By Dustin Albino

Through the first month of the 2024 Xfinity Series season, few drivers have been more impressive than young gun Jesse Love. With two poles and the most laps led in the series, the driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet has been a stud to begin his tenure with Richard Childress Racing.

Love‘s move to RCR almost didn‘t happen. Amidst his dominant 2023 season in the ARCA Menards Series, winning half of the 20 races on the schedule and the championship, the California native thought it was logical that Toyota would progress him through the racing ranks. The first step would have likely been in the Craftsman Truck Series with Tricon Garage.

“The plan I had with Toyota was to go truck racing and hopefully take over the [No.] 11, a good opportunity,” Love told “I had a really good relationship with that manufacturer and all the people over there. I‘m a loyal person, so I didn‘t want to jump ship and cross horses midstream.

“I think one of the biggest things was Corey Heim staying in the 11 and not jumping up. That set alarms off in everybody‘s head of why doesn‘t he move up, he‘s the best Truck Series driver. That took the option of me going into the [No.] 11 this year out of the equation.”

Another potential option was running the No. 1 truck for Tricon full time. But that ended up getting split up between multiple drivers, with Toni Breidinger, Colby Howard and seven-time Cup Series winner Christopher Bell making up the first three races of the season.

“I was going to run full time in the [No.] 1 and that opportunity got taken away from me, which made no sense to me because I was dominating in what I was doing, which I thought gave me the right to take the [No.] 1 seat,” Love said. “Once that went the way it did, I knew I had to do something.

“It’s not to badmouth anybody at Toyota because I loved being there. With how my path was looking, it made more sense to be [at RCR].”

In late October, RCR announced Love as the driver that would take over the No. 2 car. Love admitted that when he first heard a ride in the Xfinity Series with RCR could open, it piqued his interest. In his mind, it was a no-brainer.

“My culture at Venturini was pretty similar to RCR of having a family-run race team and a family-oriented feel is big for me because I need to put everything that I have into a team and have it work out,” Love said. “That‘s a lot easier to do when you‘re with a family-oriented race team.”

With Love came crew chief Danny Stockman Jr., returning to RCR following a four-year stint away from the team. Previously, he was a crew chief in all three series for the legendary team for more than a decade.

Stockman spent the 2023 season as the crew chief for Nick Sanchez. Before that, it was two years with Chandler Smith at Kyle Busch Motorsports. He enjoys working with younger talent who he believes are the future of the sport. Despite being filled with swagger, Love is just 19 years old.

“I‘ve been chasing this dream of mine for a long time, and I take these kids under my wing and the satisfaction I get watching them progress means more to me than anything,” Stockman said of his pairing with Love. “When you take somebody and you teach them and you see what you‘ve taught them, when they start winning and succeeding, I get such gratification from that.”

Stockman knows how to win championships. He led the way for Austin Dillon in both of his national touring series championship runs. He believes Love already has what it takes to be successful.

“The difference between [Love] and some of these other kids is he knows how to win,” Stockman said. “There are a lot of talented kids that are race car drivers that can go fast, they can make speed and have good finishes, but they don‘t know how to win. That‘s what is important these days, because if you don‘t win, you‘re not going to make it to the next level.”

The work ethic instilled in Love is evident. During a rookie test at Charlotte Motor Speedway over the offseason, Stockman knew by lap 4 that Love was getting up to pace swiftly.

Though their driving styles are drastically different on the bulk of the race tracks, Love has leaned heavily on his experienced teammate Austin Hill. He believes skipping the Truck Series almost altogether won‘t hurt him in the long haul because recent ARCA graduates Ty Gibbs and Sammy Smith had immediate success in the Xfinity Series.

“For as bad of a rap that the ARCA deal gets, I feel like the guys that do well in it, when they go to the next level, it takes off for them,” Love added. “That does give me a lot of confidence. I‘m glad I stayed patient and I learned a lot on how to win again last year. I‘ve taken that mindset over here, and I know how to win. I also know how to lose, and those are two strengths that you have to have.”

Love‘s inexperience hasn‘t shown yet in 2024. He led every lap in the opening stage from the pole in the first two races of the season. His 157 laps led at Atlanta were the most by an RCR Xfinity driver since Dillon led 163 laps at Charlotte in 2015.

“I know how to go fast, win races and want it more than everyone else,” Love said. “I‘m hoping that is what will set me apart from a lot of rookies, being able to come out of the box strong and leave it all out there. If I think it‘s going to be really hard, it‘s going to be really hard. If I think I can go out there and win races and be badass off the start, then that‘s what I‘m going to do.

“For a while, I was racing to not fail and once I stopped caring so much about not failing and started focusing on being badass and winning races, I stopped failing,” Love said. “That‘s a big reason why I‘m super nonchalant in the pit area here, because I know if I‘m focusing on not losing, then I‘m going to lose.”

If Love continues to dazzle with success and does his job, he believes there is a beeline to the Cup Series with RCR in the not-so-distant future.

“There is a clear path for me to the Cup Series if I go do my job here,” he said. “The people that are here, I‘m having a lot of fun with. The cars are fast and I have a chance to go win races at a high level.”

Love is coming off a runner-up finish at Phoenix last weekend.

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