Menards Pole Qualifying at Rockingham Could Prove Crucial in ARCA Championship Chase for Title Contenders Lofton and Kligerman ROCKINGHAM NC (10-7-09) - ARCA RE/MAX Series point leader Justin Lofton started out the 2009 season with the Menards...
Menards Pole Qualifying at Rockingham Could Prove Crucial in ARCA Championship Chase for Title Contenders Lofton and Kligerman
ROCKINGHAM NC (10-7-09) - ARCA RE/MAX Series point leader Justin Lofton started out the 2009 season with the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell at Daytona Int'l Speedway. The Westmorland, California driver hopes to end his season with the same at Rockingham Speedway, and for good reason.
Beyond the accolades of winning the pole, there is another crucial element to the honor - points. And with only 15 points separating Lofton and rookie Parker Kligerman headed into the ARCA RE/MAX American 200 season finale this Sunday at Rockingham, every possible point matters.
While Lofton leads with a season-high five Menards Pole Awards, Kligerman has not earned a single pole in ARCA in 2009. Now consider the ramifications of the aforementioned. We know that qualifying points are earned for the top three starting positions - 15 for 1st, 10 for 2nd and 5 for 3rd. That means that Lofton has earned twice as many qualifying points as Kligerman has - 100 to 50. Take away qualifying points and Kligerman would be leading the overall championship points by 35 rather than trailing by 15.
"It's really more a testament to our team (Eddie Sharp Racing)," said Lofton. "We are always trying to put ourselves in position to win races, and the best place to do that is from the pole."
Fortunately for Kligerman, qualifying was rained out six times this year, so the spread, given Lofton's qualifying performance, could have been even more.
Kligerman, ironically, qualified for the pole in his career-first NASCAR Nationwide Series attempt last weekend at Kansas Speedway. One of the first things Kligerman said during his post-pole interview was a reference in regards to his ARCA qualifying. "Too bad we couldn't manage to do that in ARCA where we need the points."
While Lofton has the advantage over Kligerman in terms of qualifying success, there are striking parallels between the two up-and-coming racers as both attempt to advance their careers.
For instance, each driver has one career NASCAR Nationwide Series start. Both finished 16th in their Nationwide debuts this year - at Michigan for Lofton, and at Kansas for Kligerman.
If there's one area where Kligerman has surpassed Lofton in 2009, it would be in regards to average finishes. It's the one place that Kligerman has kept Lofton at bay, but it's still incredibly close with one more race on the docket. After 20 events, Kligerman's average finish is 5.2. Lofton's is 5.3.
"I think it shows that Parker and I are pretty close talent and skill-wise, at least at this point in our careers," said Lofton. "We had the same finish in our Nationwide debuts; we both ran good. Parker had me a little getting the pole."
So now it's onto the season finale this weekend at Rockingham where qualifying on Saturday could ultimately prove every bit as important as raceday Sunday.
"The culmination of everything in this race (Rockingham) is more crucial," added Lofton "I mean, we'd much rather head into the race with a 30 point lead rather than a 15 point lead. Or worse, tied, which could happen if we're not on our game in qualifying. Parker has steadily improved his game in qualifying over the second half of the year."
That is definitely a true statement.
Lofton, who started the season with back-to-back poles at Daytona and Salem, earned 45 points over the first half of the year to Kligerman's 5 points earned in the first half. However, in the second half the gap narrowed considerably during which Kligerman earned 45 qualifying points to Lofton's 55.
"I'm just thrilled to go to Rockingham with a tight points battle," added Lofton. "I'd rather see it close rather than a runaway. I think Parker and I have really kept each other at the top of our games. We've had to really focus in every, and all aspects of our program. I think Parker's had to do the same. It's made us both better racers. If it wasn't for Parker, we may have focused more on other things this year - maybe a few more Nationwide starts, or whatever. But, as things played out, we've had to focus everything, for the most part, on this championship, and that's turned out to be very exciting for everyone.
"It's kind of sad that there's only one race left. Too bad we don't have 10 more. It'd probably still come down to the wire."
Coverage of Championship Weekend at Rockingham will be featured in live streaming audio at ARCAracing.com. In addition to live timing and scoring, live steaming audio coverage begins Saturday afternoon, October 10th with practice from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM followed by Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell at 2:30.
The Sunday afternoon American 200, scheduled for 1:00 PM, will also feature live streaming audio coverage at ARCAracing.com.
The American 200 will also air same-day on SPEED at 10:00 PM.
For more information about the Carolina ARCA RE/MAX 200 or to order tickets, please contact the speedway at (910) 205-8800 or visit the website at www.rockinghamspeedway.com.