Going into this season, Ross Chastain was only locked in to run the full NASCAR XFINITY Series for JD Motorsports. However, another opportunity came up via Bolen Motorsports.
Last season prior the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Talladega Superspeedway, Jeff Bolen reached out to Chastain about driving for him. The partnership worked out solidly with a 15th-place finish.
“He said if there was anything else, he would like to do it again,” Chastain told POPULAR SPEED. “It just worked out that going to Daytona, he needed someone to drive and wanted to race. So we did, and that didn’t go well actually – we crashed on Lap 1, basically. But he still didn’t let that get him down, and basically, I kept thinking he would want someone else to drive it, but he kept saying he wanted me to do it. So we went to Atlanta and Martinsville, just kind of not knowing what to expect. It was a welcome surprise to be fast and have good races.”
After placing 30th at Daytona, Chastain followed it up with a 10th at Atlanta Motor Speedway and seventh at Martinsville Speedway.
“To put a whole weekend together like we did, it definitely my most productive weekend I’ve ever had at Martinsville,” he said. “I’ve had race trucks before, but never was able to go through practice and then qualifying and then throughout the whole race and be in the position that I wanted to be in. I mean, even this one had it’s up and downs. It was definitely the best weekend that I’ve ever put together, and that goes back to Paul and Fish – the two full-time guys that work for the team. They brought a truck that allowed me to have a smooth weekend and have nothing go crazy wrong.”
While his focus remains on the XFINITY Series, he will once again race for Bolen Motorsports at Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. Chastain welcomed the break to focus solely on XFINITY and “the effort that takes,” while knowing it gave Bolen some time to put trucks together.
“He’s pumped up, and so am I,” Chastain said of Bolen. “We want to keep it rolling. This whole racing at this level of the sport goes in cycles in my opinion, and we’re on the up swing right now so it’s kind of a no brainer to keep it rolling as long as Jeff wants to and can do it; I’m here to be his driver. So we’re excited and wish it wasn’t so far away, but it’s given us time to put trucks together and bring quality trucks, but also bring on somebody on the sides and the hood of thing.”
Between XFINITY and Trucks, Chastain notes the biggest difference is the aero side due to the trucks having “such a big windshield and the bed being so long and tall with a big spoiler.”
“Going back and forth, it helped me a lot in the XFINITY car to be running the truck and the practices due to struggling in Atlanta over time, over the last four years,” he said. “So running more laps helped, and then running the XFINITY race and then got straight in the truck and the amount of security that I had in the truck compared to the car was night and day. It definitely made me realize when guys come down from Cup to XFINITY, it feels slower to them, and they can get more out of the racecar. That was the same for me from XFINITY to truck.”
So far this season, Chastain hasn’t had the XFINITY results warranted with only one top-20 finish in six races.
“Wish we would’ve been finishing better. It’s a struggle,” he said. “It’s a tough series with a lot of competition, lot of good teams, and we’ve been best in class a few times – as far as who were legitimately racing each weekend – and then other weekends we haven’t been as guys that shouldn’t beat us, beat us.”
With the series being off for a week, he stated they took some time to evaluate their program.
“We’re changing the stuff at the base level of how we set up our cars, and some of the approaches and some are thoughts and how we kind of interpret things working on the racecar,” he said. “So we’re changing some things to do better – that’s all we can do is try to be better than we were last week. Running every week, you get in a routine, and we kind of got to where we handle the same every week, so it’s time to curve some of that and work in the right direction, whether than stay on the same path.”
Chastain’s next opportunity will be Bristol Motor Speedway this coming weekend, where he has a track-best of 17th.
“I’ve had really good or really bad races there. It seems like we either run really well, broke and crash, or we just ran terrible and slow and finished it,” he said. “If we can have some of that speed and put a whole race together – it’s something that I’ve had to get better at. You can’t just go out and run as fast as you can every lap because at a place like that, it catches up to you and that’s what happened last fall. I was running along passing for 10th and got hooked into the wall and ruined our night and lost the car in the process.
“For me, if we can put together a good package mechanical grip wise and have a fast car, it’ll be up to me to put the whole weekend together on track. It’s easy to sit here and say that, but that’s really what it’s about for me – is just putting together a smooth weekend. I think we’ll have a fast car.”
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