Love Leads Laps, Finishes A Strong Fifth In Chicago

July 06, 2024: NASCAR Cup Series races at Chicago Street Course in Chicago, Illinois. (HHP/Jacy Norgaard)

CHICAGO – Jesse Love spent plenty of time out front and picked up a well-deserved top-five finish at the end of Saturday’s The Loop 110 at the Chicago Street Circuit.

Love qualified eighth and ran near the sharp end of the field all race long. He finished seventh and third, respectively, in stage one and stage two and earned 12 stage points – second-most among series regulars on the afternoon.

It was by virtue of a lap-17 pit stop that Love was able to stay out during the second and final stage break, restarting on the front row after the choose and taking the lead from Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Hill with a successful dive into turn one on lap 35.

Love then led 14 consecutive laps – tying him for the most laps led with eventual winner Shane van Gisbergen – and fiercely held NASCAR Cup Series regular Ty Gibbs at bay for much of that span before a final restart with three to go ultimately shuffled Love out of contention for a potential victory.

Though he led on the last restart, Love had van Gisbergen charging behind him from third, with the latter getting to second by turn one and lying in wait for less than half a lap before making his final pass.

Van Gisbergen dove to Love’s inside at turn six and took the lead, getting Love off-line in the waning moments and causing the No. 2 Whelen Aerospace Technologies Chevrolet Camaro to fade back.

Love hung on, however, to cross the line fifth and earn the second-most points overall of any Xfinity Series championship contender through the course of the 110-mile event.

It marked his fifth top five this year and allowed Love to regain some momentum, after a rough month of June that saw the 19-year-old native of Menlo Park, Calif., give up a bit of ground in the regular season standings.

“Our No. 2 WAT Chevrolet was fast all day on the Chicago Street Course,” noted Love. “While in the lead at the end, I burned off my rear tires by throwing large blocks and making my corners tighter, but that was my only hope of winning the race. My goal was to keep the No. 19 [Gibbs] behind me so that I could get away on the final lap. This Richard Childress Racing team did an excellent job today though.

“We take a lot of pride in this one because it’s our best finish on a road course this year. We’ve been really good on the road courses, both at COTA and Sonoma, but this course in Chicago is so much fun to drive and probably the hardest place I’ve raced at throughout my career,” Love continued. “Overall, it was a solid points day for us. We’ve had a rough month, but I think we are back on the right track to keep pushing toward the playoffs.

“We are trying to get better at everything leading into those final seven races to go race for a championship, and I believe that with the support of RCR, ECR, and Whelen Engineering we’ll be able to have a good chance to do just that when the time comes.”

Love regained fifth place in points leaving Chicago, with 109 markers separating him from current series leader and defending champion Cole Custer.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series season continues with the running of the Explore the Pocono Mountains 225 at Pennsylvania’s 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway, known colloquially as ‘The Tricky Triangle’.

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