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Jesse Love Makes Smooth Transition to RCR

Jesse Love during NASCAR XFINITY Series qualifying at Richmond Raceway. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

Jesse Love saw the writing on the wall.

As Love ended his first full-time ARCA Menards Series campaign with 10 wins, he didn’t have a clear path. At one point, it seemed like he’d go full-time in the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series with TRICON Garage. Then he got moved to a different seat before it got cut down to part-time.

But as the 2023 race season concluded, an opportunity presented itself at Richard Childress Racing. Love and his team worked to make it happen, and on Oct. 24, they made it official — he’d drive the No. 2 entry in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

All things considered, Love thinks the transition to a new manufacturer, team and series has gone surprisingly well.

“It’s been really smooth. I think that I have started off — me and the guys — better than I thought we were going to,” Love told The Podium Finish at Martinsville Speedway. “To be able to be in their Xfinity car was a really good option for me and I feel like I have a good path to Cup as long as I go do my job. That was probably the biggest reason, and the XFINITY thing, it’s the most fun thing to drive.

“I haven’t won any races so far, but I feel like I’ve outplanned my coverage pretty well and I’ve worked really hard to get to that point. So because of that, I feel like it’s made the ARCA deal look really good.

“I feel like we’ve put in a lot of work and a lot of effort and a lot of time into our preseason stuff before the season even started, and we were able to start off really strong.”

Strong start indeed.

Through seven races, Love has four top 10s and sits fourth in driver’s points. But that doesn’t tell the entire story.

Love won the pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway and dominated, leading 157 of 169 laps and winning both stages. A late caution, however, set up NASCAR Overtime and the 19-year-old ran out of fuel, turning a potential victory into a 12th-place finish. He also won the pole for his debut at Daytona International Speedway and led 34 laps before finishing 20th.

Jesse Love

Jesse Love during the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

“It’s not as crazy of a learning curve as I thought it was gonna be,” Love explained. “It just goes to show my development at the ARCA level and [Venturini Motorsports] was extraordinary. If I made this jump two years ago and didn’t get that full season of ARCA in, I probably would have sucked. Just grateful that I got to have those races and get through that season.

“I think it’s been a really, really good start to the year. We definitely got to get better. We’re not where we want to be yet. But I think that our passion and our goals are even more obtainable than I thought they were going to be at the beginning of the year, where I think that by the end of the year, we can go race for a championship.”

At just five years old, Love began racing near his hometown of Menlo Park, California. By age 13 he started racing late models, making it up to the ARCA Menards Series West for Bill McAnally Racing in 2020.

Love’s thrived on intermediates last year, winning four of the five races in ARCA. While he feels like that’s his biggest strength, that’s what drivers often struggle with the most as they make the jump.

But while his primary background is short-track racing, that’s ultimately what he thinks is his biggest weakness.

Jesse Love

Jesse Love during NASCAR XFINITY Series practice at Circuit of the Americas. (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

“I’m working really hard on changing my technique for these radial tires. I’m so used to the bias ply stuff,” Love said. “The short track stuff is where I grew up racing bias ply, and the intermediate stuff, I never ran any bias by stuff — it was always on radial tires. I feel like the intermediate stuff is probably my strong suit right now. I know we weren’t great at Vegas, but I think that when we go to Texas, we’ll have a really good shot to win.”

Love’s been paired with the experienced Danny Stockman Jr. on pit road, and so far, it’s gone flawlessly. Stockman has crew chiefed at all three levels over the last five years, working with Austin Dillon on the Cup side in 2019. He spent the next three seasons at Kyle Busch Motorsports, working with a variety of drivers in 2020 before linking up with Chandler Smith in 2021 and 2022. Last year, he worked with Nick Sanchez at Rev Racing.

Stockman has over 200 starts as a crew chief in the Xfinity Series, winning seven of them. His last came back in 2016.

“[He’s] very much so like my old crew chief, Shannon Rursch, over at VMS,” Love said. “He has worked with all young drivers in the past, and he knows the mistakes I’m probably gonna go make and he’s ready to rebound ourselves from that. He’s really good at telling me what mistakes I’m probably gonna go make so I can go do the work before I make those mistakes to hopefully limit them and have them not happen. A lot of times, you gotta go touch the stove before you realize it’s hot and burn your hand. I feel like he’s helped me out to not go touch the stove.

“Everybody’s racing really hard, no matter where you’re at. It’s just about minimizing the mistakes. It’s about getting on and off pit road and not having small mistakes that you think mean nothing because they’ll ruin your day, every time. The biggest thing for me right now is minimizing mistakes, paying attention to the details and maximizing the day. That is 100% all thanks to Danny Stockman for being in my life and working really hard with me.”

Certainly, Love admits how big of a change joining RCR is, but he’s not discounting what he accomplished with the Toyota Racing Development family. After all, his entire NASCAR background to this point had been with TRD. And he wouldn’t be in this position with RCR, either.

But what he’s getting is a new family inside the organization and with Chevrolet. He’s worked well with teammate Austin Hill, calling him a “big brother” and “the best teammate that I’ve ever been able to work with.” Love said he dedicated most of the off-season to just knowing and building relationships with everyone in the shop.

Ultimately, the men and women in Welcome, North Carolina, are what Love thinks can lead to success.

Jesse Love

Jesse Love during the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Richmond Raceway. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

“If I had gone to another organization that’s much more corporate-like, I probably would not be running this good,” Love said. “The people at RCR — that’s how I want to race and they do the same things that I would want to do if I was running the place. I think that’s just made me be in such a good headspace and I feel like my headspace right now is where it needs to be.

“I don’t feel like I’m the most talented driver in the field, but I feel like I work really hard at it. I do everything I can to use my mind and to have the confidence to overcome anything that’s ahead of us. Because of that, I had to put all my time and effort into an organization and reap the benefits of it. I feel like because the people that I’m around at RCR are a similar mindset to me, I’m putting in all my time and all my effort and I’m reaping the rewards of that because we’re all in the same boat.”

Knowing how the first two months of the season panned out, Love’s excited for the next few races. He feels like he’ll be a contender at Texas — an intermediate — and Talladega Superspeedway. Afterward, it’s a trip to Dover Motor Speedway, a one-mile track that races similarly to an intermediate.

The first goal for Love is to knock out his first career win. But he’s already thinking big picture, knowing what the ceiling of the No. 2 team is come playoff time.

“I feel like I do really good in the Game 6 moments when it’s time to make it happen and it’s crunch time. I’m kind of waiting for some of those moments to peer their heads and show,” he said. “I had a shot at Phoenix [in March] and ran really good, but I feel like moving forward, I’m just gonna keep putting ourselves in position to when it comes down to a late-race restart, I can take advantage.”



Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

1 Comment

1 Comment


    G Bruce Eskildsen

    April 15, 2024 at 10:18 am

    It’s a privilege to watch this young star in the making. It’s what being a race fan is all about!! Go Jesse!

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