TULSA, Okla. — Jesse Love will make history when he competes in the 35th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, Jan. 11-16 inside the River Spirit Expo Center.
It is believed that Love, who turns 16 on Jan. 14, will be the first driver to celebrate their 16th birthday during Chili Bowl week and participate in the event at the same time.
The ARCA Menards Series West champion will wheel one of 10 entries for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports at the quarter-mile Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Raceway.
“I’m so pumped for this opportunity and ready to chase my first Chili Bowl,” Love said. “Going with a team like KKM definitely takes a lot of added pressure off my shoulders, knowing I have such a great team around me. I’ve been to the Chili Bowl to watch a few times now, so I’m happy that it’s finally my time.
“Growing up watching this race every year, I wished that one day I’d have a shot to do this, and to have that now makes it that much more special,” Love added. “I can’t wait to get to Tulsa and chase a (Golden) Driller with the best team there is. Thank you to everyone at KKM for this opportunity, along with Toyota and the whole TRD family.
“I’m ready and hungry to get after it out there.”
Love won’t be the youngest driver in Chili Bowl history, but he will be on the younger end of the spectrum in the lore of the indoor midget classic.
Kyle Larson (2008) and Parker Price-Miller (2014) are two notable names who received special approvals to compete in the Chili Bowl at 15 due to their prior experience and racing resumes at a young age.
Love starred heavily on the pavement side of the Toyota Racing Development program this year, winning the ARCA West title on the strength of three wins, nine top fives and 10 top 10s in 11 races.
He also earned two top-five finishes in four national ARCA Menards Series appearances as well.
However, Love was no slouch during a part-time schedule with the KKM midget program through the summer and fall, making five USAC features and seven POWRi main events during the year.
Love’s best effort was a third-place finish during his last POWRi start of the season at I-44 Riverside Speedway in Oklahoma. In all, he earned one top five and four top 10s in KKM equipment.
For Love, who has worked a crew member with KKM during the last two Chili Bowls because he wasn’t old enough to meet the minimum age requirement of 16 to race in the event, the excitement of finally being able to participate as a driver is something he called “beyond words.”
“I’m just really eager to do it, you know? The wait has been tough, but that’s finally over now,” Love noted. “Seeing the different driving styles that seem to work there inside the Expo over the last two years, I’ve really been able to study the race because there’s so much video around of it. There are so many opportunities. So it’s kind of cool, because I kind of operate coming from pavement where I’m more of a student of the game the whole time and I’m always learning and studying where I’m going to so that I can come in as prepared as anybody else.
“I’m like a kid on Christmas morning, but it’s going to be mid-January when I open the presents.”
SPEED SPORT’s LIVE From the Chili Bowl coverage is supported by MyRacePass, KICKER, Curb Records and Swann Communications! To find out more about each of our partners and to check out all of SPEED SPORT’s Chili Bowl coverage, visit our Chili Bowl Index Page! DON’T MISS SPEED SPORT’S LIVE From the Chili Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. ET on MAVTV and watch the Chili Bowl finale LIVE Saturday, Jan. 16 at 8:30 p.m. on MAVTV!