Lofton leads Team ESR back to victory lane at Berlin Justin Lofton claimed his second race win of the ARCA RE/MAX Series season in dominating fashion on Saturday at Berlin Raceway. 23-year-old Lofton, wheeling the No. 6 Valvoline Instant Oil ...
Lofton leads Team ESR back to victory lane at Berlin
Justin Lofton claimed his second race win of the ARCA RE/MAX Series season in dominating fashion on Saturday at Berlin Raceway. 23-year-old Lofton, wheeling the No. 6 Valvoline Instant Oil Change Toyota for Eddie Sharp Racing, paced practice, earned his fourth pole award of the season by setting a new track record, and led all but 36 laps, dominating 171 of the extended 207-lap Wolverine Power Systems 200 presented by Generac.
"We accomplished what we set out to do. We mixed it up with that pit call. Everything just went our way. It's about time we got back to victory lane. It's been way too long," Lofton said. "This is my favorite racecar and it proved why tonight. It ran really well. My crew chief Mark Rette, all of the guys, they've been working so hard and we deserved this one."
Lofton's ESR teammates also showed well in the event as Craig Goess, Jr., driver of the No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Toyota followed up his career-best showing from Kentucky by flexing his muscle yet again within the top 10, coming home seventh. Steve Arpin, in his final ride behind the wheel of the No. Toyota, narrowly missed out on his fifth straight top-10, crossing the stripe in 11th. Tim George Jr., driver of the No. 2 Ruby Tuesday Toyota, unfortunately got caught up in a mid-race melee, resorting him to a 25th place result.
The win was the first for Eddie Sharp Racing since Lofton visited victory lane in April at Talladega Superspeedway. The entire organization has been running strong as of late, with three of the four ESR entries entering Berlin fresh off of top-10 showings the week before at Kentucky Speedway.
The switch to the .4375-mile short track in Marne, Michigan however, meant trouble for the competition as Lofton rolled out his favorite racecar. Prior to Berlin, Lofton's trusty short track speedster had garnered two pole awards and four top-10 showings. He continued the trend Saturday, setting a new track record with a speed in 16.857 seconds, a top speed at 93.54 mph.
Goess lined up fifth, while George Jr. started 18th and Arpin 19th.
Not even his teammates however, had anything for Lofton throughout the event, as he went on to lead through the halfway mark. It was then that the team mixed things up on pitroad, finally bringing Lofton down for fresh tires on lap 125 of the 200-lap event. Most of the lead lap cars pit much earlier, around lap 65. Though Lofton wasn't the only leader to pit under the lap 125 caution, his car remained the strongest.
For the restart on lap 137, he lined up behind his teammate in the No. 20, Arpin, in the eighth position. By lap 144, he was back in the lead, driving by nine-time series champion Frank Kimmel on the outside.
Despite a late race caution flag with just two laps remaining, extending the race to 207 laps and ending the race under a green-white-checkered flag finish, nobody had anything for Lofton.
His return to victory lane signified not only a trophy for the ESR camp but a turnaround for the No. 6 team entering the second half of the season. Prior to Berlin, Lofton acknowledged a change in the team's approach for the second half, citing race wins as their primary goal, rather than strategically counting points. The new plan seems simple enough but it is twofold; by gunning for race wins, Lofton and crew chief Mark Rette will be able to nab the most points possible. After the race on Saturday, Lofton erased 50 points from Parker Kligerman's lead. He now trails Kligerman by just 100 markers entering next weekend's event in Pocono.
With Arpin's final ride in the No. 20 falling at Berlin, Team ESR's remaining drivers, Craig Goess, Jr., sits fifth in points, while Tim George Jr. is 10th.