Jesse Love dominates Kansas Speedway in ARCA series win: ‘My car was a bottle rocket’

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Jesse Love had never competed on a 1.5-mile track prior to Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series Dawn 150 at Kansas Speedway.

His lack of experience was no factor.

Love qualified for the pole in the morning and then backed it up with a dominating performance, leading 96 of 100 laps.

“I thought we led all of them,” the 18-year-old Love joked. “We were really good, obviously. We were fastest in testing (Friday), fastest in practice and qualifying we were really good. In the race, we just kind of managed a really solid race, I thought.”

Aside from some occasional battles with second-place finisher Dean Thompson, Love’s biggest challenge was contending with lap traffic.

Well, that and the heat. The sun broke through the clouds about 90 minutes before the race, sending temperatures near 90, the warmest day of the year thus far — and a far cry from the 70s and overcast when the field qualified earlier in the day.

“I learned it’s a lot nicer when you race at night, when it’s not hot. I learned how hot it does get. On the plane out here, I thought I didn’t need a cool suit,” Love said. “I thought, ‘I’m good, I’ve got a helmet blower.’ I was dying for a cool suit at the end. It was so hot in that thing.”

Love now knows the heat is no joke. His preparation for the other on-track factors he might face in his first time at a venue was far more robust. And it showed in the results.

“I kind of knew what to expect. I did a lot of prep work and talked to a lot of people that have won where I’m trying to win. I felt like I was pretty much ready to rip off the truck. I kind of worked up to it in practice, but at the same time I thought we were really good all weekend. And obviously my car was a bottle rocket. It made my job a lot easier,” Love said.

It was Love’s second straight victory after taking the checkered flag in his last start at Talladega.

Saturday’s race also had a distinct hometown flavor. DeSoto’s Mandy Chick finished 12th in her third start of the season. She spent some time post-race in the infield care center as a precaution to recover from the hot conditions.

All-in-all, Chick was thrilled with her Kansas Speedway debut.

“It really lived up to all the hype. Beforehand, it was a very emotional day for our team. It all came together, childhood dreams, competing at home. It all came together as a team to really have a good finish at the end of the day at our home track,” Chick said.

Chick’s schedule this summer will depend on funding. The short-term goal is to race 8-10 more times this season, with a long-term goal of racing full-time for the next several seasons. In the meantime, a solid showing in front of friends and family will do just fine.

“I’m proud of my team for their hard work and effort,” Chick said.

Shawnee’s Kevin Hinckle also raced, finishing 21st. On a day where high temperatures and slippery conditions caused a handful of drivers to lose control unexpectedly, Hinckle was thrilled to get the car back to the garage in one piece.

“We struggled with (the) setup. Once the track got hot it got slick. We fought the setup all day long. So we just found a good pace and brought her home in one piece,” Hinckle said. “We’re a small outfit. I’m a self-funded driver.”

Hinckle said he hopes to compete again in September, when ARCA returns to Kansas Speedway.

Former child actor Frankie Muniz, of “Malcolm in the Middle” fame, entered Saturday with the series points lead. He finished 8th in his first appearance on a 1.5-mile track and now trails Love in the points race.