Rookie Loftin Rules at Michigan Speedway From ARCA PR
Takes Lead Late and Cruises to His First Victory
ARCA RE/MAX Series rookie Justin Lofton led the final 11 circuits Saturday at Michigan Int’l Speedway to win the Racing For Wildlife 200.
Lofton, in the Lofton Cattle Dodge, capitalized on the late-race misfortunes of Sean Caisse and then kept Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. at bay to earn his career-first series victory in only his eighth series attempt.
“I came into this series a young driver from California,” said Lofton. “I knew that I had the talent to be successful here, but I came in a little too aggressive and trying too hard. The last couple of weeks I just relaxed, spent some off-time to myself, and regrouped. I came into this a lot more relaxed and just let the race come to me. Also, honestly I had Eddie Sharp as my crew chief the last two weeks, and Laurin Ranier as my spotter. Eddie Sharp is the best crew chief and car owner in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. This was an emotional win for us.”
Lofton, who earned the SunTrust Highest Finishing Rookie of the Race award, became the eighth different winner after nine events in 2008. The Westmorland, California driver also established a new race record with an average speed of 150.596 mph, surpassing the old mark of 145.956 set by David Stremme in 2006.
Caisse, who led 51 of 100 laps, was leading with 12 laps to go when the Pelham, New Hampshire rookie made an unscheduled pit stop to replace a left-rear tire that had gone flat. Caisse, in the Shigeaki Hattori-owned Toyota, went one lap down in the exchange and finished 19th. Despite Caisse’s misfortunes, he earned the Klotz Halfway Leader award and the Aaron’s Lap Leader honors for leading the most laps.
Stenhouse, in the Roush Fenway Racing Ford, finished second nearly two seconds
behind the winner. The Olive Branch, Mississippi driver also padded his point lead.
“We definitely didn’t start where we wanted to (21st), but we knew we had a good
race car,” said Stenhouse. “We drove up through there to the first caution. I think we
got up to 12th, then Lumpy decided to make a two-tire stop there. We got out in first
and got the five points for leading a lap. The top three cars got by us with new tires,
but we could stay right with them and they started coming back to us. Then we came
in for our four-tire stop and got back out in the lead. It just wasn’t too good on new
tires but it was pretty good on old ones.”
Frank Kimmel, who started 15th, steered the Ford Drive One-ECC Ford to the finish
“We’re really happy with it,” said Kimmel. “It’s the third race with this car for us and
we’re still learning on it. It’s a car we got from (Jack) Roush. It’s a really a nice race
car; it’s a lot better than we are right now.”
Scott Speed, who fought a tight condition much of the race, finished fourth in the Red Bull Toyota. He also earned the Accel Fastest Lap of the Race award.
Brian Scott, in the Venturini Motorsports Chevrolet, battled back from a lap down to finish fifth.
Justin Lofton (#20) , Scott Speed (#2 - Middle) and Ricky Stenhouse (#99) race in tight quarters at Michigan. (51 Photos)
Loftin celebrates his win with a burnout.
SIM Factory Pole winner Speed led the first 14 circuits before Scott took control on lap 15. However, Scott gave up the lead to Stenhouse during first round pit stops when Stenhouse got off pit road first. Stenhouse led just two laps before Scott reassumed command. Then Caisse passed Scott for the lead on lap 31 and began to pull away from the field. Caisse led up through lap 59 before giving the lead back to Stenhouse during second round pit stops. But with Caisse on the continual charge, Stenhouse did not lead long before Caisse made the pass for the top-spot on lap 68. From there, Caisse continued to pull away from Lofton, who by then had also passed Stenhouse for position. But with a tire going down, Lofton quickly caught Caisse inside of 12 laps from the finish.
Patrick Sheltra finished sixth in the Ferguson Pipe-FloraGanics Dodge in front of Ken Butler III, who finished seventh in the Aaron’s Lucky Dog Dream Machine Toyota. Jesse Smith finished eighth in the Lloyd’s Barbeque-Hormel-Spam-Jones Group Dodge. Dexter Bean was ninth in the Glock Chevrolet. AJ Henriksen, who started 30th, finished 10th earning the Casite Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions.
Lofton’s crew chief Eddie Sharp earned the Cometic Gaskets Crew Chief of the Race.
The next event for the ARCA RE/MAX Series will be the Cayuga ARCA RE/MAX 250 at Cayuga Motor Speedway in Nelles Corners, Ontario Sunday, June 29th.