Veteran Bolen Hopes to Add SRX Shot to 'Last Hurrah'

A third-place finish on Friday gives Bolen a shot at Five Flags' SRX seat entering Saturday.

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There was plenty of talk about which drivers would be the favorites to snag Five Flags Speedway’s Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) opening, by virtue of the best average finish in this weekend’s PepperJack Kennels Twin 100s.

Perhaps it would be one of the Southern Super Series’ touring stars, such as Bubba Pollard, Stephen Nasse or Jake Garcia. Maybe someone dropping in for the weekend, such as defending Snowball Derby winner and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Chandler Smith or two-time Snowflake 100 winner Derek Thorn.

John Bolen’s name likely didn’t come up often in those conversations. After a third-place finish at the Rubber & Specialties 100 on Friday night, however, the Alabama driver has placed himself squarely in the conversation entering Saturday night.

Why weren’t people talking about Bolen? For one, he’s only recently rekindled his Super Late Model program after focusing primarily on Pro Late Model racing for several years. Bolen is a two-time Show Me the Money Series champion at Montgomery Motor Speedway.

For Bolen and his family team, the decision to ramp up its Super Late Model racing efforts is one with an eye on the future … namely, his son’s potential racing career.

“Our little boy, my son is five now. We got him a quarter-midget last week,” Bolen told Racing America. “My dad and I were talking about it. He’s like, ‘You know, he’s about to start racing pretty heavily. If we want to start racing pretty heavily, we need to do it in the next year or two before we turn the reins over and dial it back down to a few Crate races between his races.'

“We’ve got another year or two. The last hurrah, we want to give it one last shot and see. We had such good success when we swapped to FURY with the Crate cars, with the timetable we were on, run it out here to the end.”

Bolen scored two top-10 finishes to kick off the “last hurrah” during the 2021 Southern Super Series season, including an eighth-place at Five Flags during the Blizzard Series finale.

Bolen is no stranger to success at Five Flags Speedway, including a weekend in 2009 when Bolen finished runner-up to Augie Grill in the Snowflake 100 and placed fifth in the Snowball Derby. However, Friday’s third-place finish was Bolen’s first in a Super Late Model at Five Flags since that 2009 Derby.

Friday night didn’t have the most promising start for Bolen, either. A 25th-place effort in qualifying put him near the rear of a 30-car field.

“We knew we had a really good long run car,” said Bolen. “Even last year, the few races that we ran, it had long run speed. We’re still working on qualifying. That’s me, the car’s there.

“It’s just been a long time since we’ve been in the Super and we’re putting the pieces together.”

Starting deep in the field gave Bolen plenty of cars to pass, as well as several accidents to avoid on a wild Friday night at the Pensacola half-mile. Bolen acknowledges some of those incidents may have given him fortunate breaks, but enjoyed charging through the field.

“It was fun coming through there. We had a couple good breaks getting through the wrecks semi-unscathed. We got a little body damage here and there, but overall, a few things went our way. We were moving forward, but it might have been hard to get where we got to if a couple of those cars hadn’t wrecked.”

Regardless of how he got there, at night’s end Bolen was parked on the frontstretch as a podium finisher, along with winner Stephen Nasse and runner-up Bubba Pollard. Being next to those names is testament enough to how competitive Bolen was Friday night.

“Back in the day, we were racing Bubba and finishing top-five every week. Stephen came along after we dialed back on the Super racing, but if he’s there, you know he’s vying for the win. It definitely shows we’re in the right direction and in the company we need to be in to have the stuff to win.”

Now, Bolen turns his sights towards battling Nasse, Pollard and the rest of Friday night’s top finishers for Saturday’s Blizzard Series win and the SRX opportunity. It may have seemed unlikely just 24 hours ago, but a one-of-a-kind opportunity is now within Bolen’s reach.

Having that opportunity on a track so familiar to Bolen from his racing over the years would be a very special moment, a dream way to cap off his “last hurrah.”

“We’ve been running the Snowball for what feels like forever now. We’ve been lifetime Late Model, Super Late Model people. It’s been a family thing. That would be the top. I would have never gotten to race against Tony Stewart. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance there. Those don’t come around very often.”

Bolen also knows he will start Saturday night from the sixth position, instead of deep in the field. The lineup for the Zoom Equipment 100 is based off Friday’s results, with an invert of the top eight finishers courtesy of Nasse’s draw in victory lane.

“I’m just excited I don’t have to qualify. We know we’re starting further up front than we did tonight. I think that will give us a better result at the end.”