Talking Racing with Justin Boston

Talking Racing with Justin Boston

by September 17, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Kyle Pokrefky/The Fourth Turn

The first-ever edition of The Fourth Turn’s Talking Racing comes to you with an exclusive interview with 25-year-old Justin Boston from Sparks, Maryland.

Boston presently drives the No. 25 ZLOOP Toyota for Venturini Motorsports in the ARCA Racing Series. Boston has two career wins in the ARCA Racing Series and he currently sits fifth in the driver standings with two races remaining in the season. He is also the 2013 Rookie of the Year in the series.

Boston will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut this Saturday at Kentucky Speedway in the 300 in the No. 20 ZLOOP Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. The night before, Boston will race in the ZLOOP 150 at Kentucky in the ARCA Racing Series.

The Fourth Turn was able to have a chat with Boston over the phone shortly after an ARCA test at Kentucky Speedway in preparation for Friday’s ZLOOP 150. In the discussion, Boston and The Fourth Turn’s Kyle Pokrefky were able to talk about Boston’s Nationwide Series debut, his ARCA test at Kentucky, and his racing plans for 2015 – among other topics.

The big news this week is that you’ll be making your NASCAR Nationwide Series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday. How did this deal come together?

Billy Venturini – it started with him. Billy has a good standing relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing. We run with JGR engines – Toyota Racing engines – in our ARCA program. The natural progression was to try and move up through Joe Gibbs Racing, we’re a development team for Joe Gibbs Racing. Billy’s really the one who put my name in the pool of drivers that are over there and got me the opportunity to get my foot in the door with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Last year, you made a statement by claiming the ARCA Racing Series’ Rookie of the Year title. Going back to just after you won the award, if you were to look one year into the future – would you have seen yourself racing on NASCAR’s national stage?

… You never know when you’re going to have the opportunity to take the next step. You see drivers making it when they are ready or beyond when they’re ready – they almost make the jump after their prime sometimes – or way before they’re ready. You really never know when it’s going to come. You never know when you’re going to get the call to be able to go drive in a NASCAR series. There’s plenty of guys in ARCA that deserve a ride in the Trucks or the Nationwide Series.

I’m fortunate enough to have great sponsorship behind me with ZLOOP and everybody that puts me in a race car. You want to make it to Cup – that’s our goal and that’s my goal is to be a competitive Cup driver. There’s a lot of improving and a lot of proving to do still, but, this is definitely a step in the right direction. I know I’m with a really good team in ARCA and in Nationwide, so that’s going to make things a little bit easier on myself.

I’m pretty comfortable. We’ve already tested the Nationwide car once, and I was pretty much immediately comfortable in the car, so that felt really good. To have a strong team around you I think is really important and whenever you get that opportunity to make that happen, you’ve got to jump on it. You see guys like Ryan Blaney who are hooked up with Team Penske, they’re getting really good cars and they get good teams behind them, and that’s what elevates your own abilities and talent. When you get in cars like that, you know what you’re going to need when you get in other races and other situations. It’s really a big deal to be able to run the No. 20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, I think it’s going to be a really good learning experience for me and hopefully it puts my abilities to the next level.

In race conditions, how big of a difference are you expecting between the ARCA car and the Nationwide car? Do you think you can do the same things in the Nationwide car that you can do in ARCA?

Theoretically, yes. Those guys make a lot of pretty brave moves and you’re going to have to figure it out. If you want to be competitive and if you want to improve your position in the middle and in the end of the races in the Nationwide Series, you’ve got to get going on restarts and you’ve got to choose your times to be aggressive. That’s going to be a lot of my learning curve – figuring out the nuances of the series and learning the drivers. I’m basically starting over. There are some guys that I’ve raced with – about 25-to-30 percent of them – and there’s a lot of guys that I haven’t. You’ve got to know your racing and you got to know who you’re running with. That’s going to be a learning curve of itself.

I’m not really sure as far as aero and how much more it’s going to be a factor. I know it’s going to be more of a factor in traffic – the cars get upset more in traffic in the Nationwide Series than our cars in the ARCA Series. How much, I really don’t know yet. I’ll definitely find out in Nationwide on Saturday.

You arrived at Kentucky early to run in an ARCA test that just wrapped up about an hour-and-a-half or so ago, how did the test go and did you learn anything from it for this weekend?

A lot of guys were trying to make their cars go faster and we were just there to test. That’s what we did all day – we tested different things. There was a point in the day when we were probably eighth or 10th on the board, and I was telling my crew chief Billy [Venturini] and I was saying ‘we need to go faster’ –  … and he was very adamant on making sure I was very patient. We made a lot of changes and we got a lot of data today on our notebook. I think it’s going to prove beneficial, we never really made adjustments to make the car better. We were trying different things, we weren’t adjusting shocks and we weren’t doing anything big to try and help the handling of the race car today. We were really using this as a legitimate test for us, that’s what we did and we ended up second-quickest.

I think we’re going to have a really good race car come Friday night. I really want to win this one, this feels like a home race to me. We’re going to have a lot of people here from ZLOOP watching the race – on both nights. It’s a really big weekend for me and for my sponsors. I want to perform well for them and I want to get them in victory lane in the ARCA race and try to be competitive and hopefully run in the top-10 in the Nationwide race. If I do everything I can do and do the best job I can, there’s no reason why we can’t go run in the top-12 or top-10. That’s the goal and hopefully we can reach both of our goals this weekend.

You were able to run really well at the last mile-and-a-half track in ARCA with a second-place run at Chicagoland, are there any similarities between the tracks that can help you for this weekend?

It’s a mile-and-a-half race track, it’s a round mile-and-a-half race track. As far as characteristics of the track, they’re a lot of different. Kentucky’s really rough, they tried to make some improvements to it. They put a patch in Turn 3 on the entrance of the turn and at the start/finish line where they actually made a concrete patch as well as the late exit of Turn 4, where they did repairs. The track’s really rough still. It’s got a lot of character to it, it’s one of the roughest race tracks I’ve ever been to. They tried to fix it, and they fixed some of the entrance into Turn 3 and I think they’ve improved the start/finish line, but it’s still really rough. I think it’s going to have tires come into play and whoever’s good on tires is going to be really good at the end of the race this weekend.

I think Kentucky’s definitely different than Chicagoland, but it’s a mile-and-a-half and like all of the big race tracks that we go to – Venturini [Motorsports] has a really good handle on the track so I have full faith in my guys to give me a good car for the race.

Moving back over to the Nationwide Series, you have two strong veterans in Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish Jr. as teammates alongside you for this weekend. How heavily will you rely on them for their help this weekend?

As heavy as they’ll let me [laughing]. I don’t have a great outstanding relationship with those guys, in fact, I don’t think I’ve even met them before. Sam Hornish is a very good race car driver and so is Elliott Sadler. Whatever they’re going to throw at me and say anything and if they’re willing to share some data and some thoughts, I’m going to listen. That’s what I did over at Venturini and that’s what sped up my learning curve. You can have people tell you everything they know but it’s up to you to listen to them and it’s up to you to comprehend what they’re trying to tell you. You’ve got to have a quick learning curve, you’ve got to grasp things quickly to be successful in every series… I think those guys have a lot of success, so anything they throw my way I’m definitely going to be listening to.

You have three more Truck starts scheduled for this year and a start at Dover in the Nationwide Series after Kentucky. Is this building up to something bigger for 2015?

I definitely hope so, we’re trying to see where I’m at as a driver right now. We’re out of the championship hopes for the ARCA Racing Series so we’ve kind of shifted our focus from points racing and we’re trying to go win races in the ARCA Racing Series – but, we’re also trying to see what next year has in store for Justin Boston and my sponsors. There’s a lot of stuff that’s open for me and there’s a lot of stuff that’s still on the table. As far as where I’m going to end up, I have no clue – I couldn’t tell you today where I’m going to end up. I definitely don’t feel like I’m done in ARCA, I feel like I want to run some more ARCA races next year if possible. But, you’ve got to move up whenever you get the opportunity to and that’s what we’re trying to figure out right now – where that best opportunity for me is going to be to be successful.

Speaking of Dover – Dover, Delaware, is just a two-hour drive, roughly, from Sparks, Maryland. What are your thoughts on racing on the national stage so close to your hometown?

It’s big. That’s where I went and watched my first race and that’s what made me want to hop in a race car. That’s where it really all started for me. It’s going to be a full-circle deal and I got to run the K&N race there last year and we almost won it. I almost want to run the K&N race again because I really want one of those trophies. But, I’m going to be the Nationwide race and I’m going to have to get one of those trophies in a series that’s a little bit harder. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m hopefully going to have a lot of hometown support there. It’s going to be a big deal for me personally and for my family. Like you said, my family comes from Maryland and that’s where we grew up – my family has 100 years of history in Maryland. It’s a big deal to be able to run a Nationwide Series race so close to where you grew up.

What’s your goal for the Nationwide race this weekend?

Top-10, for sure. It’s a non-companion event and I think if I do everything in my power to give them good feedback in practice and if we qualify well, I think we can run up front and have good pit stops, there’s a lot of factors that come into a good run in the Nationwide Series. It’s up to me to mind my P’s and Q’s and if we have a good day and if we have a clean day, I don’t see how it won’t be possible for us to run in the top-10. Really, top-12 would be good too – I think that’s my expectation. My true expectation is to be competitive and run all of the laps. If we don’t get a top-10, it’s not the end of the world for me, but I want to perform and do well. There’s guys like Erik Jones who have gotten into the car and he’s a really talented race car driver that’s come through Venturini Motorsports and ran some races for them. I’d like to follow in their footsteps and hopefully get the opportunity to get some more races in the future.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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