post a start at Talladega in the Cup Series, he’s made six starts at the track in the Xfinity Series, posting one top five and two top 10s.