Love’s Humility & Dirt Roots Producing Stock Car Success


Jesse Love won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway. (Rusty Jarrett/Nigel Kinrade Photography)

TALLADEGA, Ala. – It was impossible not to be happy for a jubilant Jesse Love as he celebrated amid a backdrop of fans Saturday evening at Talladega Superspeedway.

Love’s victory in the Ag-Pro 300 – his first in just nine NASCAR Xfinity Series starts – came with a bit of redemption, after he lost an almost surefire win at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway in February when he ran out of fuel on the race-deciding overtime restart.

Late in the going at the largest track on the NASCAR circuit, Love again found himself having to stretch his fuel longer than anyone else, with double overtime making things that much more precarious for the driver of the No. 2 Whelen Aerospace Technologies Chevrolet Camaro.

This time, however, Love was able to make it to the finish line, fending off all comers in a thrilling finish that saw him battle Brennan Poole off the final corner before taking the checkered flag ahead of a four-wide scrum for second.

It was a moment of validation for the 19-year-old from Menlo Park, Calif., who stepped up to the Xfinity Series level this season with Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet after years of being touted as arguably the top prospect in Toyota’s long-heralded driver development program.

“We knew our cars were capable of this [kind of performance], but I’d still say we started the season off quite a bit better than I thought I was going to, just because of being a rookie and not having the experience that a lot of these guys do,” admitted Love after the race. “I figured [drafting] speedways were going to be my worst aspect, just because of that, but our cars and ECR Engines have been super-fast and [teammate] Austin Hill and I have really worked well together.

“A lot of factors go into this, and I’m grateful it all worked out,” he added. “We wanted to win, and now we have, and that’s a really special feeling for this whole team.”

Despite the thrill of 10 victory celebrations last year en route to a runaway ARCA Menards Series championship, Love’s moment in the spotlight this time came with an expanded sense of gratitude.

For those who have known him since his earliest days in asphalt midgets and junior late models, it’s not that Love hasn’t always been appreciative of his path in motorsports, but that he’s reached an understanding quickly of how difficult it is to succeed in one of NASCAR’s three national series.

He’s a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender who prepped for this season “expecting to get our teeth kicked in a couple times” but has excelled in just a handful of starts on his biggest stage so far.

Three poles, and now a victory, in just two months of Xfinity Series action have made Love one of the most talked-about first-year drivers since the likes of Carl Edwards – who won four times during his rookie campaign in 2005 and ended up third in points.

But Love has taken the attention calmly and in stride, never seeming overwhelmed by the moment and humble amid the continued buzz of industry members and media personnel around him.

Love Crews

Jesse Love (left) with Brent Crews after Crews' first ARCA Menards Series win at the Illinois State Fairgrounds last August. (Photo Courtesy of Jesse Love)

He pointed to his renewed sense of faith since the middle of his ARCA title campaign as one of the key pillars of his mindset and attitude this season with RCR.

“I just try to put my faith in God and not really care about the outcome too much,” Love explained. “I’ve found a little bit of peace of mind with that. Looking back on it … I’d say I got away from God too far about … not this time last year, but the year before [in 2022]. For about a year, I’d say, I was just super focused on winning races. That was all I was focused on. But I think when you’re doing that, you’re racing to not fail. You’re not racing to win because you’re trying to not mess up.

“At that point, you’re only focused on yourself and not on the bigger picture.”

It was a former Toyota Racing Development teammate – Brent Crews – who Love credits with helping him to steer his approach back in the right direction.

“I met Brent and I was able to get a lot closer to God through him and his family,” Love noted. “Honestly, that has probably saved my career in the sense that I was able to change my mindset a lot into how I view things now. Like … it’s great to win, right? It feels phenomenal, but that’s not what I’m deadset shooting for every weekend. I’m just trying to do the best job I can, and if I win or I lose, that isn’t what defines me.

“I try to be a man of God before I am a race car driver, or a winner or a loser, or anything in between. I try to spread that message because of what it’s done for me in my life and what Brent and his family have done for me. That’s helped me, I think, help other people that have been in similar spots to me.”

Love also looked back on his roots in midget and sprint car racing – both on dirt and pavement – as “key pieces” of his development as a driver. The young star has charted a path for himself similar to a Golden State legend who went on to be a Hall of Famer: Vallejo-born Jeff Gordon.

“My dad raised me to drive,” said Love as he broke into a smile. “I drove open wheel race cars growing up, midgets and sprint cars, that might have not been apples to apples for someone trying to be a Cup [Series] driver, but I learned how to not land on my head as much as most people did around me.


Jesse Love cut his teeth racing on dirt before advancing up the NASCAR ladder. (Brendon Bauman photo)

“When you grow up racing a style of racing where [if] you get together with somebody, you’re either flipping or you’re 100 percent wrecked, you have to find where that line is and remember it,” he added. “My dad always just preached to me to be smart and not get more than was on the table in front of me. There’s a lot of opportunities in this sport to gain and a lot of positions where you can lose a ton as well.

“I don’t think about it at all as far as being conservative; in my head I’m going 100 percent. It’s just deeply ingrained into my brain now to where I can kind of see bad events unfolding and put myself in a spot to where when something does happen, I’m able to get out of it instead of getting caught up in it.”

It’s a balance of calm and intensity, humility and confidence that has made Love one of the hottest prospects in the sport. It’s widely expected that he’ll catapult into the ranks of the NASCAR Cup Series over the next few years.

But, as he referenced before, he’s not focused on the future right now.

Love is simply living in the moment, taking his success as it comes and appreciating that he’s living out his childhood dream.

“This is what I’ve wanted to do from the time I was a little kid,” he reflected. “I’m living out my dreams getting to drive race cars at this level. It’s not something that a lot of people can say they get to do.

“Right now I just want to take this win for what it is, and then go on to Dover and try to repeat the same process when we get there.”

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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.