Ross Chastain, Bolen Motorsports rally for top 10 in Martinsville, eye future plans

Logan Whitton/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – With a special University of South Carolina Gamecocks livery atop their No. 66 Chevrolet, Ross Chastain and Bolen Motorsports overcame a slew of obstacles to surprise the field and tally their second-consecutive top 10 at Martinsville Speedway.

The day started off strong, with Chastain leading the organization to a fifth-place effort in qualifying. However, from there the Floridian needed a bit of the same magic displayed by the Gamecocks in both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments this season to rally to his best finish in nearly four years.

While they took the green flag for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 full of promise, Bolen Motorsports’ odds quickly saw a turn for the worse in the form of an early flat tire and handling woes.

“We had a flat tire from the start,” Chastain said. “Had a really good qualifying effort, went into Turn 1 and went straight. Just thought it was cold tires at first.

“Got that tire changed and was still terrible, but Paul (Clapprood, crew chief) kept working on it all day, listening to me and what I needed. We were just plowing through the center.”

After the early issues Chastain and the No. 66 team were able remedy their handling issues and climb back into contention – utilizing the free pass to rejoin the lead lap on lap 101 – but they didn’t truly find themselves well situated for a top-10 performance until, incredibly, a run-in with the eventual race winner and a spin actually helped their cause.

Chastain was battling with Chase Elliott on lap 137 when heavy contact from the Georgian sent his No. 66 looping around on the .526-mile oval.

“We were on the outside just waiting to get our tires, got down in front of Chase (Elliott) and had plenty of room,” Chastain said. “We got down to the bottom and he just blasted me about two or three times. The third one got me.”

In need of fresh tires after the spin, Chastain came to the open pit road. Unbeknownst to him, confusion with the pit road procedure at the end of a stage saw him and a couple others come to pit road before the rest of the field.

When the leaders pitted a few laps later, Chastain found himself ahead of them all with equal tires.

“I don’t know what happened with all of the pit strategy and the leaders,” Chastain said. “They made them stay out, then they let them pit and then (Johnny) Sauter started behind us on equal tires. That stinks for him, because I think he probably should have won this race.”

From there Chastain rallied to climb inside of the top 10, ultimately rising to seventh in the closing laps.

“This (truck) was good at the end once we got it turning,” Chastain said. “It wouldn’t really have mattered who was driving it. Paul did such a good job with it, and everything went right for us.”

With two top 10s in the opening three events, Chastain and Bolen Motorsports have exceeded their own expectations for the beginning of the season, a feat Chastain attests to the team’s work ethic.

“Jeff (Bolen) puts his heart and soul into this. It’s nothing compared to a lot of guys, but with two full-time employees, somehow they’re making it work. I’m just the monkey holding the wheel, man. I’m telling you.”

What comes next for the team and Chastain remains to be seen, but after two tastes of early success, the Floridian hopes the can make additional starts for the organization moving forward.

“Go ask Jeff Bolen, I don’t know,” Chastain said of the prospects of future starts. “I hope so! After Atlanta I wanted someone to come drive this thing that could help put stuff on the sides of the truck, that would make it get to where Jeff wants to get it. But now I’m stingy. I don’t want anyone to drive it.

“My focus, and Jeff knows this, is the (No. 4) car with Johnny Davis and Gary Keller. I’m running that full-time. But any time I can come run this thing… I’ve actually had to buy a second set of everything, and now a third set so I can have backups of everything. A helmet, gloves, earbuds and shows. Things you don’t think about, so I can leave them in this hauler. Now whenever he calls, I’ll be ready.”

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