Love Battles In Sonoma Slugfest For 12th-Place Finish


Jesse Love (2) fends off Sam Mayer during Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway. (HHP/David Graham photo)

SONOMA, Calif. – Jesse Love rebounded from a myriad of issues to finish 12th in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway, but was left wondering what could have been.

After qualifying sixth, Love short-pitted just before the first stage break to flip the stage and gain track position, going on to rank third in stage two and earn eight stage points as a result of that effort.

However, in the final stage of the Zip “Buy Now, Pay Later” 250, the wheels fell off of what was shaping up to be a strong run for Love.

He lost track position during the second stage break after nearly overshooting his pit box and coming in at a sharp angle as a result. That left Love buried in the mid-pack, where he was collected in a 14-car pileup coming off turn two on lap 50 and ended up with nose damage on his No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro.

A subsequent stop for repairs and fresh tires put Love at the tail of the lead lap, but he worked his way all the way back into the top 10 before spinning at turn 10 to bring out the final caution flag with 14 laps left.

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Love was able to continue and still raced his way back through the field over the final 11 green-flag laps to finish 12th. The Menlo Park, Calif., native wanted more at his home racetrack, however.

“My team brought a fast Whelen Chevrolet to Sonoma Raceway this weekend. During the early stages of the race, we earned stage points and ran inside the top three,” said Love. “Danny Stockman (crew chief) had a perfect strategy in place to short pit before the [first] stage end, which would put us in a position for a chance at a top-five or the win. When I came to pit road [after] stage two, I almost overshot our pit stall, which was a mistake on my end. I came in at an angle and had to back up when the guys finished the stop, costing us positions on pit road.

“Our Camaro was good enough to get back to the front, but then I got nose damage on the large pile-up in turn two,” Love continued. “We pitted for fresh tires and fixed the front end, forcing us to restart in the back again. We got back into the top 10 when I got loose and spun in turn 10, but we kept battling and came home with a 12th-place finish.

“I hate this for my No. 2 team because I feel like we had a shot at the win. We’ll keep going, though, and rebound at Iowa Speedway next week.”

Love ranks fifth in Xfinity Series points after 14 of 26 races in the regular season, with one win, three top fives, seven top 10s, and three poles to his credit. He’s 74 points behind defending series champion Cole Custer, who leads the current standings.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series season continues Saturday, June 15 at Iowa Speedway. Love has a pole and two top-10 finishes in four ARCA Menards Series starts at the seven-eighths-mile oval.

Coverage of the Hy-Vee Perks 250 is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET, live on USA, the Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.