Race Weekend Central

Jesse Love Wins ARCA at Watkins Glen on Last Lap Pass

In a last lap, last turn bump-and-run move, Jesse Love found victory lane for the eighth time in the 2023 ARCA Menards Series season, winning at Watkins Glen International.

Love restarted fourth on the lone attempt at a one-lap shootout, and passed Connor Zilisch in the final turn, narrowly beating him to the start-finish line on Friday evening (Aug. 18).

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“I looked like a blind dog drinking a smoothie on a road course,” Love told FOX Sports 1 post-race. “Hats off to Connor Zilisch, I hope he didn’t think it was dirty he was the class of the field there,” 

Despite losing out on a win in his debut race by the smallest of margins, Zilisch still came home in second place, leading much of the race. 

“It’s so frustrating, when you lead that many laps of the race,” Zilisch told FS1. “I feel like I didn’t execute, but I feel like everything was against me there,” 

Making his own series debut, Brent Crews finished the event in third, with William Sawalich in fourth and Dale Quarterley in fifth. 

Though he began the last restart from the lead, Kris Wright brought home the No. 15 in sixth, with Andy Jankowiak seventh, Zach Herrin in eighth, Stanton Barrett in ninth and Jake Finch 10th.

It was a rather anticlimactic initial start of the event, as polesitter Corey LaJoie jumped out to an early lead of over two seconds by the completion of the opening lap. That lead went away quickly, as just five laps later, Zilisch chased down, and got around LaJoie, pulling out to a nearly two-second lead of his own. 

The first caution of the event fell on lap 13, as Parker Retzlaff stalled on track due to an apparent brake failure. The NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie was unable to continue, ending his race early. 

Under the caution period, Frankie Muniz, who entered the race in second place in the points standings, lost power and went a lap down on pit road while his Rette Jones Racing crew diagnosed the car, but the team eventually went behind the wall. 

The race restarted four laps later on lap 17. Zilisch held off LaJoie throughout the first few turns of the track, as the field settled into single file.

Moments before the halfway break caution fell, LaJoie pitted from second place, due to an apparent brake issue. The Spraker Racing team was able to get LaJoie back out onto the racetrack before he went a lap down, and diagnosed the car further under the halfway caution. The team was able to get LaJoie back out on the lead lap for the restart of the race, but the No. 63 was back on pit road shortly after, and never returned to the racetrack. 

“We had a little bit of an issue keeping parts on this thing today,” LaJoie told FS1. “I didn’t want to push it anymore with the brakes being a little bit unpredictable,”

Zilisch retained the lead for the restart for the second half of the event, holding off Love and Crews, and eventually pulling out to a sizable gap over the two Venturini Motorsports drivers. While leading, Zilisch had a trackbar issue, causing the car to drag the pavement on the left-handed turns of the track. Love and Crews temporarily closed the gap, but still weren’t able to catch the driver of the No. 28.

Just as Zilisch appeared to be home free, a light rain began to fall in Watkins Glen, specifically affecting the turn 1 area. Barrett nearly went for a spin with six laps to go, then one lap later, Jack Wood made heavy contact with the turn 1 wall, bringing out a late race yellow. 

The field was brought down to pit road and given the option to put wet weather tires on the cars or stick with slick tires. While most of the field came down for the grippier tires, Wright, Barrett and Herrin all stayed out on slicks and restarted first through third respectively for the only attempt at a one-lap shootout.

Both Wright and Barrett surrendered the lead by the time the field exited turn 1, giving Zilisch the lead back again. That lead kept strong until the final turns of the race, as Zilisch slowed due to the trackbar issue. Love put the bumper to Zilisch in the final turn, and beat him to the line in a drag race, winning his eighth race of the 2023 season. 

ARCA Menards Series General Tire 100 at the Glen Results

It’s a quick turnaround until ARCA returns to the track next, as the field heads to Springfield, Ill. and the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Sunday, Aug. 20. The drivers will take to the dirt at 2 p.m. ET, with coverage coming on FS1 and FloRacing.

About the author

Josh joined Frontstretch in 2023 and currently covers the ARCA Menards Series. Born and raised in Missouri, Josh has been watching motorsports since 2005. He currently is studying for a Mass Communication degree at Lindenwood University

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Zilisch was probably like, “Where did he come from?!”

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