Jake Finch in victory lane at Talladega Superspeedway. (ARCA Photo)

Finch Wires Field At Talladega For First ARCA Win

TALLADEGA, Ala. — A miscommunication between teammates and a last lap crash cost Jake Finch his first victory in the premier ARCA Menards Series division at Daytona Int’l Speedway in February.

The 18-year-old competitor from Lynn Haven, Florida encountered no obstacles on Saturday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway. Jake never lost control of the lead once, becoming the first driver in ARCA Menards Series history to lead a Talladega race wire-to-wire.

Knowing Talladega’s reputation, Jake admitted to feeling apprehensive before Saturday’s green flag, but was thrilled to enjoy a flawless day. The only aspect of his outing he wished could have been better was his post-race burnout.

“I was just trying to stay locked in,” Jake said. “I was a nervous wreck before this race, but [my crew chief] Shannon [Rusch] told me that if I do what I’m supposed to do, we’ll kick their butts. I think that’s what we did.

“Terrible burnout, but if we keep running this No. 20 with Shannon, I think we’ll get a few more.”

Talladega has long been a special facility for Finch and his father James, who previously fielded cars across ARCA and NASCAR under the Phoenix Racing banner.

In 1994, James had the chance to celebrate an ARCA victory in Talladega’s Victory Lane with veteran Jeff Purvis, who had to pass Jimmy Horton with three laps remaining to claim his second of three ARCA wins with Phoenix Racing that season.

The Finch family’s most prestigious accomplishment at Talladega famously came in 2009. A young Brad Keselowski utilized a tandem draft with Carl Edwards to launch towards the front during the final lap before turning him coming to the checkered flag, delivering James his lone win in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Jake’s path to victory on Saturday was far more procedural compared to his father’s triumphs as a car owner at the track. The only time the race was slowed by a yellow came during the halfway break, all while Jake established a single-file procession at the front of the field.

Despite this, Jake was still left at the mercy of his Venturini Motorsports teammate Kris Wright in the closing stages, who had patiently followed him during the final 30 laps. Wright ended up staying behind Jake until the checkered flag waved to bring home a career-best ARCA Menards Series finish of second.

The runner-up performance was needed for Wright after placing outside the Top 10 in the first two events of the 2024 season. Although Wright tried to find a way around Jake, he was satisfied with helping Venturini Motorsports earn their fourth win over the past five Talladega races.

“I definitely could have made some more aggressive moves, but I wanted to keep that victory in the Venturini camp,” Wright said. “I didn’t want to give it to the Gibbs guys or [Christian Rose], so I was trying to be a team player there.”

Wright playing defense enabled Jake to claim his second victory on the ARCA platform. He previously earned his maiden checkered flag in the ARCA Menards Series East at Dover Motor Speedway last year after holding off Landen Lewis on an overtime restart.

As orderly as the day was, Jake could not help but wonder if he was doing everything necessary to maintain his lead at the front of the line. He credited everyone involved with his team for keeping him composed through all 76 laps and allowing him to experience the same feelings James enjoyed during his Talladega victories many years ago.

“[My spotter] Tyler Monn did a spectacular job,” Jake said. “Sometimes he didn’t talk much and [I was wondering] if he could still hear me. I couldn’t really believe that we won and this is super cool. I can’t wait to experience this with my friends and family.”

Following Jake and Wright home in third was Tanner Gray in the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing. Rounding out the Top 5 were Gus Dean and Christian Rose.

Sean Corr, Amber Balcaen, Andres Perez, Frankie Muniz and Toni Breidinger made up the rest of the Top 10 finishers.