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Finch Hopes Early Success with Sanders Continues at Allen Turner PLM Opener

The former Outlaw champion at Five Flags Speedway will compete in the Allen Turner Pro Late Model season opener Friday.


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Jake Finch, quite literally, grew up around short-track racing.

James Finch—Jake’s father—and his Phoenix Construction company has backed some of Late Model racing’s brightest stars, as well as a few NASCAR teams, for decades now.

Jake Finch has memorabilia and photographs with motorsports’ biggest names splattered throughout his family’s home in Lynn Haven.

But the 18-year-old driver is adamant that his greatest memories at a racetrack come from being around his dad.

“Any day I get to spend at the racetrack with my dad,” the younger Finch said, “and be around him and feel his energy, those are probably my favorite memories.”

Son and father will once again be together Friday night at Five Flags Speedway, as the Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Models kick off their 2024 season with the first of four 100-lap races.

Sharing the Five Flags marquee with the PLMs will be the Faith Chapel Outlaws (35 laps), The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen (25) and the Story and Bleich Crown Stocks (20). Admission is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, military and students; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; and free for kids 5-and-under. Gates open at 5 p.m. Friday with qualifying set for 6:30 and the green flag dropping at approximately 8.

After earning his Late Model stripes over the last few years, Finch is behind the wheel of the iconic No. 18 Late Models belonging to short-track legend Ronnie Sanders. Sanders, a past Snowball Derby champion—despite what Darrell Waltrip would have you believe—has had some of the sport’s most accomplished drivers pilot his red machines. Bubba Pollard, Casey Roderick and Hunter Robbins—all former Snowflake 100 winners during Derby week—have all sat in the seat Finch has inherited.

“I think it’s a super cool opportunity,” Finch said. “Ronnie is a legend in our sport. And to be surrounded by him and all his guys, it’s a huge blessing.”

Despite his youth, Finch hasn’t disappointed early on this year. He nearly swept the Rattler weekend last month at South Alabama Speedway. He cruised to Victory Lane and a PLM win for the Baby Rattler and finished a close runner-up to Pollard for the main Super Late Model event.

Finch also finished second in the Alabama 200, another famed PLM race, earlier in March at Montgomery Motor Speedway.

“I feel like we’ve been pretty good,” he said. “It could’ve started off a little better by winning all of them. But it has been a good start. We just need to keep running good throughout year.”

That next chance comes Friday at Pensacola’s high banks. Finch has earned his stripes at America’s favorite home track, winning an Outlaws track championship in 2021 before ascending to Late Models. He has also driven an ARCA car the last two years for the Pensacola 150, including during The Big Weekend on March 23.

Growing up in the Panhandle, Five Flags holds special meaning to Finch. He hopes teaming up with Sanders will help him achieve a childhood goal of winning at the Derby.

“Snowball Derby is my favorite weekend every year,” Finch said. “I think about the Snowball Derby every day. Running good all year at Pensacola will translate for my confidence and momentum going into December. But my biggest focus now is competing and just doing the best we can do.”

Ultimately, Jake Finch will always be focused on ensuring his dad is proud of him.

“We talk a lot about racing,” he said. “Even when I win a race or I lead every lap, my dad has something to say that’s trying to help me improve. It’s always refreshing. He never lets my head get too big. I wouldn’t be anywhere in racing without him.”

-Story by: Chuck Corder, Five Flags Speedway
-Photo credit: Will Bellamy, Racing America

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