Jake Finch Making ARCA East Debut at Five Flags

The start is part of Finch's most daunting season to date.

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Jake Finch’s youth belies the maturity he constantly displays.

Teenagers are supposed to care about only a handful of things, but Jake’s cerebral nature shows a depth most 16-year-olds haven’t discovered yet. While he fights nature’s tug-of-war between childhood and adolescence, the up-and-coming short-track champion has turned to other successful minds to steer him toward his future.

“(Cincinnati Bengals quarterback) Joe Burrow says. ‘You won’t feel pressure if you’re prepared,’ “ Jake quoted. “I look at Chase Elliott and he never gets shaken up too much. (Tom) Brady lost the (NFC Championship) with less than a minute left after he drove his team down for a touchdown. He didn’t flip out. He told the (Rams), ‘Good game,’ and showed a bunch of class. That’s mental preparation, too.”

Empowered by a sound mindset that values homework and repetition, Jake embarks on the most daunting season of his young short-track career. He will attempt to defend the Faith Chapel Outlaws track championship he won at Five Flags Speedway last year while also dipping his toes in ARCA and Super Late Model waters.

Jake will drive on both nights of the ARCA Pensacola 200 at Five Flags, making his ARCA debut Saturday. The Outlaws, Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen and Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks open the festivities Friday night. Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday with racing slated for 8. The ARCA Pensacola 200 and Vores Compact Touring Series will compete Saturday night. Call the track office at 850.944.8400 for admission prices and more details on the big weekend.

“I’m excited and can’t wait for it to get here.” Jake said of his ARCA Series unveiling at the famed half-mile asphalt oval. “Obviously, I want to go out there and win every race. Some people have perceived my attitude about that a little wrong. If I’m not going out there to win, what’s the point in going out there at all.

“A good expectation, though, is to finish the race and learn as much as I can. You can’t learn much when you wreck early.”

But you can learn a thing or two about preparation. Just look at Jake’s championship-clinching Outlaws race at the Night of Champions last September at Pensacola’s high banks. He departed early from the feature when his No. 51 was demolished in a wreck and Jake helplessly watched his closest competitors try and steal the title from his grasp. His insurmountable points lead ultimately helped Jake secure the title. Unknowingly until the final points were tabulated, all his success last season prepared him to become a champion on a subpar night.

“I was lucky the team brought good cars for me throughout the year,” Jake said. “I’m thankful to everybody that helps me. That night, I was not on my ‘A’ game. I was really lucky and grateful. My team was deserving of a championship that night, not me so much.”
History doesn’t worry about the details. Fifty years from now, the Five Flags record books will read that Jake Finch won the Outlaws title in 2021, plain and simple.

“I feel like my dad is good about not caring what people think,” Jake said of his father, James Finch, a legendary motorsports owner who has had drivers win both the Snowball Derby and at Talladega.

“I learned a little bit off him. He’s my biggest idol. I try to prepare myself as much as I can. Some people might see it as pressure having a dad involved with racing, but it’s a blessing in disguise to me. Haters are gonna always hate. I try to just do me. Dad says you can’t worry about things you can’t fix. If it’s already happened, it’s done and over with. You just have to take a deep breath and go on.”

He’ll take a similar approach as he makes his ARCA maiden voyage this weekend as the youngest driver in the field. The plan is to run more ARCA races this season while also competing regularly in the Southern Super Series for SLMs.

“We’re going to try and run every single one, but I’m still a high school kid,” said Jake, who is a junior at Mosley High School in Lynn Haven. “I might have to go to prom or some stuff.”

-Story by: Chuck Corder/Five Flags Speedway