Toyota boasted one of the best driver development programs heading into this season with Corey Heim and Jesse Love dominating the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series respectively, and a young Sammy Smith winning his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race. For 2024, Smith and Love are both gone as Smith moves to JR Motorsports, and Love makes a surprise move from ARCA to the Xfinity Series with Richard Childress racing.
The question becomes, given what they have already lost, why would Toyota be willing to drop Jesse Love for 2024?
Toyota Seats are Too Crowded
One issue is how crowded Toyota is in the lower levels of NASCAR. TRICON Garage has four drivers who drive full-time along with part-time drivers such as Toni Breidinger, Love, and William Sawalich. Corey Heim is returning for 2024 alongside Dean Thompson, and Heim’s return probably sealed the fate of Love.
Love had no Toyota Truck team to go to for 2024. Some suggested he could take the Xfinity Series seat at Joe Gibbs Racing, but, that’s a seat with a lot of candidates already. Drivers with funding like Sheldon Creed, and Chandler Smith, and drivers trying to secure funding like Ryan Truex have all been rumored to potentially join the team.
All of which are good prospects. On top of that, if Toyota is truly committed to Corey Heim, then Heim may not take kindly to an ARCA driver jumping him in the pipeline after a Championship-caliber season. On top of that, William Sawalich drives for Joe Gibbs Racing in ARCA, and he won four races at the age of 16. He’s going to become a top priority for Gibbs as time goes on.
As all of this worked out, there may not have been room for Jesse Love in the Toyota pipeline. This could have especially been true with funding as a factor.
Funding is a major part of any race car driver’s life. It takes a significant amount of financial backing to race at NASCAR’s top level. The RCR 2 car is a unique car in that it brings some funding already from Whelen.
If Love did not bring enough funding to satisfy Toyota teams, then maybe he brought enough for RCR, which has funding already. It’s just a reality of racing in NASCAR. No matter how talented of a driver you are, you need to bring money to the table to race.
Love. is the same way. Now, it’s possible that funding had nothing to do with it and something happened behind the scenes, but, we do not totally know.
Toyota’s driver pipeline has lost two young drivers this year to Chevrolet. Jesse Love will have a chance to prove himself at the doorstep of the top level of the sport.