Jesse Love held off Rich Bickle, Jr. to win in his first Super Late Model start at Slinger Super Speedway on Sunday.
Love battled for the lead throughout the race with Slinger champions like Steve Apel and Rich Bickle, Jr., ultimately holding off Bickle for the win in the 75-lap feature.
Looking for track time in the last Super Late Model event at the track ahead of the Slinger Nationals, Love’s first time on track was during Sunday morning’s practice session.
“Slinger’s obviously a place where most people don’t go to their first time and run competitively,” Love told Speed51. “It was important to get the race in. There were people there just tuning up for Slinger Nationals, so we were able to base ourselves on that and see where we needed to gain.”
“My first time on the race track was that morning for practice. You don’t get a whole lot of practice, so I had to adapt quick. We struggled with front turn all day, which is something you can’t struggle with at Slinger and be fast. We chased that the whole day and weren’t really sure how we were going to end up.”
While Love wasn’t satisfied with the car entering qualifying, that may have proved to be a blessing in disguise. A friendly invert after placing eighth in time trials allowed Love to start on the pole. From there, he was able to lead every lap to take the win.
“We’ve been qualifying great all year, and then we pull a bad pill and start deep. We didn’t qualify the greatest, but we caught the invert for once and started up front, which helped us out. We were able to control the race. We probably weren’t the best at the beginning of the race, but figured some stuff as far as managing the race and not leaving the bottom open.
“We managed a good race and came out with the win, so it was a good weekend and gives us some good momentum and a good place to start for the Nationals.”
While he was led every lap, it was no Sunday cruise for Love. After fending off five-time track champion Steve Apel in the early stages, he was under attack from the legendary Rich Bickle, Jr. at race’s end. Love found the chance to race against Bickle particularly special.
“It was really cool, really special and a great experience. Racing with him means a lot. He’s a legend to me and to everybody, so it goes without saying that it means a lot to race with him. It was an honor even being on the same race track with him. Little did I know we were going to beat him that night and he was going to run second.”
Love was also able to learn from some of the best at Slinger over the course of the race to improve his own performance throughout the 75-lap feature.
“We held off a lot of hard chargers. Steve Apel, in the beginning, was a little better than we were, but we were able to hold him off while we were waiting on our car to come in. I was still learning and I noticed some stuff Steve Apel was doing and Rich was doing, and I was able to pick up some race pace.”
Despite winning in his first appearance at Slinger, Love and his Wimmer Motorsports team already have a few notes on what they want to improve before the Slinger Nationals on July 6.
“I think we know what we need to work on for Nationals to make ourselves better. We still have a good ways to go. We were able to run the top really well, but to run the bottom, we need our Hamke to turn a little bit better. We’ll work on that and hopefully come back even better.”
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Wimmer Motorsports Twitter