For the 10th time this season, Jesse Love and the Venturini Motorsports No. 20 team found victory lane, this time coming at Salem Speedway, leading all 200 laps in the process on Saturday (Sept. 30) night.
Upon the drop of the green flag, perhaps the biggest news of the race was officialized, as Love was named the champion of the 2023 ARCA Menards Series. It caps an impressive season for the 18-year-old, winning 10 total races and finishing inside the top 10 16 times with one more race left to run.
It’s the second time Love has taken the checkered flag at Salem, with the first coming in 2021.
“I love Salem, it’s my favorite asphalt short track for sure,” Love told FOX Sports 2 post-race. “It feels great to come here and win.”
Behind Love, Andres Perez De Lara tied his career-best finish of second, setting the 18-year-old up well to finish second behind Love in the season standings.
In third, Christian Rose earned his first career top five and his best career finish of third, the last of the three cars that finished on the lead lap. Toni Breidinger earned her fourth top five of the season, just narrowly missing out on tying her career-best finish of third. In his ARCA debut, Conner Popplewell finished fifth, rounding out the top five.
The rest of the top 10 saw William Sawalich finishing sixth after an early incident, Jon Garrett in seventh, Ed Pompa eighth, Brayton Laster ninth and Frankie Muniz 10th. Muniz was 60 laps down after early mechanical issues but fought back to the top 10 after a high-attrition race.
Love jumped out to a quick lead at the initial start, holding off a brief pass attempt from Sawalich. Those two, joined by Will Kimmel and Perez de Lara, jumped out to an early four-car breakaway, running single file nose to tail, with Love never getting out to more than a car length lead over Sawalich for a majority of the first run.
The frontrunners remained nose to tail in that order until the first caution fell on lap 65 when Brent Crews made hard contact with the outside wall in turn 4. Crews had worked his way up inside the top five after starting at the rear due to technical inspection issues post-qualifying.
The field lined up for a quick run with five laps before the race break. On the restart, Love made contact with Sawalich, putting the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the outside wall. Sawalich sustained big damage to the control arm of his No. 18 machine, taking him out of contention for the race win, but remaining on the racetrack.
After the first race break, the race restarted with Love again gaining an early advantage over Kimmel and Perez de Lara. Disaster struck Kimmel shortly after, as his No. 69 machine had a mechanical failure from second place shortly after the halfway mark in the event, ending his night prematurely.
Love dominated through the second race break on lap 125 as the caution fell, re-racking the field back up. Love again retained the lead on the following restart and never looked back over the remaining 75 laps of the race, to take the win at Salem with ease.
The next time ARCA takes to the racetrack, it’ll be the final time the national division of the series does so in 2023. The season finale is scheduled to take place at the famed Toledo Speedway next Saturday, Oct. 7. The green flag for the Shore Lunch 200 is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET that day, with television coverage coming on FOX Sports 2.
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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