Lofton Finishes Fifth On The High Banks At Bristol All of the pieces fell into place on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway for rookie Justin Lofton and the No. 7 Red Horse Racing team. Spot on pit strategy, combined with Lofton's savvy skills...
Lofton Finishes Fifth On The High Banks At Bristol
All of the pieces fell into place on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway for rookie Justin Lofton and the No. 7 Red Horse Racing team. Spot on pit strategy, combined with Lofton's savvy skills on track boosted the team to their third top-five finish of the season.
"The race ended up a lot better than I thought. We were just outside of the top-20 in practice, and qualified 15th so I was a little worried. But once the sun went down and the race started, it really hooked up and the truck was a whole lot better than I thought. Everyone on the No. 7 visitpit.com Toyota Tundra did a great job," Lofton said.
Set for a rare mid-week race, Lofton took the green flag for the O'Reilly 200 on the famed Bristol short track from the 15th position. From the start, the challenges of the Bristol high banks proved daunting, with the first of 13 caution flags falling just a dozen laps into the event.
The early yellows not only slowed the pace of the race, but also left Lofton with a close encounter. On lap 20, he narrowly missed a multi-truck wreck by diving to the apron of the race track. By the time the restart waved on lap 26, the 24-year-old had maneuvered his way into tenth.
Two caution flags and 11 laps later, Lofton dropped his No. 7 Toyota down pit road for the team's first pit stop of the race. Following the stop, Lofton showed in the 25th position.
Another yellow on lap 53 opened the door for crew chief Mark Rette to make a pivotal call, ordering Lofton down pit road in order for the crew to top off on fuel. By all calculations, the added fuel would be enough for Lofton to go the distance in the race.
Patience became the key through the remainder of the race, and Lofton had finessed his way back into the top-10 just as the race hit the halfway mark on lap 100.
With action never lacking around the "World's Fastest Half Mile," Rette coached his driver to stay "cautiously aggressive" in order to stay in the hunt. Lofton did just that, and put on a stellar show while battling some of the circuit's veteran racers as he made his climb.
Three caution flags in the closing laps allowed Lofton to take advantage of the restarts, picking up positions and putting himself in contention. A caution flag on lap 200 forced a red flag in order for the track to be cleaned up. Once lifted, engines re-fired and opened the door for a green-white-checkered flag finish.
On lap 204, Lofton took the restart from the sixth position. Restarting on the inside lane, Lofton quickly got to work, battling points leader Todd Bodine for the fifth position. Just as the leaders crossed the start/finish line under the white flag, signaling the final lap, the caution came out yet again after another truck spun in turn 4. Since the race leader did take the white flag, the race would finish under caution. Lofton had the advantage, edging Bodine for fifth through turn 1 as the yellow waved, giving him the position.
"We had a really solid day. We stayed out of trouble. I've worked really hard to get respect from a lot of the older guys and I've tried to race them clean all year long. I was shown a lot out there and I really appreciate those guys for that," Lofton said.
"I wish the race wouldn't have been so slow paced. I would've liked to have seen where our truck was going to go."
Lofton's fifth place run in Bristol was his third top-five of the season, and his fourth top-10. He remains 12th in the driver point standings, just 41 points out of 10th. The next race for Lofton and the No. 7 team is next Friday at Chicagoland Speedway.