Ross Chastain Battles His Way To A Seventh-Place Finish At Martinsville In Gamecock Truckby Hunter Thomas April 2, 2017 0 comments
RIDGEWAY, Va. – A day after the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA Championship Game, Ross Chastain piloted the Bolen Motorsports No. 66 Gamecocks Chevrolet to a seventh-place finish at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday.
Bolen Motorsports team owner, Jeff Bolen, is a proud alumnus of the University of South Carolina. After both, the men’s and women’s teams advanced to the Final Four, he contacted the university and pitched the idea of having a Gamecock scheme on the truck for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250.
“I reached out the university and said ‘hey, here’s my idea,’ and of course, they were really busy with the Final Four prep and all that,” Bolen said. “I tried not to bother them too much, and next thing I know, we’re designing a truck and printing the paint scheme, and now, here we are.”
The effort wasn’t funded by the University of South Carolina, instead, donors fueled the unique project. The creator behind the scheme design was Joseph Johnson, Creative Director of the university. He has only been employed at the University of South Carolina for about a month, but a week before Saturday’s race, he received a call to design a scheme for the Bolen Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado.
“It started last week,” Johnson said. “Friday afternoon, I got a phone call ‘hey, we need you to design a truck that’s going to run at Martinsville,’ and we had about five or six hours to put the whole design together and get it through the approval process. We just wanted to get a design that would embody the Gamecocks’ spirit on the truck, and I felt that’s what we did.”
Chastain qualified in the fifth position on Saturday, but not long after the green flag flew, his No. 66 University of South Carolina Gamecocks Chevrolet Silverado had a cut right front tire. Crew chief, Paul Clapprood continued to adjust the truck, and he finally got it to turn through the corners. During a lap 101 caution, Chastain and the Bolen Motorsports team received the Free Pass that placed them back onto the lead lap.
“We had a flat tire from the start,” Chastain said. “We had a really good qualifying effort and went into Turn 1 and went straight and didn’t really – I thought it was just cold tires, it’s on me. Got that tire changed, and we were still terrible, and Paul kept working on it all day and listening to me and what I needed, and we were just plowing through the center.”
As the race went on, everything appeared to be going well for the team. Great adjustments were being made, and Chastain was slowly beginning to make his way towards the front of the pack; however, on lap 137, near disaster struck. While exiting Turn 4, leader and eventual race winner, Chase Elliott got into the back of Chastain’s truck and spun him through the corner. Luckily for Chastain, no other driver made contact, so he was able to continue.
“We were on the outside just kind of waiting to get our tires and got down in front of Chase and had plenty of room, and you know, he just got down to the bottom, and he just blasted me about two or three times,” Chastain said. “The third one got me.”
Despite the close call, Chastain was able to recover, and he captured a seventh-place finish, the team’s most competitive effort in its series history. In fact, Chastain’s finish on Saturday at Martinsville Speedway marked the second top-10 finish of the season. Chastain finished 10th at Atlanta Motor Speedway back in early March. The string of competitive finishes is beyond impressive, especially considering that the team only has two full-time employees working in its Mooresville, North Carolina race shop.
“Two in a row,” Bolen said. “Two top-tens! Unbelievable! Ross drives the wheels off of it. I can’t ask anymore from him. Rough start to the day with cutting the right front down on lap 2 or whatever it was and just battled back, man. Kind of mimics the Gamecocks. I think that was a keyword with the baseball team back in the day was ‘battle’. Definitely a battle today and happy to be in the top-10.”
Photo Credit: Tyler Goodson/TheFourthTurn.com