TULARE, Calif. – California teenager Jesse Love will check one of his childhood dreams off his career to-do list when he makes his first Trophy Cup appearance next month at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway.
Love, 14, will drive the No. 5h for his regular winged sprint car owner – Harley Van Dyke – during the 26th annual Abreu Vineyards Trophy Cup presented by Rudeen Racing at the third-mile clay oval.
The duo has competed in roughly a dozen 360 sprint car events together this season, including during the Northwest Sprint Speedweek in July, and Love feels that the team’s consistency will help him as he attempts to make the Trophy Cup for the first time in his young career.
More than that, however, competing in the prestigious event fulfills a desire that the Menlo Park, Calif., young gun has held since his earliest days in the sport.
“Trophy Cup wasn’t necessarily on our original schedule that we put out at the beginning of the season, but it’s Trophy Cup, so I think everyone wants it on their schedule!” said Love. “It’s the biggest winged (sprint car) race of the year for me. I’m a California kid and Trophy Cup is our Knoxville Nationals, or Chili Bowl, or Daytona 500 … whatever you want to compare it to, it’s the real deal. That’s why you see the names that you see on the entry list each year and to be a part of that this fall is a huge honor.
“I can only begin to imagine what it’s like to win at Trophy Cup and one day I’d like to feel it firsthand.”
Considering the unique format for the event, which requires successful drivers to pass cars and earn as many points as possible every time they hit the race track, Love was quick to point out that it’s one of the toughest crown jewels in all of sprint car racing to be able to conquer.
“Trophy cup is truly special; it’s a race where you have to be able to put together a whole weekend,” he said. “With the format, every time you hit the track you need to be up on the wheel and every car matters. Because of that, I definitely think it’s one of the hardest races in the country to win, hands down, thanks to the format. Personally I’m not sure if I’ll like the format until the weekend is over, but I can’t wait.
“This race means a ton to me and I can’t wait to go try my hand against the best.”
As a driver, the fire to succeed and perform on the big stage is as strong in Love as it is for many of the top contenders, including defending race winner Jac Haudenschild, popular open-wheeler Rico Abreu and many others.
That means he wants to win, but Love recognizes to do so as a rookie at the Trophy Cup won’t be easy.
“To win at Tulare it seems like every race there the fast way around is the top, and the better you can run the top, the better off you will be for the weekend,” he explained. “Tulare is very treacherous though, with the hole going into (turn) one and then how tricky it is to run right on the wall. All that makes it a fun place, though. Like any race I’m going to win, and I wouldn’t be going to do anything but; I just need to be in the mix every night to be there at the end (of the weekend).
“Obviously this is a race that lends itself to veterans, but I hope we can go and buck that trend at Tulare. We’ll aim for the stars, like we do each time we hit the race track, and see how it all shakes out!”
The 26th annual Abreu Vineyards Trophy Cup presented by Rudeen Racing benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation and will reach the $2 million mark in donations this year.
All entry fees, raffle proceeds, and other supporting fundraising activities have been donated to Make-A-Wish for more than 20 years.