Atlanta: Justin Lofton race report

Top-10 Foiled For Lofton; Contact Drops Him To 20th In Atlanta In just his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start, Justin Lofton was well on his way to an impressive top-10 finish in the E-Z-GO 200 on Saturday at the Atlanta Motor ...

Top-10 Foiled For Lofton; Contact Drops Him To 20th In Atlanta

In just his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start, Justin Lofton was well on his way to an impressive top-10 finish in the E-Z-GO 200 on Saturday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. But track position and someone else's mistake cost the rookie his first career top-10 after contact with the wall left his No. 7 Toyota Tundra battered, dropping him to 20th at the finish.

"We were en route to a solid top-10 with a top five in sight. On that restart, I went to the high side of another truck. He started chasing his truck up the racetrack, squeezing me into the wall. It damaged the right side and the nose of the truck. The crew did an awesome job keeping us on the lead lap with all of the crash damage they had to repair," Lofton said. "It's disappointing to have such a great run taken away from us."

Though the team did not get the finish they showed they deserved, Lofton earned respect and proved he'll be a contender as the season rolls on.

Initially, Lofton took the green flag from the 22nd position. Knowing pre-race that their machine was set up for longer runs, Lofton settled in, maneuvering his Toyota into 18th after just five laps.

An early caution flag with just over 20 laps on the board allowed the 24-year-old to relay to crew chief Mark Rette that his visitPIT.com-backed Tundra was handling a bit loose in traffic. The team took advantage of the yellow, swapped out Goodyear tires, made a slight track bar adjustment, and got their driver back on track with a good stop, lining him up in the 12th position for the restart.

With the truck dialed in, Lofton wheeled his machine into the top 10 by lap 45, with Rette telling him, "Welcome to the top 10. Be cautiously aggressive, go get them."

Lap after lap around the 1.54-mile track, the California native put his driving skills on display, muscling his entry into sixth, eyeing a top five effort by the time the caution waved on lap 69.

"You're doing a great job out there bud. You're impressing the heck out of me. Just take care of it here, there are a lot of laps left," Rette said. "When we get a long run, we're going to eat these boys up."

Following cleanup for the caution, the field took the restart on lap 74. Lofton maintained the sixth position, mixing things up with the race leaders which included past and reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champions Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

On lap 77 however, Lofton's climb ended abruptly when another competitor drifted high on the backstretch, pushing Lofton, who was running in the outside lane, into the retaining wall. A victim of track position, Lofton's truck suffered damage to both sides, forcing him to the pits for repairs.

The crew got to work and fixed as much of the damage as they could under yellow in order to keep their Toyota on track. Lofton stayed up on the wheel, finishing out the race, bringing home a 20th place finish.

"It was a disappointing weekend for the 7 team. We had a strong truck. It wasn't the fastest, but it sure handled great in the race. Mark made awesome changes throughout the race and the pit crew nailed every stop, picking up positions. It must be all of the training they have been doing at PIT," Lofton boasted.

After the first two events, Lofton shows 18th in the point standings.

Next up, Lofton and the No. 7 crew will head to the paperclip shaped Martinsville Speedway short track on March 27th.

-source: justin lofton racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Justin Lofton , Kyle Busch