Lofton Comes Home with a Top 10 Despite Difficult Day SPARTA, Ky. (July 18, 2008) -- Eddie Sharp Racing's Justin Lofton entered the Kentucky ARCA 150 very confident and with momentum following his first win at Michigan International Speedway...
Lofton Comes Home with a Top 10 Despite Difficult Day
SPARTA, Ky. (July 18, 2008) -- Eddie Sharp Racing's Justin Lofton entered the Kentucky ARCA 150 very confident and with momentum following his first win at Michigan International Speedway and his first pole at Cayuga Motor Speedway. Engine woes during qualifying sent the No. 20 Lofton Cattle team back to a provisional starting position. Lofton persevered all night, gaining a phenomenal 24 spots to finish in the tenth position.
"Wow, that was a long night!" said Lofton. "The team worked so hard but the car just wasn't there tonight. I told Wayne, he could have asked me what it [the car] was doing during each lap, and every time I would have a different answer. It was all over the place! I appreciate all the work the guys put in, especially how they thrashed in between qualifying and the race to diagnose the engine problem and then change motors. We are a true team at ESR and that was evident this afternoon, watching everyone work side by side to get the 20 car put back together. It's a great program to be a part of."
Justin Lofton and his team rolled the No. 20 to the qualifying grid on the hot, steamy Friday afternoon. Everyone knew the track was slippery. As Lofton came through Turn 2 on his first timed lap, the back end of the Dodge snapped around slid the car sideways and up towards the outside wall. Staying on the throttle, Lofton skillfully kept the car off the wall and restarted his lap. He cautiously completed the second timed lap and drove the No. 20 Lofton Cattle Dodge back to the garage stall so the team could evaluate the issue.
"I'm not sure what happened," said Lofton. "The track is very, very slick, but going into [turn] one it just didn't feel like we had a lot of power. The team is going to take a good look at it and we'll get the car turned around for the race. My team puts together great cars and I know they're going to work really hard during this break before the race to get it pulled back together. We'll start in the back tonight and I'll just have to drive like crazy to get to the front. I know we can do it thought."
As the sun set and the track lights gleamed brightly, it was a perfect summer night for racing in Sparta, Kentucky. The green flag dropped at 8:00 p.m. and the Lofton Cattle No. 20 quickly moved through the field.
"The car isn't bad at all," radioed Lofton. "It's a tick free and moves around a lot. But it's not bad. It stays on the bottom well."
Lofton moved into the top 15 in only 20 laps, and reporting only that the car was a bit loose. As the night wore on, Lofton had to fight harder and harder to control the No. 20 Lofton Cattle Dodge.
The team pitted on lap 27 during a caution for four tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment.
"It's WAY loose Wayne!" Lofton called out as the race went green following the team's first pit stop. Another caution immediately followed and as soon as Lofton could catch his breath, he reported what he was feeling out on the track.
"It's weird," said Lofton. "Just out of nowhere it breaks loose. With no warning at all."
Lofton restarted the race on lap 35 in the 24th position.
Nearing the halfway point of the caution-filled race, the team opted to pit again under the yellow flag on lap 48. This time, the Lofton Cattle team put four fresh tires on and made a track bar adjustment to help with the car's handling.
As the night progressed, Lofton reported that the changes "picked up some front end grip" and that the handling "gets better as the run goes on."
With ten laps to go in the race, Lofton climbed back into the top 15 and was still moving forward.
On the final lap of the race, Eddie Sharp Racing teammate Ken Butler, III spun into the outside wall and brought out the tenth caution of the night. When the dust settled, the No. 20 Lofton Cattle Dodge was scored in the tenth position.
Finishing in racing "overtime", the race extended into 104 laps, with a one-lap dash to the checkered flag. Lofton maintained his tenth place position. Lofton moved an impressive 24 positions from start to finish. Unfortunately, Lofton was not awarded the Casite Hard Charger honor because in accordance to ARCA RE/MAX Series rules, those starting in a provisional position, as Lofton did, are ineligible for the award.
"We worked really hard and had a little luck getting this tenth place tonight," said Lofton as he was getting ready to head home. "It's not where we wanted or what we know we are capable of, but to have a really bad day and still come out tenth is something we can be proud of. We have set the bar high for the remainder of the season and will go to Berlin next weekend looking to continue that trend."
Next Stop: Justin and his Eddie Sharp Racing get little downtime this week. They travel to Nashville Speedway for Tuesday's ARCA RE/MAX Series open test session. The team will return to Charlotte following the test and then it is off to Marne, Michigan this weekend for the Berlin ARCA 200 at Berlin Speedway. SIM Factory Pole Qualifying takes place at 5:00 p.m., followed by the Berlin ARCA 200 green flag at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 26th. The race will be broadcast MavTV with LIVE Timing and Scoring and Audio on www.arcaracing.com. All times are EASTERN.