Jesse Love just continues to hammer out race wins in the ARCA Menards Series. In a one-lap shootout in an overtime finish in Friday’s General Tire 100 at Watkins Glen, the 18-year-old Venturini Motorsports driver shoved his way past Connor Zillisch for the lead in the final turn of the race.
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Zillisch, who led 34 of the 42 laps on the day, and had skillfully maintained the lead despite a broken sway bar, was left with nothing to do but watch the No. 20 Toyota Camry sail on by for the race win.
Love, who scored his eighth win of the 2023 ARCA season, praised Zillisch for a nearly flawless race, and hopes the driver of the No. 28 isn’t too upset with him for applying the bumper in the final turn of the race.
“First off, hats off to Connor Zillisch,” Love said. “I hope he doesn’t think it was dirty. It was borderline. Obviously, I had to do something. I felt like he left the door open for me to do something, and then obviously, he got into the slick rumble strips and lost drive off.”
Zillisch says that he went into the final corner a little more conservatively than he probably should have, as he wasn’t sure how bad the rain would affect his car in the final turn.
“I kind of took it too easy. You never know what the rain is going to be like when you’re leading like that. So, I took it easy,” Zillisch explained. “Jesse was going for the win, and did what he had to do. I know it won’t be my last time here. You just have to learn from these things, keep your head up, and move on.”
While he had a very good attitude about the loss, Zillisch did admit that losing a race that he had won definitely stings.
“It’s so frustrating. You lead that many laps of a race, to lose it in the last corner, it doesn’t matter how you lose it,” Zillisch said. “I don’t know. I feel like I didn’t execute or something. I felt like everything was against me, almost. I had the swaybar arm disconnect. That slowed me down a bunch there for 15-20 laps at the end of the race. Then, the caution came out with four [laps] to go, and I was like, ‘well, now we’re going to get a restart.’ Then it started raining, we had to come down and change tires.”
For Love, this win possibly meant more than any of his other six ARCA victories this year, as he feels he isn’t super talented on road courses.
“I look like a blind dog drinking a smoothie on a road course, I feel like,” Love joked. “I don’t know, I just kind of calmed down after I fell back to fourth and Brent [Crews] got by me and drove away. I was like, ‘Just regroup, you’re probably not going to win it,’ just learned lap by lap.”
Brent Crews finished third behind Love and Zillisch, while William Sawalich, and Dale Quarterley rounded out the top-five finishers.
Kris Wright gambled on the final caution of the day, an stayed on the wet race track with his slick tires. The gamble didn’t pay off ultimately, as Wright faded from the lead to sixth on the final lap.
While Love scored another win, one of his prime challengers for the ARCA Menards Series championship — Frankie Muniz suffered a DNF. Muniz’s No. 30 Rette Jones Racing Ford went to the garage on Lap 22 with mechanical issues, and he wouldn’t return.
Muniz would be credited with a 16th-place finish.
As a result, Andres Perez de Lara has moved past Muniz for second in the ARCA Menards Series point standings. The Rev Racing driver now sits 114 points back of Love, the point leader.
Corey LaJoie, a NASCAR Cup Series regular for Spire Motorsports, started the race from the pole but retired on Lap 23 after the No. 63 Jeff Spraker Racing machine he was piloting suffered brake issues.
ARCA Menards Series General Tire 100 at Watkins Glen Results
|12||7||2||Andres Perez de Lara||Chevrolet||41||1 lap||Running||32|
|13||21||10||Ed Pompa||Toyota||41||1 lap||Running||31|
|14||8||6||Jack Wood||Chevrolet||37||5 laps||Running||30|
|15||1||63||Corey LaJoie||Chevrolet||23||19 laps||Out||31|
|16||10||30||Frankie Muniz||Ford||22||20 laps||Out||28|
|17||17||31||Casey Carden||Chevrolet||21||21 laps||Out||27|
|18||14||02||Parker Retzlaff||Chevrolet||11||31 laps||Out||26|
|19||18||66||Jon Garrett||Chevrolet||4||38 laps||Out||25|
|20||19||48||Brad Smith||Chevrolet||1||41 laps||Out||24|
|21||20||03||A.J. Moyer||Ford||0||42 laps||Out||23|
|22||22||06||Tim Richmond||Toyota||0||42 laps||Did Not Start||22|