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Jake Finch Has Something to Prove With Strong Start to 2024 Season

Jake Finch has a point to prove during the 2024 season, and that was on full display Saturday at South Alabama Speedway.

It was supposed to be a double-duty weekend for Finch, but Mother Nature intervened. Instead, the UARA National Series Rattler 250 and the Pro Late Model “Baby Rattler” 125 both took place on Saturday.

Finch qualified on the pole for the Grasshopper Baby Rattler 125 presented by Rogers-Dabbs Chevrolet and JR’s Lawnmower Shop, then qualified third for the Super Late Model Rattler 250.

He jumped out to a big lead in the Baby Rattler, but a caution at lap 77 erased that advantage. Instead, Finch battled Stephen Nasse for the win, briefly losing the top spot before taking it back with 25 laps to go.

RELATED: Jake Finch Outduels Stephen Nasse for Baby Rattler 125 Victory at South Alabama
Photo credit: Reid Scott/Liberty Racing Review

The Rattler 250 ended with Finch chasing another short track superstar, Bubba Pollard. Pollard held off Finch to win his third Rattler 250, with Finch a close second after matching Pollard stride-for-stride to close out the night.

After 375 laps against some of the best Late Model competition in the country, Finch had a win and a runner-up finish. Four-tenths of a second separated Finch from a sweep of one of the biggest Late Model weekends each year.

“I think this is something that I wanted to prove to myself I could do this,” Finch told Racing America. “I know I have the talent to be able to do it. To come out here, both races, have a back-to-back first and second and beat Nasse and finish second to Bubba. Those are pretty good guys to race with.

“I could have gotten to Bubba, but I didn’t want to hit him and get crucified on Twitter and everything. It would be way too deep for me to drive it in there to get to him. A solid run for our No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet, and I’m excited for what we have to come.”

It’s a statement weekend for Finch in that sense. Not only does it confirm his belief in his abilities at this stage of his young career, it also puts others on notice that Finch will be one to watch in 2024 in beyond.

“I saw that NASCAR Regional post or something like that, saying I wasn’t even in the top 15 or whatever on prospects. I commented on it, just messing around. I never really comment on anything or say any sort of thing I have on my mind, you know. It’s just a different mindset for me this year of having a little bit more confidence in myself and my ability.”

Last year, Finch won an ARCA Menards Series East event at Dover Motor Speedway. He was in contention for his first ARCA Menards Series win in February at Daytona, leading 65 laps before being collected in a multi-car melee on the final lap.

‘This Is Everything’ Gus Dean Takes Home A Wild ARCA Season Opener At Daytona

That ARCA experience has already been valuable and translated to his increased confidence in the car, regardless of whether it is a Late Model or the Venturini Motorsports ARCA entry.

“Being with Shannon Rursch on the ARCA side at Venturini has really helped me with that. He gets me really amped up before races and gets my mindset right. I worry a lot, if you ever listen to our radio. I worry a lot and try not to mess up, stuff like that.”

There’s also a feel-good story behind the strong start to the year. The Baby Rattler win came in Finch’s second start with Ronnie Sanders Racing, driving the famed No. 18. Sanders is a three-time winner of the Rattler 250 as a driver, and drivers such as Pollard, Casey Roderick and Hunter Robbins have only continued that success in recent years.

This year, Finch is driving a car he cheered for growing up around the Late Model racing world in the south. He finished second to Roderick at the Alabama 200, and now has a win in the car as well.

“To be able to have those good runs with Ronnie and have that relationship with those guys. I started off, there’s a picture floating around when I was nine or 10 of me at the racetrack when Casey [Roderick] was driving that 18. I was wearing his firesuit walking around the pits at Pensacola.

“To be able to drive that car, not only drive it but win at Opp and be so close to home and have so many family members here is super cool. I think we have a lot more to come this year.”

-Photo credit: Reid Scott/Liberty Racing Review

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