PONTOON BEACH, IL – It’s been a long time coming for Jesse Love. A winner of races on both asphalt and dirt in his career, but never a national Midget event.
That was until Thursday night, when he broke through to Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota Victory Lane at Tri-City Speedway.
“It feels great,” Love said. “I’ve been trying to win one of these races for what feels like a long time.”
The 18-year-old racer from Redwood City, CA, gave CB Industries team owner Chad Boat his fourth career Series victory and a $4,000 check.
“Chad just believes in me a lot,” Love said. “When you have people that believe in you as much as they do, you just start believing in yourself.
“Chad’s a lot more than a car owner now, he’s one of my best friends. Can’t thank him enough for believing in me and helping me get better every day.”
Love began the night on the right foot, laying down the fastest Qualifying lap of all 21 cars in the pits to earn the Whitz Racing Products Quick Time Award. A third-place finish in his Heat Race earned him a Feature starting spot on the outside pole after the inversion draw, which he took full advantage of in the opening laps.
For the first 26 laps, Love chased polesitter Ryan Timms around the 3/8-mile oval but was unable to make any headway. Timms was heavily gapping the field after every restart and had built a 1.5 second lead as he crossed the stripe to complete Lap 26 when the caution was thrown for Keith Kunz Motorsports teammate Taylor Reimer with a flat right-rear tire atop Turn 4.
Shortly after the caution was thrown, fellow KKM teammate Jade Avedisian came to a stop on the backstretch, also with a flat right-rear tire. Seconds later, Timms pulled into the work area with a right-rear flat of his own.
“There was like seven laps or so where [my car] was just shaking real bad and I didn’t know why,” Love said, referring to the laps he ran under green since the restart prior. “I thought surely it’s not a right-rear tire going down.”
“And then, sure as heck, three cars dropped right-rear tires at the same time. So, I thought I had a right-rear going down.”
This handed the lead over to Love with only four laps remaining. With uncertainty about his tires beginning to creep into his mind, Love could already feel the pressure from the Series points leader behind him.
“I was kinda sure it was Cannon, which is never somebody you want right behind you on a restart,” Love said. “I just had to get the best restart I could.”
What he didn’t know was that behind him, McIntosh was having doubts of his own.
“Under the yellow, I could feel the bounce of the car,” McIntosh said. “Something felt wrong.”
A deflating right-front tire on the Dave Mac-Dalby Motorsports #08 had reared its ugly head as McIntosh hit the throttle for the final restart, which he said hindered his car’s abilities.
Though McIntosh got within striking distance at one point, he was unable to make the move in the end. Love drove under the checkered flag to collect his first victory with the Series, while McIntosh came home second.
“It kinda seemed like something weird there because it was all three KKM cars all at the same time,” McIntosh said. “I kinda felt okay at the same time. Unfortunately, it got our right-front instead.
“I think if we restart that [with an inflated tire] – 100 percent we have a shot at it.”
Fifth-starting Landon Brooks came home third and bagged his first career podium finish with the Series – a great rebound night after suffering back-to-back DNFs last week at Millbridge Speedway.
“I knew we would be good,” Brooks said. “Every other race besides Millbridge, we’ve been really good. I wasn’t too worried about it.”
Chase McDermand, current runner-up in Series points, was the DIRTVision Hard Charger Award winner, advancing 12 spots in his charge from 16th on the starting grid to finish fourth. Defending Series champion Zach Daum rounded out the top-five in his first night at the controls of his new ride – the Trifecta Motorsports #7U.
The Xtreme Outlaw Midgets are back in action Friday night, June 2, for the first of a two-race stay at Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, IL. Tickets will be available at the gate; stream all the action live on DIRTVision if you can’t make it to the track.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (30 Laps): 1. 84-Jesse Love; 2. 08-Cannon McIntosh; 3. 2X-Landon Brooks; 4. 40-Chase McDermand; 5. 7U-Zach Daum; 6. 97-Gavin Miller; 7. 19AZ-Hayden Reinbold; 8. 44-Branigan Roark; 9. 71-Jade Avedisian; 10. 26-Chance Crum; 11. 67-Ryan Timms; 12. 25K-Taylor Reimer; 13. 97K-Cooper Williams; 14. 17B-Austin Barnhill; 15. 31K-Alex Midkiff; 16. 19-Daison Pursley; 17. 08X-Ricky Stenhouse Jr; 18. 31B-Kyle Beilman; 19. 19M-Holly Shelton; 20. 21K-Karter Sarff; 21. 5G-Gavan Boschele