Sixteen-year-old Jesse Love made a thrilling last-lap pass at Phoenix Raceway on Saturday to clinch the ARCA Menards Series West championship – the second consecutive series title for the driver of the Bill McAnally Racing No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry.
Love, who going into the event was locked in the tightest title battle in the history of series, knew as the final lap started that he had to gain a spot to finish 14th and tie the championship points. With two wins this season, he knew he would win the tie breaker to decide the title.
“I knew what I needed to do,” Love said. “They communicated with me that we were minus one. I knew that we would win the tiebreaker. I knew I had to get away from him when I got to him and get by him cleanly with no hiccup.”
Adding to the drama on Saturday, Love experienced engine issues during the race and then got squeezed in the middle of a three-wide sandwich late in the race – which knocked the front end of his car out of alignment.
“With the motor and then with the toe getting knocked out, I really was not too sure how it was going to end up,” he said.
Love, who started the race in 15th, ran just outside the top 10 for most of the event. After slipping back a few spots late in the race, he rebounded with the last-lap pass to finish 14th and clinch the title.
Love’s BMR teammate, Cole Moore, capped off his rookie season, meanwhile, with a 10th-place finish in the No. 99 NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry – propelling him to third in the final championship standings and second in rookie points. He was fifth in the standings coming into the season finale.
Moore started 20th on the grid and made a steady charge toward the front. He ran nose-to-tail with Love for much of the race, before charging ahead to finish 10th.
Sebastian Arias made his first series start on Saturday in a third BMR entry, finishing 26th in the No. 19 Rubbermaid Commercial Products/Brady IFS Toyota Camry. Arias started 30th on the field and ran a solid race, picking up spots and gaining experience.
With back-to-back series titles, Love matches the accomplishments of two previous BMR drivers in the NAPA-sponsored No. 16 – Brendan Gaughan, who won championships in 2000 and 2001, and Todd Gilliland, who captured the titles in 2016 and 2017.
This marks the 11th series championship for BMR, the sixth title in seven years for the Roseville, California-based team. That eclipses the previous record set by the team for the series and for NASCAR Regional Touring overall.
A group of special guests from NAPA Phoenix and a VIP Group from NAPA Power Premium Plus were welcomed by the race team for the championship event at the track on Saturday.
The Arizona Lottery 100, which was won by Ty Gibbs, will be televised to a national audience on NBCSN on Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. PT.
ARCA Menards Series West Event:
Race: Arizona Lottery 100 (Race 9 of 9) Nov. 6, 2021
Location: Phoenix Raceway, Avondale, Ariz. (1-mile oval)
Television: NBCSN on Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. PT
No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry
Hometown: Menlo Park, Calif.
Finished: 14th (Running, completed 100 of 100 laps)
2021 Series Stats:
Races: 9 starts, 2 wins, 4 top fives, 5 top 10s
Laps completed: 1,093/1,120
Laps led: 183
Series standings: 1st
No. 99 NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry
Hometown: Granite Bay, Calif.
Finished: 10th (Running, completed 100 of 100 laps)
2021 Series Stats:
Races: 9 starts, 4 top fives, 7 top 10s
Laps completed: 1,118/1,120
Laps led: 114
Series standings: 3rd
Rookie standings: 2nd
No. 19 Rubbermaid Commercial Products/BradyIFS Toyota Camry
Hometown: Bogota, Columbia
Finished: 26th (Running, completed 94 of 100 laps)
Race winner: Ty Gibbs
Bill McAnally Racing PR