MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Steven Lane’s home track growing up was one of NASCAR’s most historic venues, Bowman Gray Stadium. His father would prop the youngster on his shoulders so he could crane for a better view. An uncle briefly owned a Modified car, the track’s featured attraction. Lane’s long-running association with racing often traces its path back to Bowman Gray.
As a Winston-Salem native with a lifelong interest in the sport, Lane has seen plenty at the famed quarter-mile oval. That’s part of why Danny Bohn made such an impression on him.
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Here was Bohn, a grassroots mainstay trying to make the outside lane work at a tight circuit where the low groove has long been king. And a New Jerseyite, too, gaining ground on Bowman Gray’s established group of local stars. I don’t know who this damn Danny Bohn guy is, Lane thought to himself as he watched from the horseshoe grandstands. He’s from somewhere up north, some Yankee.
“I’ve been going there my whole life and there ain’t many people who are going to get on the outside because them fools will wreck you,” Lane recalled Friday at Martinsville Speedway. When Bohn found that rare speed in the stadium’s outer groove, Lane added to his assessment. Some Yankee, but he’s pretty damn good.
From that chance sighting in the stands at Bowman Gray more than a year ago sprouted Bohn’s biggest opportunity of his career, a date with his NASCAR national series debut this weekend at Martinsville Speedway for Lane’s On Point Motorsports group. Bohn will wheel the No. 30 Toyota in Saturday’s NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) with backing from Big Machine Records and Brantley Gilbert.
Lane’s account of the northerner’s night at the stadium eventually caught the ear of Darren Wolfe, On Point’s interior mechanic and — unbeknownst to Lane — a friend of Bohn’s. Wolfe put the two in contact, and their partnership accelerated from there.
“Honestly, I’ve been fortunate to do some cool things with my racing career, and this is kind of unbelievable,” said the 31-year-old Bohn, Bowman Gray’s 2014 track champion. “Ever since I was born, pretty much I’ve been at a race track and this is where I wanted to be in the national level. I tried so hard, racing 40, 50 races a year for six, seven years down here, spending every night and weekend in the shop and at the race track. I kind of got to a point a couple years ago where I thought, you know, I don’t think it’s going to happen. So I cut my racing back. When you least expect it, this deal came together.
“Really honored to drive for them and have this opportunity. It goes back to that deal: You never know who’s watching.”
Bohn’s day job is connected to another legend with deep-rooted ties to the Modified circuit in Ray Evernham. Bohn, Evernham’s shop manager with a knack for car restoration, is a key part of a five-person crew that’s brought vintage race cars back to life, with Buddy Baker’s historic 200-mph Dodge Daytona as the latest project on the shop floor.
Bohn and Evernham have a common thread in their Modified upbringing, both racing extensively at the Wall Stadium in their shared home state. Familiarity with the snug, third-mile helped Bohn adapt to the cozier confines of Bowman Gray when he ventured south.
When Lane discovered his talent, Bohn had already placed his name in the stadium’s history books. Lane had built a Modified car that grabbed Bohn’s interest in one of his first visits to the On Point shop, but his fledgling Gander Trucks program also caught his eye.
“He kept going, ‘I really would like to drive that truck. To heck with that Modified.’ I said OK, we can make that work, too,” says Lane, who was a crew chief for 13 years at the Monster Energy Series level before transitioning to Xfinity then Trucks. “It just did all come together. Look, there’s 10 other guys over there in those Modifieds that I’d love to pull out of there and give a shot to. You know who those guys are and you know they’re good. To run that close-quarters racing every week and do what they do, it’s impressive.”
Lane says he hopes to have Bohn in the No. 30 truck’s seat for the remaining two races of the season, and he floats the potential of growing to a two-truck operation for next year with Bohn and Brennan Poole, who’s run 13 races for the organization this season.
For now, on the eve of his national-series debut, Bohn’s goals are modest: Be smart, survive like he’s done at Wall and Bowman Gray, keep his pit stops and his truck clean. The other goal of his that may not be as tangible: To make the most of his Martinsville opportunity after paying his dues on the smaller Saturday night bullrings across the East Coast.
“This is cool for me because I get to represent the grassroots guy,” Bohn says. “I raced at dirt tracks and asphalt tracks from Florida to Connecticut. As much as I could race, I would race. It didn’t matter what it was, whose car it was. I just did grassroots stuff for years, and to get to this level, it’s just really tough. Hopefully that can inspire some more people to reach out and try to make it to this level.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do my entire life and almost gave up on it. Now here we are.”