Editor’s Note: Jesse Love, 14, is a multi-faceted driver, competing in his rookie season in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League, as well as in 360 winged sprint cars and pavement midgets.
Love will be sharing his racing experiences with Sprint Car & Midget subscribers while competing throughout the season. This weekend, he drove the Trace Van Dyne-owned No. 5 midget on the pavement in a return to his home state.
Below is his newest diary entry, recapping Saturday night’s 17th annual Gerhardt Classic 50 at Madera Speedway in Madera, Calif.
MADERA, Calif. – Saturday night was probably one of the coolest and most fun nights of racing that I’ve personally had in a long time, and certainly was that as far as this year goes.
I’ve never actually spun and come back to win in an open-wheel car, but we managed to pull it off at Madera like Danny Sullivan did to win the 1985 Indy 500. It was crazy how it all worked out!
We started off the day strong, going fastest in hot laps and then backing it up by setting the quick time in qualifying later in the evening. That mired us back in sixth for our heat race because of the inversion, but Trace and the crew had everything hooked up right and we definitely didn’t stay there very long.
It took some picking our way through the field, but we got up to second by the end of the heat race, which put me starting on the outside of the front row for the 50-lap Gerhardt Classic feature.
I knew it was a bit longer race, so I had to be patient and not bite off more than I could chew right off the bat. In the opening laps, I paced myself in second for a bit in order to save my tires and didn’t do anything really crazy, that way I knew I had some rubber left for the end to make some moves.
After halfway, I knew it was go time, so I started bearing down on the leader and went to make the pass for the top spot with 10 to go. There was a bit of a gap going down the frontstretch, but Jerome (Rodela) closed it going into turn one and I got collected on the rumble strips and spun out in the corner.
The good news was, even though I spun, we had lapped enough cars that I didn’t have to start too far back in the pack when the race went green again. I never lost hope and when we got restarted, I put the car up on the top side and started picking off cars one by one.
We got one more restart with six to go, and that was exactly what we needed. I was able to close up on Dylan Nobile and make an inside pass with four laps to go in turn one to grab the Gerhardt Classic victory!
I’ve done a lot of things in a short amount of time in my racing career, but it was super cool to win a race with the history that the Gerhardt Classic has out west, especially after coming back from a spin inside of 10 to go. Those kinds of moments are the ones you always remember!
The only other time I’ve ever spun and won was on a road course in a Legend car, so it’s not something that’s easy to do. You just have to put yourself in position, catch the right breaks and never give up.
It was a lot of fun to be back on the pavement after five nights on dirt in the sprint car, too. There’s a different nuance to pavement racing that’s not on the dirt, and it’s just something I still really enjoy – just for different reasons than dirt-track racing.
This weekend, we’re staying on the pavement and hopping back in the late model with the SRL Southwest Tour, but it won’t be too long until we’re back on the open-wheel side. Our next scheduled sprint car race is in two weeks, on July 27 at Placerville (Calif.) Speedway.
Hope to see everyone then; have fun at the races in the meantime!
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