Challenges on the DuQuoin dirt throw a curve at Team ESR; Lofton finishes sixth The Southern Illinois 100 was quite the challenge for Eddie Sharp Racing's three teams on Monday at the one-mile dirt track, DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. The ARCA...
Challenges on the DuQuoin dirt throw a curve at Team ESR; Lofton finishes sixth
The Southern Illinois 100 was quite the challenge for Eddie Sharp Racing's three teams on Monday at the one-mile dirt track, DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. The ARCA RE/MAX Series point leader Justin Lofton, driver of Sharp's No. 6 Toyota, started from the rear of the field but drove his way to the front, finishing sixth, the highest of the three ESR cars. Teammates Craig Goess and Tim George Jr. saw their days shortened, caught up in the perils of racing the cramped quarters on a dirt track.
Initially, Lofton, fresh off of a win on Friday at Toledo, set the pace during the one and only practice session. With a fast car and momentum following the win, Lofton was looking to extend his point lead during the Labor Day event. Trouble under his qualifying lap however, forced the No. 6 crew to roll out the backup car, dropping Lofton to 34th for the start of the 100-mile event.
In the No. 2 Ruby Tuesday Toyota, George Jr. led the way in qualifying in the 11th position. Goess's No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Toyota followed in 12th.
At the drop of the green, Lofton began to work his way through traffic, picking up 12 spots by lap four. Unfortunately, that same lap saw a five-car wreck break out off of turn 2 after Tom Hessert spun. Goess and Lofton were among those caught up in the melee.
Goess's machine suffered the most damage and after a quick look-over by crew chief Patrick Donahue, the team deemed the day done. He ended the event 34th.
Lofton continued on and by lap 35, showcased his team's strength by staking claim on the 10th position.
15 laps later and at halfway, ARCA mandated all of the teams to pitroad. Following the cycle of pitstops for the restart, Lofton was ninth as George Jr.'s Ruby Tuesday entry ran 15th.
On lap 74, Lofton brought out the caution flag in a solo spin off of turn 4. He skillfully maneuvered his machine through a slide, continued on, avoiding the wall and oncoming traffic, and maintained his position in sixth.
Yet another caution flag flew in the closing laps, setting the field up for a 10-lap dash at the restart. George Jr. had slipped to 12th and was gunning to reclaim his place within the top 10, but with six laps remaining, he and Eddie Pearson got together, ending his charge.
The race resumed with one green flag lap of racing remaining as leader Parker Kligerman led the field to the green and white flags simultaneously. Kligerman went on to take the win and Lofton drove home in sixth to score his 15th top 10 finish of the season. He maintains the point lead by 35 points over Kligerman.
"It was a rough day. The car was destroyed in qualifying. We pulled out the backup car. The entire crew did an awesome job changing it over before the race without much time. We had a solid run after all of that. We had a sixth place car and we finished sixth with it," Lofton said.
After his disheartening finish, George Jr. was scored in 23rd.
"With less than 10 laps to go, I wanted to advance a bit further in the field. I pulled some aggressive passes off, and then wasn't so lucky when the 17 (Pearson) and I got together. He admitted that his spotter didn't let him know I was there. It was tough racing. I hit a ton, and am going to get checked out when I get back to Charlotte," he said.
Team ESR will have six days off before returning to competition on Sunday, September 13th on the road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park.