After dominating most of the race, Jesse Love had to battle back in the final laps to retake the lead and win the ENEOS 125 presented by NAPA AUTO PARTS at Irwindale Speedway on Saturday.
The 15-year-old rookie appeared to have the Bill McAnally Racing No. 19 NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry on cruise control for most of the race.
He lost the lead following a late-race restart, however, and had to charge back after a subsequent caution and restart with five laps left. He made his move for the lead and pulled away for his second win in seven days.
“He drove it hard in there and kind of gave me one,” Love said of getting passed for the lead. “So, I had the opportunity to give him one back and I did. It was a little sketchy. I wasn’t sure if it was going to stick up there, but I’d rather be in the fence than run second.”
Love joked from Victory Lane about trying to do better behind the wheel.
“I think the driver could have done a better job,” he said. “I messed up some places. The car was great. Whenever I hit it right, we’d be a rocket ship. But I’ve got to keep on getting consistent and figure out which line is the best line.
“Overall, it was a really good weekend,” he said. “We’re the points leader, again. That’s a really good thing to say. Hopefully, we can keep on saying that.”
Love’s BMR teammate, Gracie Trotter, came away with a career-best third-place finish in the No. 99 ENEOS Toyota Camry.
“We struggled all practice,” she said. “We were fighting tight, tight, tight. I didn’t think I could run it like that all the race, because I thought I’d wear the front tires out.
“They made some good changes, with my crew chief Roger Bracken, and we got it really good for the beginning of the race,” she said. “I got to save the tires a little bit there at the beginning. Then the car just came to me. It got a little tight there at the end, but we ended up third. I’m happy for the BMR team.”
BMR driver Lawless Alan had a top-10 finish, coming home ninth in the No. 12 AUTOParkit / NGK Toyota Camry; while teammate Holley Hollan was 11th in the No. 50 JBL / NAPA Filters / NAPA Belts & Hoses Toyota Camry. Gio Scelzi appeared headed for a possible podium finish after a late charge in the No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS / Curb Records Toyota Camry – but tangled with another car and ended up 14th.
In four series races this season, Love has two wins and two second-place finishes. His first victory came on the road course in Utah a week ago.
His victory at Irwindale continued BMR’s domination at the state-of-the-art facility in Southern California. The team has 14 wins in 28 ARCA West regular-season races there.