This season there is a brand new Camping World Truck Series team that has made it’s entrance into NASCAR. One of the things that NASCAR has always touted is that anyone could jump onboard and compete on any weekend at any level, at any given race track.
Jeff Bolen, his group of scrappy employees, as well as a young driver named Jordan Anderson have banned together to form Bolen Motorsports and they are attempting to do just that, compete in the Camping World Truck Series.
Did you ever wonder what motivates a young man to gather up a few good friends, mechanics, and/or a few hard working volunteers and try to compete in one of the three top touring NASCAR racing series? Well, when you finish reading this interview you will find out just what has motivated Jeff Bolen to do that.
Leon Hammack, Working On My Redneck: Jeff how, when, and where did you first get involved in racing?
Jeff Bolen, Bolen Motorsports: Depending on how you judge being involved in racing, the answer might fluctuate. My passion for racing was born in the infield of Darlington when I was young. I was fortunate enough to have a grandfather who took my brother and I to the race each and every year.
Long before the truck series existed or Camping World ever though of sponsoring a series, I was nestled in a camper. However, sometimes it was in a tent in the infield of Darlington.
I was just six years old when I witnessed Bill Elliott win the Winston Million.
I can remember being awakened by “rowdy fans’ in the early morning when the corner of our tent was being run over by either a Ford or a Chevy. I am not sure now which it was, but I do know that their bumpers were connected by a chain and they were both confident that they could rip the bumper of off the other! As a little boy that was pretty cool!
Move on to high school and college when it was a tradition to reserve our spot against the fence in turn 3, across from the tower. Every year we would better perfect our tower that we built on the back of dad’s pickup truck. We built it so that it would fit through the old tunnel. By just clearing the tunnel we would maximize the height of our home-built towering platform, and have a great race view.
We came within a 1/4″ of the roof of the tunnel one year. I believe that year we had to let some air out of the tires to get through the tunnel!
It was always the smell of the fuel that I looked forward to, or was it the fact that if I was against the fence and that I would only be yards away from Dale Earnhardt, or Jeff Gordon, or my favorite driver in the late 90’s, Dale Jarrett? I wasn’t sure.
My goal was to be in NASCAR, now I just had to figure it out.
A few years later in my college career, I was fortunate enough to take a class taught by the late great Jim Hunter at the University of South Carolina titled “The Marketing of NASCAR”. I received extra credit for traveling to the press conference where they announced that the truck series was coming to Darlington. Now that was pretty cool!
Moving on, I still had the goal of being part of NASCAR. I was offered the opportunity to intern at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2001 in the marketing department where I was involved with the Fall racing events at the race track.
The closest that I came to a NASCAR job or career was an interview with Roush Racing for a PR job for an up and coming driver. Boy was I excited and I didn’t care who the driver was, this is Roush Racing we are talking about! I got the interview, and was dressed to the nines! I didn’t get the job and later found out that the job that I was interviewing for was to be the PR guy for Matt Kenseth! Well damn!
There were many great memories for me at Darlington, I took my wife to her first NASCAR race there and we were at the start/finish line for the closest finish in Darlington/NASCAR history, the Kurt Busch/ Ricky Craven race!
Growing up in a lower middle class family I was afforded a dirt bike and go karts, but never the chance to race. So in my late 20’s, I had worked hard, graduated from college, had a good job, was married with kids on the way, I was introduced to the Legend Car series at Charlotte. I decided that the Legend Cars was an opportunity to explore my true passion.
I purchased my first Legend car in 2007 and began to race some events at the Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ¼ mile track. I continued to work toward the goal of winning the CMS Summer Shootout championship. In 2009 I was fortunate enough to win that championship and my family was there to help in the celebration!
Not by plan, but the two years prior to my championship there was “younger driver” from Columbia, SC who had won back-to-back Shootout championships, Jordan Anderson. Now if that is not a connection, I don’t know what is!
I continued to move forward with Super Late models where my career was short lived, because of a bad economy and a lack of talent! I am not sure which was truer!
LH: When did you decide to get involved in big time racing like the Camping World Truck Series, and what led up to this level of competition??
JB: During my short late model career I had an itch to look into big time stock car racing. After realizing the expense of building a successful late model program and exploring the costs of the CWTS, I had thoughts. I don’t want to mislead anybody into thinking that those programs are the same, but they may not be that far apart, depending on your level of support and commitment.
The kid that approached me and told me about what he was doing, had done, and what he wanted to do, Jordan Anderson, has been a major force in where our team is today.
This is not about Jeff Bolen, but more about a commitment to support a kid that has maybe a similar dream of mine, and is committed to making it happen!
LH: Could you tell us what piqued your interest with Jordan Anderson?
JB: I don’t even know what “piqued” means! But if you are asking why I have structured my program around Jordan Anderson, then I can tell you. This kid is the real deal.
We both have a similar upbringing and a passion for this sport. I believe that Jordan would tell you that we are both still fans of the sport and appreciate the opportunity to try and stake our name within the sport. Jordan has never had the best equipment, never had a huge multi-million dollar sponsor to support the best equipment, but he still works tirelessly day in and day out to pursue his dream of being a Sprint Cup driver. He motivates me just as much to make this thing work and find the next partner or sponsor. I want to make it work as much as he does. We are a good fit, we communicate well, as well as work well together.
A lot of folks have said that he is the hardest working kid in the garage. That may or may not be true, but I can promise you that he is the hardest working kid outside the garage. He is our driver, team manager, marketing director, etc. This kid has a drive like no other and I am excited to help grow his career. You will see Jordan Anderson in the Sprint Cup series!
LH: When and how did this deal with Jordan Anderson as your driver, Columbia Metropolitan CVB, and the Columbia Regional Sports Council as sponsors come about?
JB: Well, I guess the deal started back in 1979 when I was born, The Columbia Metropolitan CVB didn’t exist, and Jordan Anderson wasn’t born yet. Just kidding!
What a natural fit! Both Jordan and I are from Columbia, SC, born and raised. This was the original connection from back in the Legend car days. We have talked and talked about building this program . We have worked on putting this deal together for almost a year and we look forward to showcasing our hometown. Thankfully we were afforded the opportunity to showcase Jordan and our vision with Columbia CVB. We are both very thankful in the belief in us as a race team, and the support that they have given to us.
There is no better place to visit or live than Columbia, SC.
LH: Where do you get your chassis and motors and how many trucks do you have in your inventory?
JB: We currently have three RHE chassis and we lease motors from Collins Engine works.
LH: What are your goals for Bolen Motorsports for 2016, 2017, and beyond?
JB: This team was started on a friendship born in racing and we have continued to grow that relationship. I am not sure we have sat back and reflected on exactly where we are or where we are going, believe it or not. I know that being a Sprint Cup series owner has become a much more unreachable goal but my goal has always been to be a part of NASCAR. After meeting Jordan (Anderson) it was to be a part of NASCAR and further his career. Bolen Motorsports will continue to provide the best equipment and resources possible, within means, to support Jordan and his NASCAR career.
LH: What, in your mind, constitutes a successful 2016 for your organization?
JB: If we are able to continue to compete and bring strong equipment to each and every race, I will consider it successful. The 2016 Camping World Truck Series is one of the stoutest fields in my recent memory. We are proud to be a part of it and we will take our wins and our losses, but there ain’t no giving up! Success is running in the top 5 at Daytona, or finishing top 15 at Kansas, winning races! I don’t know? I do know that we are here to race and success is measured by what we gained from our last race. You are only as good as your last race, and right now we have some work to do!
LH: How many employees do you have at Bolen Motorsports? Any thoughts of expanding next season?
JB: I have four employees right now. They are a good group of guys who aren’t afraid to take on a task that is outside of their title. They are racers who want to compete and are good at what they do. We are expanding everyday, so next season isn’t even a thought.
LH: What are you plans for 2017? Do you have any thoughts or plans to try to establish some kind of affiliation or alliance with any of the bigger NASCAR organizations?
JB: Our plans are to race for wins and championships! The plans are no different for us than for any other team, and it depends a lot on the support we receive this year. Alliances are cool, but expensive!
LH: I like to end my interviews with the same question. Of all the things that you have done so far, what are you most proud of?
JB: I am most proud of my family. I have a loving wife and three beautiful young boys who keep me way busier than racing. The opportunity to do something that I love with the support of my family is priceless! I value my days of juggling a construction business, a Pet Waste Removal company, a race team, and coaching Little League baseball. I have a lot of perspective in my life right now!
I think that Jeff Bolen has explained to the readers what has motivated him to gather up his resources, launch his Camping World Truck Series team, help further the career of a young driver race car driver, and to fulfill his own goal of becoming part of NASCAR.
Simply put: It is a racing thing. Once it gets in your blood, you are all in, hook line and sinker!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!