Chevrolet steals Toyota talent as ARCA standout Jesse Love to join Richard Childress Racing

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 06: Jesse Love, driver of the #16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, celebrates winning the 2021 ARCA Menards Series Championship after the ARCA Arizona Lottery 100 at Phoenix Raceway on November 06, 2021 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

ARCA Champion Jesse Love is moving up to the Xfinity Series to drive for Richard Childress Racing next season, the team announced on Wednesday.

It’s a big move for the young 18-year-old driver, who followed up championships in the ARCA West Series with a dominant national series win this year, winning ten of the twenty races on the calendar to become the series’ youngest-ever winner.

He’s no stranger to being ‘youngest-ever’ either, having previously been the youngest driver ever signed to Toyota’s TRD program, driving for Venturini Motorsports in ARCA. Love was a big talent for Toyota to have in its back pocket, and he showed promise for a move through the ranks of NASCAR’s national series.

Now he’s making that move, but it won’t be with Toyota. Instead, Jesse Love will be driving the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro in the Xfinity Series, a seat recently vacated by Sheldon Creed.

“I’ve been fortunate to gain a lot of racing experience at a young age, but nothing compares to the opportunity to race for a legendary team like Richard Childress Racing,” Love said.

“I have so much respect for Richard Childress and am extremely grateful to be able to race and learn with one of the most successful teams in the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he added. “I’ve dreamed of racing at the highest levels of the sport since I was a young kid, and the path to the NASCAR Cup Series seems more clear with this opportunity.”

It’s especially special for a driver who shared a picture of a much younger version of himself standing next to Richard Childress. Now he gets the chance to drive for the owner in the No. 2 car, which has a long history of a success and a big sponsor on the hood.

“It’s even more special to be able to represent a company like Whelen who has a long-standing involvement in motorsports and a strong focus in building American-made products,” Love concluded.

LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA – JULY 22: Sheldon Creed, driver of the #2 Whelen Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pocono 225 at Pocono Raceway on July 22, 2023 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

For team owner Richard Childress himself, the chance to get one of the sport’s hottest young talents was too good to pass up.

“We’ve been watching Jesse for a while now and his breakout performance in the ARCA Menards Series was impressive this season,” said Childress. “We know that he has the talent and determination to win races and compete for championships within RCR’s NASCAR Xfinity Series program. We are looking forward to welcoming Whelen back for another year on the No. 2 program and feel confident that Jesse will be a strong ambassador for Whelen.”

Besides his successful ARCA run, Love has two Truck Series starts for the TriCon Racing, a Toyota team. The team posted their well-wishes for Love on Twitter.

While Chevy has an extra talent in its pipeline, the loss is especially big for Toyota. Their driver development lineup is much slimmer than Chevrolet’s, with their biggest talent John Hunter Nemechek moving up to the Cup Series next season to join Legacy Motor Club. Love’s leaving punches a big hole in the Toyota lineup.

Owen Johnson