Jesse Love makes laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the No. 2 RCR Chevrolet. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)

KERCHNER: Friday Morning Heat Race

It’s time for our weekly Friday morning tour around the racing world. From hot laps to the main event, here’s what’s on our mind this week.

Hot Laps: New Stars?

With several mainstays of the Central Pennsylvania sprint car circuit on the road a lot this season, chasing one sprint car tour or another, there may be a few new stars who emerge from the weekly wars at Lincoln, Port Royal and Williams Grove Speedways.

Troy Wagaman, who won the opener at Lincoln, could be among them.

Qualifying: Count Them Up

Heading into the Formula 1 opener this weekend, three-time defending series champion Max Verstappen has won 54 grand prix. That places him third on the all-time list behind leader Lewis Hamilton (103) and Michael Schumacher (91).

Verstappen is only 26 years old and at the rate he’s gone the past three years, it’s feasible he may one day run down Schumacher and Hamilton, who still has a few more wins ahead of him.

First Heat: Radical?

If you want to check out a radical form of motorsports, check out Saturday night’s World Figure-8 event at Freedom Factory in Bradenton, Fla. The event for these powerful, purpose-built race cars will be broadcast live by SPEED SPORT affiliate Speedrome.tv.

There’s speed, strategy and unpredictable results.

Second Heat: Ford’s Depth

For several years, Ford’s NASCAR Cup Series contenders were limited primarily to the three Team Penske cars and their satellite Wood Brothers Racing car.

However, the RFK Racing team returned to prominence last season, giving Ford more threats at victory lane. The roster has even greater depth this year. With an alliance with Team Penske, Front Row Motorsports, which has campaigned Fords for many years, has emerged a weekly contender with drivers Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland.

Rick Ware Racing has an alliance with RFK and its two-car operation has improved its performance significantly.

Third Heat: The Real Deal

With apologies to late model legend Don O’Neal, who is nicknamed “The Real Deal,” NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie Jesse Love is the real deal.

Love has led 191 laps during the first two races of the season aboard the Richard Childress Racing No. 2, and Chevrolet and RCR look pretty smart for plucking him away for Toyota, which was significantly involved in the development of the 18-year-old driver who advanced through midgets and asphalt late models to win last year’s ARCA Menards Series championship.

Dash: Tale Of Two Classes

The Trans-Am Series opened its season last week with interesting results.

The TA class headliner was a battle between racing veterans. Longtime NASCAR Cup Series drivers Paul Menard and Wally Dallenbach battled over the closing laps with Menard claiming the victory over Dallenbach. Menard is 43 and Dallenbach turns 61 in May.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Connor Zilisch held off 19-year-old Tyler Gonzalez in the TA2 class.

B Main: Opportunity

In an era when many NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Xfinity Series teams continue to recycle the same drivers over and over, including ultra-successful NASCAR Cup Series veterans, it’s refreshing to see JR Motorsports giving opportunity to established short-track racers.

Super late model veteran Bubba Pollard and second-generation late model stock racer Carson Kvapil will both steer the JR Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet in upcoming events.

Kvapil, the CARS Tour champion who drives for the JR late model team, will be in the seat at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, while Pollard, 37, and a frequent big-money short track winner, will get his opportunity at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.

Who’s next?

Feature: Worth The Cost?

I have no problem admitting the finish of the Feb. 25 NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was breathtaking, and I was wrong about who I thought won. The ability of three cars to finish within .007 seconds of one another is unfathomable and NASCAR’s timing technology is spectacular.

The result was nearly instant, and was a far cry from the first Daytona 500 in 1959 when it took two days to determine a winner by photo finish.

All of that said, the race at Atlanta was very expensive for team owners. The number of crashed cars was staggering, and stacking that on top of the usual carnage during the Daytona 500 the previous week, has put some teams in some very deep holes to start the season.