Lofton leads the way to sixth race win, points lead at Salem It was a familiar scene for Justin Lofton on Saturday night at Salem Speedway. The 23-year-old Lofton dominated the event, leading 161 of the 200 laps and ended the night in victory ...
Lofton leads the way to sixth race win, points lead at Salem
It was a familiar scene for Justin Lofton on Saturday night at Salem Speedway. The 23-year-old Lofton dominated the event, leading 161 of the 200 laps and ended the night in victory lane. The win was the sixth of the season for Lofton and padded his lead in the point standings by 25 points over Parker Kligerman with just two races remaining in the 2009 season.
Lofton and Kligerman, who entered the race tied for first place in the point standings, put on quite a show in the closing laps, as the two battled nose to tail following a restart just 15 laps from the finish. Looking for an advantage, Kligerman pulled to the inside of Lofton numerous times but was unable to complete the pass as Lofton's No. 6 Lofton Cattle Toyota muscled by on the outside.
"It was an absolute blast. He's a first class racer and we want to put on a good show and race for this championship the right way, by earning it, not by taking it," Lofton said.
"It feels so good to win here at Salem. I really like this track. It is so unique and it's awesome to say I won here. This means so much to all of my guys at Eddie Sharp Racing. They've put in long hours and they're really working hard to give me everything I need with the car to go out there and win and go after this championship."
Initially, Lofton started on the outside of row one in the second starting position. At the start, he was able to use the outside lane to his advantage, grabbing the lead from pole-sitter Chris Buescher. Lofton's white No. 6 Toyota maintained his now familiar place in front of the field, pacing the next 136 laps.
Just after lap 60, under a caution flag, Lofton led a string of lead lap cars down pitroad. His crew, led by crew chief Mark Rette, opted for right side tires, leaving Lofton one full set for later in the race. The strategy proved the right call, as Lofton's right sides dug in and allowed him to drive away to a 3.5-second lead as the race hit the halfway mark.
Due to Lofton's blistering pace, when it was all said and done, Lofton and Kligerman would be the only cars to finish on the lead lap.
On lap 137, Lofton surrendered the lead for the first time, as Joey Coulter, who took on four tires under his stop, drove by.
Lofton maintained his position in second through a caution flag on lap 168. The yellow enabled Lofton to visit his Rette-led crew yet again, this time taking on all four tires.
For the restart, Lofton lined up behind Coulter and the Westmorland, California native quickly got to work, setting up his pass. While trying to fend off Lofton, entering turn 1 on lap 176, Coulter slipped high, and Lofton drove by, reclaiming his position out front.
On lap 181, Coulter found trouble, hitting the wall, forcing the fifth and final caution flag.
The restart put Lofton and Kligerman nose to tail as the two battled not only for the race win, but precious points towards the 2009 championship.
Lofton prevailed, leading every remaining lap en route to his sixth win of the season, the seventh of his career. Lofton also leads the series with 13 top fives and 17 top 10 finishes.
Lofton and the No. 6 ESR team have next weekend off from competition before resuming their championship charge on Thursday, October 1st at Kansas Speedway.