Illinois: Eddie Sharp Racing race report

Team ESR drivers nab sixth, 14th on the dirt in Springfield Eddie Sharp Racing drivers Justin Lofton, Tim George Jr. and Craig Goess hit the track on Sunday for a rare run on a dirt track, running the Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State ...

Team ESR drivers nab sixth, 14th on the dirt in Springfield

Eddie Sharp Racing drivers Justin Lofton, Tim George Jr. and Craig Goess hit the track on Sunday for a rare run on a dirt track, running the Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Though new to the three young drivers, all had solid runs throughout the race. Lofton, making his second appearance on the one-mile track, was the highest finishing ESR driver to cross the stripe in sixth while rookie George Jr. charged home in 14th. Goess also had a solid run going before getting caught up in a melee late in the running, finishing 26th.

After two weeks off from ARCA RE/MAX Series competition, all three ESR teams were ready to get back on track and tackle the challenges of the unique dirt track. Though rookies George Jr. and Goess had never raced on dirt, Lofton familiarized himself with the track last year during his freshman season. With knowledge of the track and momentum from winning the previous two ARCA events, Lofton set the pace in qualifying in the No. 6 Lofton Cattle Toyota, notching his fifth pole award of the season, laying down a new track record. Teammate Goess, in the No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Toyota lined up 18th and George Jr.'s Ruby Tuesday sponsored Toyota 19th for the start of the 100-lapper.

Lofton quickly flexed his muscle, setting sail around the dirt track for the first 21 laps until a caution flag waved. Under the yellow, Lofton dropped his machine down pitroad. Teammates Goess and George Jr. also opted to use the early caution as an opportunity to get the mandatory pitstop out of the way.

With other teams electing to use a different pit strategy, by the time another caution dropped after lap 40, Lofton had moved to second with Goess cracking the top 10.

As the race hit the halfway mark and under a caution flag, the 81 team opted to make a second stop for fresh tires for the second half of the race. Unfortunately, Goess lined his Toyota up deep in the field for the restart after the stop and got caught up in a wreck. His white No. 81 suffered heavy damage to the front end and despite repairs, was unable to finish the race.

Lofton on the other hand, took advantage of the restart, pouncing on leader, nine-time champion Frank Kimmel for the position. By lap 70, Lofton maneuvered his Lofton Cattle Toyota by Kimmel as they battled a lapped car, reclaiming the lead.

Lofton dominated the next 18 laps before going door-to-door with Parker Kligerman. The two made contact while battling over position, with the left side of Lofton's ride taking a hit. As the laps clicked down, Lofton muscled his machine within the top five, despite the contact and older tires.

A late caution flag extended the race in a green-white-checkered flag finish and when all was said and done, Lofton notched his 12th top 10 of the season. Former road racer George Jr. happily landed a solid top 15 in his first ever dirt appearance, finishing 14th.

"We had a winning car but finished sixth. We lost the handle on it late in the running, so that is a bit disappointing but we are still within striking distance and we'll take that with us to Chicago and get them there," said Lofton, who maintains the second position in the point standings.

Team ESR will next hit the track this Friday, August 28th, at Chicagoland Speedway for the Ansell Cut Protection 150.

-credit: esr

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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Frank Kimmel , Justin Lofton , Tim George Jr. , Craig Goess