ARCA Rookie Kligerman Conquers "The Rock"; Lofton Claims The Crown ROCKINGHAM NC (10-11-09) - ARCA RE/MAX Series title contender Parker Kligerman did everything he needed to do to win the championship. The Westport, Connecticut rookie led the...
ARCA Rookie Kligerman Conquers "The Rock"; Lofton Claims The Crown
ROCKINGHAM NC (10-11-09) - ARCA RE/MAX Series title contender Parker Kligerman did everything he needed to do to win the championship. The Westport, Connecticut rookie led the most laps and won Sunday's ARCA RE/MAX American 200 at Rockingham Speedway. However, it wasn't good enough to keep Justin Lofton from claiming the crown.
Lofton, by virtue of his third place finish, secured the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series driving championship, edging Kligerman for the honor by just 5 points. It was the third closest finish in series history.
"I really wanted to win this race," said Lofton. "It would have meant a lot to me to win this race but to be crowned the champion at the Rock means even more."
There were also some tense moments on the last lap when Lofton nearly wrecked after locking horns with Casey Roderick in turn one battling for second.
"I was getting greedy," added Lofton. "I was getting really greedy. I saw an opportunity and I thought my car was a little bit better than the 51 (Roderick). I got in there and I have to thank him for being as good of a driver as he is. He could have turned me."
Lofton, who earned 10 additional points by qualifying second - which proved crucial in the end - battled his way from the rear of the field after an engine change in post-qualifying relegated him to the back for the start.
Kligerman, in the Cunningham Motorsports Dodge, led the final 64 laps en route to his ninth win of the season and second place points finish. "Every time we came in the car got better and better so I have to give credit to Chris Carrier (crew chief) and all of the guys," said Kligerman. "By the end of the race we had a car that could win the race and lead the most laps and that is exactly what we set out to do. We come down to the last race and you look at the points and you know what you have to do to win it and you try to control what you can control, and that's all you can do. Yes, I have some disappointment for not winning it but we had some bad breaks that I don't think really happened to them and that just put them in position to win the championship."
Casey Roderick, in his career-first series start, finished second about 20 lengths away in the Bill Elliott Racing Dodge.
"I knew it was close going into turn one," said Roderick, regarding the close call with Lofton. "I probably could have given him (Lofton) a little bit more room and I hope he's not mad at me. My spotter said 'easy, easy' because he knew I was close and I knew I was close. His right side door was inside of my window net so once I knew he was that close I moved up the racetrack to give him some room."
Ken Schrader, who was a mid-pack car most of the day, made a late-race pit stop for fresh tires and battled back to finish fourth in the Quarry Academy Chevrolet. Clay Rogers finished fifth in the C&C Boiler Sales & Service Chevrolet.
In addition to the spirited championship point battle, great racing and long green flag runs prevailed over the 200-miler, during which eight drivers exchanged the lead 15 times.
Kligerman led the first two laps before Menards Pole winner Chad Finley took control of the top-spot up, leading up through lap 44. From there, Steve Arpin, Dakoda Armstrong, Grant Enfinger, Frank Kimmel, Roderick and Chris Buescher swapped the lead continually before Kligerman regained control for good on lap 137.
Buescher, Enfinger, Armstrong, Joey Coulter and Brett Moffitt finished sixth through 10th respectively. Finley faded to 15th in the final running while Arpin, who was clearly a victory lane threat, fell out with a broken transmission 39 laps shy of the finish. Kimmel also fell upon hard times when he bounced off the wall trying to avoid Arpin's car after it suddenly slowed. Kimmel hung on to finish 12th.
The final point standings have only been closer on two previous occasions in ARCA RE/MAX Series history-in 1957 when Iggy Katona won the title over Nelson Stacy by 4.5 points, and in 1974 when Ron Hutcherson and Dave Dayton tied to form ARCA's only co-championship team.
The race marked the 202nd and final race for RE/MAX, Int'l as the Series Title Sponsor of the ARCA RE/MAX Series. The company, which has been title sponsor of ARCA's national stock car tour since 2001, will return as a presenting sponsor in 2010.
Veteran James Hylton was transported to a local hospital following an on-track incident in turn two on lap 147. Hylton, of Inman, South Carolina, was able to exit his No. 48 Radon.com Ford under his own power following the incident. Alert and conscious, he was first taken to the infield care center. He was then transported to a local hospital.
The next event for the ARCA RE/MAX Series will be the championship awards banquet at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Kentucky Saturday night, December 5th.