MENLO PARK, Calif. – Fourteen-year-old Toyota Racing Development driver Jesse Love will tackle a slate of races this weekend that few veterans, let alone teenagers his age, might dare to run in their careers.
Love will be behind the wheel of four different race cars over the course of four days, tackling three different disciplines and two different surfaces over the course of his California sojourn.
The young gun will test a super late model on Thursday before driving a pro late model this weekend with Naake-Klauer Motorsports at Madera Speedway. He’ll also run a midget for Tres Van Dyne in POWRi/BCRA action before hitting Sunday’s Silver State Legend Car Series finale at Sonoma Raceway.
Love’s jam-packed and diverse schedule might appear like a huge challenge, but it’s one he said he’s already prepared himself for, from the earliest portions of his racing career on.
“This actually brings me back to my quarter midget days, when you would run four different classes in a span of a few hours,” Love told SPEED SPORT. “Now, it’s a span of a few days, but if’s four different cars in four completely different disciplines. I think that’s what makes it cooler to me than anything else.
“I’m really excited. It ties back to why I love simulator racing, too, because you can run so many different cars and experience so many different things all at once,” he added. “You can jump straight into a sprint car or a Miata or an Indy car … whatever you want. I’m definitely planning on having a lot of fun.”
A slate such as Love’s draws parallels to drivers like four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt and three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who were both known as racer’s racers during their careers and were both known to drive any type of car on any given day.
Love said he’s been inspired by both Foyt and Stewart as he’s built his own racing resume.
“I really look up to Tony, and obviously A.J. was a huge influencer on his career when you look back at the history,” said Love. “I think that A.J. Foyt is probably the greatest driver of all time when it comes to how many different cars he had success in, and Tony was really the modern-day version of A.J. I draw a lot of inspiration from both of them and have fashioned my mindset off of both of theirs.
“Because of that, I don’t feel like it’s going to be as big of a challenge, having to go back and forth so much, mostly because I’ve had such great teams around me and developed so many different skills both through iRacing and with how much racing I’ve done recently,” Love continued. “I’ve tested myself in different disciplines every weekend and I feel like I know what it takes now.
“My philosophy is just like theirs was: I’ll race anything, anytime, anywhere and have fun doing it. I’m just a race car driver and love every part of this sport.”
Love is coming off a recent winged 360 sprint car appearance with the new Kings of Thunder Series at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif., where he ran for team owner Harley Van Dyke in the No. 5H.
“A winged sprint car … no matter what engine you’re running, it’s crazy,” said Love. “It’s insane, man. I was out there in the LCQ and I was just thinking to myself, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I get to do this.’ And it was really cool, because I finally figured out how to drive a winged car the right way over the weekend. I have a long way to go yet, but I felt like I made it to a different stepping stone with learning how to trust the downforce on the car and everything that goes into that.
“I was out there and barely lifting in the LCQ. It just takes your breath away,” he added. “You can’t describe it to someone who hasn’t experienced it. It forces you to think so quickly in the seat.”
Love’s quick thinking allowed him to not only win the LCQ and make the main event, but advance from 20th to finish 13th in the 25-lap feature, outpacing names like Rico Abreu and Bud Kaeding.
“I felt like I was the only person to go to the top during the LCQ, and even though the high side was really treacherous and you had to use a lot of brake to keep the car planted, we had a lot of speed,” Love noted. “It just took a lot of team spirit to go up there and make sure I didn’t flip the car.
“Saturday was a lot of fun, but this coming weekend looks to be even more so.”