Lofton Nationwide debut a success, finishes 16th at Michigan Justin Lofton climbed from his No. 14 Lofton Cattle Toyota on Saturday after completing his first Nationwide Series race and summarized his day simply, by saying he was "speechless."...
Lofton Nationwide debut a success, finishes 16th at Michigan
Justin Lofton climbed from his No. 14 Lofton Cattle Toyota on Saturday after completing his first Nationwide Series race and summarized his day simply, by saying he was "speechless." Lofton, a regular in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, made his Nationwide debut in the Carfax 250 at Michigan International Speedway, collecting experience, respect and an impressive finish, crossing the stripe in 16th.
"I had so much fun racing with those guys. I didn't have any problems with anybody, just fun. CJM Racing, Mark Rette, all of my guys, I can't say enough about them. To have my entire ARCA team with me, it meant so much. They did a great job working on this car," Lofton said.
Before Lofton could showcase his racing skills, which have guided him to three wins so far this season in ARCA, he first had to qualify for the 43-car field. After the final practice session on Friday, it seemed inevitable that the 23-year-old racer would have no problem with laying down a solid run, as the No. 14 Lofton Cattle Toyota landed 12th on the final speed chart.
Once qualifying got under way, Lofton lined up 47th of the 50-plus entries vying for a spot in the Carfax 250 field. His first lap was good enough for the 19th position, securing a solid starting spot for the race.
Just moments after locking himself into the field, Lofton clearly impressed the fans and media with his performance so far through the weekend, as he signed numerous autographs on his way back to the hauler, where media waited for a few words with the newcomer.
Behind the wheel for the race, Lofton had everything he needed for a successful run; a good racecar, a pumped pit crew and an experienced spotter with Mike Calinoff guiding him around the two-mile facility.
Once the green flag dropped, Lofton held his position early in the run, with his first pitstop falling with just over 40 laps on the board. The crew made a simple air pressure adjustment but luck wasn't on their side as the caution flag dropped while Lofton was on pit road, trapping him a lap down. The restart flew on lap 49 with only 11 cars on the lead lap. Lofton lined up in 23rd.
As the race played out however, Lofton would reclaim the one-lap deficit and by lap 87, he had maneuvered his way through traffic and into the top 15. Three laps later, the second round of pitstops cycled through. Lofton's No. 14 crew maintained the track position Lofton needed with a solid stop and by the time a caution flag waved again on lap 106, Lofton was running 17th.
"Work those tires in, keep doing what you're doing, it's go time," coached Lofton's shot caller Rette from atop the pitbox.
The restart dropped on lap 113 but just three laps later, Lofton spun off of turn 2 due a cut right rear. Lofton displayed his car control, maneuvering his Toyota through a slide, avoiding other cars and the inside retaining wall.
He dropped his Toyota down pit road for a final time, taking on fresh tires along with a slight track bar adjustment.
The final restart came on lap 118 of the 125 with Lofton lining up 20th.
Spotter Calinoff coached the hungry California native around the two-mile speedway as the field got dicey in the closing laps running three, and sometimes four-wide around the multi-grooved track.
Lofton wheeled his machine with determination in the closing laps, making up the lost ground after the tire trouble. He not only made up the track position, but he improved upon it, coming home 16th in his debut run, proving that he's a contender that belongs within the Nationwide Series.
"I had so much fun out there. It was awesome. As a racer you always want more, but we showed we can run with these guys. It was a blast," Lofton said.
"The guys did a great job on the car. We easily could have gotten 15th there if we had just a few more laps. The car drove great and we only made minor adjustments. I'm so excited for Lowe's. I wish it was tomorrow."
Lofton is also scheduled to run the Nationwide Series events at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway later this season.
This week however, it's back to ARCA competition on the one-mile dirt track in Springfield, Illinois. Lofton has won the last two ARCA events and currently sits just 20 points out of first in the point standings.