Lofton Finishes Third at Rockingham, Wins ARCA Championship Justin Lofton secured the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series championship on Sunday, valiantly driving through the field to finish third at Rockingham Speedway to lock up the honor. 23-year-old ...
Lofton Finishes Third at Rockingham, Wins ARCA Championship
Justin Lofton secured the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series championship on Sunday, valiantly driving through the field to finish third at Rockingham Speedway to lock up the honor. 23-year-old Lofton drove from 41st to third, capturing the championship by just five points over Parker Kligerman. Kligerman however, made it tough on Lofton, as he led the most laps and won the season-ending American 200.
"I really wanted to win this race. It would have meant a lot to me to win, but to be crowned a champion at 'The Rock' was really cool," Lofton said.
The championship is the first for Lofton behind the wheel of the No. 6 Lofton Cattle Toyota, driving his second season for multi-car team owner Eddie Sharp. He earned the top honor courtesy of five pole awards, six race wins, and a series leading 15 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes.
Initially, Lofton entered the race weekend with a 15-point lead over Kligerman but added a 10-point cushion after qualifying second on Saturday for Sunday's season finale.
After qualifying however, Lofton was forced to the rear of the field for the start of the race after the team swapped out engines on the No. 6 Toyota.
With the approach to race the racetrack, Lofton took the green flag and patiently made his way through the pack. By lap 25, he had already cracked the top 20, racing his way into the 19th position.
The field saw an extended green flag run through the first half of the race with Lofton moving into 14th by lap 65. Lap 70 saw the first caution flag of the day, which allowed the field to make the first round of pitstops. Lofton guided his machine down pitroad to the attention of his Mark Rette led pit crew for four fresh tires and a minor adjustment. He lined up 12th for the restart.
By lap 85, Lofton finessed his way into the top 10. He continued his climb, skillfully clicking off positions and on lap 136, he raced his way into fifth. At that point however, his position wasn't enough to secure the championship, as Kligerman led the way.
"That was definitely a workout. You're timing everything. It was really tough to move up quickly," Lofton said of his drive through the field. "I took it really cautious all day long."
With just over 50 laps remaining, another caution flag fell, opening the door for another set of pitstops. Crew chief Rette again called for a minor adjustment and four fresh tires.
Following a red flag period for cleanup for the initial yellow flag incident, Lofton found himself running third for the restart, locked in as the champion.
He clicked off the remaining laps without much chatter on the radio other than guidance from his spotter Mark Gregory.
On the last lap however, Lofton got overzealous racing for the second position with the No. 51 of Casey Roderick and the two made contact.
"I was getting greedy. I was getting really greedy," Lofton said. "I saw an opportunity and I thought my car was a little bit better."
Lofton regrouped and crossed the stripe in third, locking up the 2009 championship.
"This championship means so much to all of us. I couldn't have done it without Eddie, Mark, all of the guys on the 6 team worked so hard on this car all year long to earn this. It's so special to have my family here; my Mom, Dad, both of my sisters. We're a very close family. To win a championship in front of them is really cool."