Team ESR Win Superspeedway Challenge, Grab Three Top 15s in Kansas For the second consecutive season, Eddie Sharp Racing won the 2009 Hoosier Tire Superspeedway Championship Challenge, which they clinched on Thursday, courtesy of Justin...
Team ESR Win Superspeedway Challenge, Grab Three Top 15s in Kansas
For the second consecutive season, Eddie Sharp Racing won the 2009 Hoosier Tire Superspeedway Championship Challenge, which they clinched on Thursday, courtesy of Justin Lofton's stellar second place effort at Kansas Speedway.
Lofton and car owner Sharp earned the Challenge honors by way of an impressive list of finishes throughout the 2009 season spanning nine racetracks on the ARCA RE/MAX Series tour greater than one mile in length. Along the way Lofton notched wins at Talladega Superspeedway, Pocono Raceway, and Chicagoland Speedway, of the tracks included in the Superspeedway Challenge.
Lofton, who started from the pole after rain altered the on-track schedule, led with less than 10 laps remaining at Kansas on Thursday in the Kansas Lottery 150 but a caution flag within five to go extended the race to a green-white-checkered flag finish. The restart allowed Parker Kligerman to take advantage of Lofton's No. 6 Lofton Cattle Toyota, which showcased its strength on the longer runs throughout the race. Lofton however, gave it all he had in the closing laps, finishing just .217-seconds behind Kligerman, a far cry from the 10-car length lead Lofton had prior to the yellow flag.
"I went in there, had a really good run going into the corner. But Parker showed me respect in Salem so I wanted to show him the same respect. I drove it into turn 1 wide open, let off the gas for a little bit to get the aero push out of it and stood back on it," Lofton said of his of his charge on the last lap to reclaim the lead.
"It's about one of the gutsiest moves you can ever try. It's not something you try every lap. It was the last lap, going for the win. If I would have had that three-car lengths width that I was off of the gas, I think I probably could have got him. Our car just ran better on the long runs but we gave them a run for it at the finish."
Lofton's ESR teammates Craig Goess and Tim George Jr. also had solid runs at Kansas, leaving the three-car team the dominating factor within the top 15. All had prime positions entering the race thanks to the cancellation of qualifying. Goess lined up sixth and George Jr. tenth, based on the owner point standings.
The race however was challenging, as it slowed six times for 35 caution laps throughout the extended 103 laps. Early caution flags unfortunately involved ESR drivers Goess and George Jr. but the hungry racers continued on and maneuvered their way through the field to solid finishes.
Goess, in the No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Toyota looped his car just three laps into the race but he had plenty of time to make up for it. After a cycle of pitstops played out, Goess found himself leading the way out front. He held the top spot for eight laps and slipped back to 10th at the finish with older tires.
"Somebody came up right behind me and took the air off of the car," Goess said of the early incident. "The last lap I picked the wrong spot to be in and gave up a couple of spots. It wasn't all that bad I guess."
George Jr., in the No. 2 Ruby Tuesday Toyota, also had early troubles but bounced back to finish 15th.
"We had an unfortunate issue with Ken [Butler III]. We were able to pit for tires and restart from the end of the pack. Coming from last to finish 15th was pretty good. I think that was out best 1.5-mile track race of the season," he said. "The No. 2 Ruby Tuesday crew did a great job, and I'm looking forward to taking this momentum into the final race of the season at Rockingham."
Lofton leads the way atop the point standings with a 15-point lead over Kligerman entering the season finale in Rockingham. Rookie teammates Goess and George Jr. sit fifth and 11th respectively. Practice and qualifying are set for Saturday, with the American 200 taking place on Sunday at 1 PM Eastern time.