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Chicago Top-Five Continues Stealthy Xfinity Rookie Campaign for Jesse Love

Jesse Love Rookie Campaign NASCAR Xfinity Series Chicago Street Course

Photo Credit: Tyson Gifford,

This season, the shadow of three-time Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen has been looming large over the NASCAR Xfinity Series, with the Auckland, New Zealand native moving to the United States to run full-time in the series for Kaulig Racing.

The attention it has brought to the Xfinity Series is much-needed, and no doubt well-deserved, considering the 35-year-old racer jumped in a NASCAR Cup Series vehicle for the first time last July for Trackhouse Racing and won on the streets of Chicago.

However, for others, like Richard Childress Racing driver Jesse Love, the impact of having a fellow Rookie of The Year (ROTY) contender with the prestige that Shane Van Gisbergen has developed, can muffle the accomplishments of a strong rookie campaign.

Saturday’s Xfinity Series event at the Chicago Street Course was a perfect example of that exact phenomenon.

Love, piloting the No. 2 WAT Chevrolet Camaro, led a race-high 14 laps in Saturday’s The Loop 110, matching eventual race-winner Shane van Gisbergen, who ended up making the final pass for the lead on Menlo Park, California with three laps remaining.

The 19-year-old Xfinity Series rookie would slide back to fifth in the race’s closing laps, after being passed by NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kyle Larson and Ty Gibbs, and road course veteran Parker Kligerman.

“While in the lead at the end, I burned my rear tires by throwing large blocks and making my corners tighter, but that was my only hope of winning the race,” Love said post-race. “My goal was to keep the No. 19 behind me so I could get away on the final lap.”

When you consider that Love was seeing the 2.14-mile street course for the first time, for the defending ARCA champion to be able to hold his own against some of the best road course drivers in the second-tier series is impressive, no doubt.

“This Richard Childress Racing team did an excellent job today though. This is our best finish on a road course this year. We’ve been really good on the road courses, both at COTA and Sonoma. This course is so much fun to drive and probably the hardest place I’ve raced at throughout my career. Overall, it was a solid points day for us.”

In a season regarded as one of the most competitive in recent memory, Jesse Love, an Xfinity Series rookie for Richard Childress Racing, is sitting inside the top five in regular-season point standings, just 49 points behind his teammate Austin Hill.

Other than his total dominance in the first two events of the season at Daytona and Atlanta, and his victory at Talladega Superspeedway, Love has managed to accomplish this in a relatively stealthy manner, collecting five top-five and nine top-10 finishes. Now, the former Toyota Racing Development prospect is focused on the post-season.

“We’ve had a rough month, but I think we are back on the right track to keep pushing to the Playoffs. We are trying to get better at everything leading into those final seven races to go race for a championship.”

Saturday’s fifth-place finish also marks the first time in Love’s Xfinity Series career that he has finished top-five in back-to-back events, after making an impressive rebound to finish third-place last time out at Nashville Superspeedway after starting from 38th in the scorching heat.

It’ll be a difficult task for Love to take down the experienced veterans of the NASCAR Xfinity Series with his limited experience, but as the series returns to racetracks for the second time, the progression of the two-time ARCA Menards Series West champion will be fascinating to observe, as that familiarity could turn the No. 2 Chevrolet into a title contender.

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