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Ag-Pro 300: Austin Hill Emerges as the Top Dog as Dale Jr’s Ace Hopes to Go All Guns Blazing

Published 04/18/2024, 1:24 PM EDT

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USA Today via Reuters

NASCAR is heading to Talladega this Saturday! The longest draft track on the calendar is back and from the look of things, the Ag-Pro 300 Xfinity Series race features some strong contenders this year. One driver in particular has oddsmakers buzzing–Austin Hill of Richard Childress Racing. 

Entering his third full-time year with RCR, the #21 driver has scored three back-to-back season-opening victories at Daytona. At +400, Austin Hill has emerged as the bettor’s favorite. He’s shown strong finishes on similar tracks, and with a little bit of luck, the #21 driver could see himself through for the season’s third victory while picking up his first at Talladega. However, there are some other drivers challenging Hill’s fate at the track. 

Justin Allgaier bettors’ pick to break Austin Hill’s draft track streak

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On the other hand, out of all four JR Motorsports drivers, only one has been triumphant on tracks above 2.5 miles, and that too, after thirteen long years of trying. The driver of the #7 Chevy, Justin Allgaier is the most interesting option for an inaugural ‘Dega victory in 2024. 

Allgaier will certainly look for a better finish in this race, after leading the most laps and losing out to teammate Sam Mayer at Texas last weekend. Insider’s Betting Digest has Allgaier as a +1200 underdog for the race. In a recent release, the former ARCA champ was certainly enthusiastic.“Hopefully we can run a smooth, clean race and work well with our JRM teammates to be upfront and fighting for the win in the end,” Allgaier told Speedway Media.

But speaking of Mayer, the #1 driver looks to be in solid form, after picking up his season’s first victory, with a sweet $100,000 Dash 4 Cash prize, following a P2 podium finish at Martinsville. Currently sitting at +1500 odds, Mayer brings a fearless attitude and a knack for finding the front at Talladega (look back to his 2022 fall P2 finish).

Meanwhile, a mainstay of Dale Jr’s team for almost a decade, Brandon Jones, a +2000 longshot, shouldn’t be completely discounted. Jones has a wealth of experience at Talladega with three top-five and four top-10 finishes. The #9 driver has made the podium twice in Alabama, and some whispers suggest he is the underdog’s pick for a surprise victory. However, the fourth JRM driver, Sammy Smith is largely unproven on superspeedways, with only two top-10 finishes in seven starts on a drafting track. 

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Chevrolet all day for six years straight at Talladega

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Regardless, the Xfinity Series has already witnessed two RCR victories, both coming at the hands of Austin Hill. Moreover, with an average starting spot of 1.3 in four Xfinity races run at Talladega, RCR’s qualifying strengths could be on full display this coming Saturday. Interestingly, his teammate, Jesse Love led most laps in both the Atlanta race, as well as the Daytona season-opener that saw Hill lead the #21 to victory lane. 

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Hill has also led most laps out of all active Xfinity Series drivers at ‘Dega, with an impressive 141 since 2021. But a deeper dive will reveal that Chevrolet has maintained a six-year winning streak over the unpredictable Alabama draft track with an even more incredible win percentage of 65.7%. It is important to note, that the only active winners at this year’s Talladega race, Jeb Burton and AJ Allmendinger, also got their three combined NXS wins driving a Chevy. The Dinger’s 2022 victory with Kaulig Racing must ring loud amongst the experts, as a +1000 favorite, for an inaugural triumph in 2024.

Contrastingly, a Toyota driver is the points leader heading to Talladega. Chandler Smith, coming off a top 5 streak, two wins and a P15 at Texas has +1500 odds for a fifth JGR victory this Saturday. The second series festivities will rev on with qualifying on Friday, April 19 at 5:30 PM ET. On Saturday, 4:00 PM, all 113 laps, of the Ag-Pro 300 Xfinity race will grace screens for another superspeedway draft dance at the 2.66-mile draft track.

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Written by:

Amman Augustin

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Amman Augustin is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. With his coverage majorly focusing on the lavish off-track lives of drivers, Amman often brings the lesser-known side of Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick to their fans. Another aspect of NASCAR where he flourishes is covering rivalries between competitors.
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Edited by:

Shreya Singh