Ronnie Bassett Jr.’s Martinsville Recap
As anticipated for Martinsville, the Bassett Racing team had an eventful weekend as 16 year old Ronnie Bassett Jr. made his first appearance in the prestigious Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 on the half mile paperclip.
The team started the weekend off strides better than they were in the test session and ended final practice ninth of the 80 cars on hand. However, in qualifying Bassett slowed down saying his car was extremely loose. His time left him 40th overall, giving him the 11th starting spot in the first heat race. On Sunday morning the team found the right rear spring was not sitting in the spring bucket, which explained the car’s ill handling.
Bassett felt more confident having gained this knowledge but still knew he had his work cut out as he’d have to race his way forward three positions to advance to the feature. Bassett was battling for the transfer spot on lap 22 in the 25 lap heat race when the competitor’s teammate entered the mix and spun Bassett from behind in turns one and two. Bassett finished 11th which meant he’d have to run the last chance race. The team brushed off the incident acknowledging their car should have been better to not put themselves in that position on track.
After the team replaced the left front fender and repaired all the damage, Bassett started ninth in the last chance race where the top ten advance to the feature. With five to go he had worked himself up to battle for the lead. After Peyton Sellers’ engine expired, Bassett inherited the lead and never relinquished. By winning the last chance race Bassett would start 33rd for the main event.
In the 150 lap main event the first caution came on lap 18 as Bassett already gained eight positions, but became concerned about the engine as his water temperature was high. The next few restarts Bassett chose the outside line and worked his way forward as the temperature fell when he got open air. He told his team “we’ve got a rocket ship. I can take the car wherever I want to go, high or low line.” His team’s response, “that’s what we like to hear. Keep it up.”
While battling for the 12th position on lap 74, just one lap before the halfway break, Bassett went for a spin while stuck on the outside of a three wide battle in turn one. Fortunately his car escaped damage, however the team believed to have lost a lap during the incident but told their driver to shake it off, they’ve still got 75 laps.
Following the halfway break Bassett lined up in the 31st position and was informed by his spotter he was not one lap down. After the field got underway the team was informed there was a scoring miscommunication and they were one lap down. Bassett had worked his way thru the field under the assumption he was on the lead lap and his team told him to keep digging they’d get their lap back.
The caution displayed shortly after and the team then assumed they would receive the lucky dog, but they were not the free pass recipient. Amongst the confusion Bassett and his team did not sort out where they were to line up before the green flag dropped, so he maintained his position on track. He was then issued a black flag and to serve a pass thru penalty, but due to radio communication issues Bassett did not hear the initial warning.
Following the warning there was confusion over the radio as the spotter’s radio died and Bassett took direction from his crew atop the hauler. After continuing on track with his scorecard pulled, officials finally got the message to all crew members to park and Bassett pulled in.
The team was dejected as they saw their Martinsville hopes at $25,000 deteriorate. While their 30th place finish does not communicate how strong their car was, fans on hand witnessed Bassett work his way through the field multiples times, passing over 50 cars Sunday with damage resulting only from his heat race spin.
The Bassett Racing team came to race the best of the best and unfortunately didn’t get to see how it’d play out. Despite the issues, the team takes away several things from their first Martinsville experience. They had a fast racecar and at the end of the day that is all they can strive for, everything else is out of their control.
“With all the confusion and on track racing I ignored the waiving of the black flag. As the driver I take responsibility and will learn from it. My team gave me one of the best racecars I’ve had and that was the most fun I’ve had racing this year. The ups and downs make us stronger and we will continue to move forward,” Ronnie Bassett Jr. commented after the race.
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