Justin Lofton Earns 2009 Aaron's Lap Leader Award
Eddie Sharp Racing's Justin Lofton didn't earn the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship by pacing around the back of the field in ARCA RE/MAX Series races. He won by leading laps-a lot of laps. In fact, Lofton was the Aaron's Lap Leader in 2009, leading a series' high 1,005 laps in 15 of 21 races. He's now part of an elite group of just four drivers who have led more than 1,000 laps in a single season of ARCA competition since 1978.
Frank Kimmel and Tim Steele, who are ranked first and second among all time lap leaders, both have multiple seasons which they have led 1,000 laps or more in a single season of competition. Steele led 1,513 laps in 20 races in 1996 and 1,412 laps in 19 races in 1997. Kimmel led a career high 1,474 laps in 20 races in 2001 and went on to lead more than 1,000 laps in 2002, 2003 and 2004. In 2005, Joey Miller earned the lap leader award in his rookie season of ARCA RE/MAX Series competition with 1,002 laps led in 15 races. As the 2009 Aaron's Lap Leader, Lofton will earn the Aaron's Lap Leader Award and its associated $5,000 cash prize at the ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center on Saturday evening, December 5.
Lofton entered the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series as a second-year veteran of the Series and the most experienced ARCA driver in the Eddie Sharp Racing stable. It didn't take him long to use his experience to navigate the No. 6 Lofton Cattle Toyota to the front of ARCA RE/MAX Series fields, leading 35 of 80 laps in the season-opening race at Daytona Int'l Speedway on February 7. Over the course of the 21-race schedule, Lofton led laps in 15 events, including earning the Aaron's Lap Leader of the Race Award in nine races. His No. 6 Lofton Cattle Toyota led the field on a diverse combination of venues to include speedways (35 laps at Daytona on Feb. 7, 46 laps at Talladega on April 24, 43 laps at Kentucky on May 9, 14 laps at Pocono on June 6, 39 laps at Michigan on June 12, 65 laps at Pocono on August 1, 55 laps at Chicagoland on August 28, 12 laps at Kansas on October 1), short tracks (105 laps at Salem on April 4, 93 laps at Toledo on May 17, 69 laps at Mansfield on June 20, 171 laps at Berlin on July 25, 57 laps at Toledo on Sept. 4, 161 laps at Salem on Sept. 19), and dirt (40 laps at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on August 23). He posted six wins, 15 top-5 finishes, 19 top-10 finishes and six Menards Pole Awards presented by Ansell in the ARCA RE/MAX Series this season.
Lofton was followed in the Aaron's Lap Leader Standings by rookie Parker Kligerman, who led 725 laps in 15 races and provided Lofton's biggest challenge in the ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Point Battle this season. Ken Schrader led 184 laps in one race (Rockingham on April 19) and rookie Joey Coulter led 156 laps in three races (Iowa on July 11, Toledo on Sept. 4 and Salem on Sept. 19).
2009 marks the third consecutive year in which Eddie Sharp Racing has led the ARCA RE/MAX Series in laps led. In 2008 Scott Speed earned Aaron's Lap Leader honors, leading 407 laps in 14 races. In 2007 Michael McDowell led 822 laps in 15 races in Sharp's No. 2 ARCA RE/MAX Series entry.
In addition to sponsoring the Aaron's Lap Leader Award, Aaron's sponsors the ARCA RE/MAX Series' Lucky Dog program. Aaron's is the nation's leader in the rental, sales and lease ownership, and specialty retailing of residential and office furniture, consumer electronics and home appliances and accessories. For a large selection of brand name furniture, appliances, Electronics and computer sales or leasing, calls Aaron's at 1-800-950-7368, or visit www.aaronrents.com.
The Aaron's Lap Leader Award will be presented at the ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Kentucky on Saturday evening, December 5. The banquet is open to the public and tickets are available by calling Shalene Williams at the ARCA Office (734) 847-6726.
Kligerman Leading Rookie Candidate in 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series
Parker Kligerman concluded the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series as the leading candidate for the 2009 Rookie of the Year Award. Rookie points are accumulated based on a driver's best 15 finishes in the 21-race ARCA RE/MAX Series and Kligerman's 2009 rookie season was highlighted by a Series' high nine wins (Toledo Speedway, Michigan Int'l Speedway, Mansfield Motorsports Park, Iowa Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Illinois State Fairgrounds, DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, Kansas Speedway, Rockingham Speedway) among 14 top-5 finishes.
The final determination of the ARCA Rookie of the Year is based on a combination of points earned and the vote of a competition committee, with consideration to both driver conduct and performance. Four of the drivers who finished in the top-10 in the final point standings were considered rookie competitors in 2009, including Kligerman (finished second in points), Joey Coulter (finished fourth in points), Craig Goess (finished fifth in points) and Steve Arpin (finished seventh in points). Rookie competitor Tim George, Jr., finished 11th in points.
The ARCA RE/MAX Series has honored a top rookie at the Championship Awards Banquet each consecutive year since 1957. A total of five ARCA Rookie of the Years have gone on to capture ARCA RE/MAX Series championships later in their careers, including Benny Parsons, Dave Dayton, Bill Venturini, Frank Kimmel and Bill Baird. Parsons holds the distinction of being the only ARCA Rookie of the Year who has gone on to win season-ending championships in both the ARCA RE/MAX Series (1968 and 1969) and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (1973).
2010 Schedule Continues to Take Shape
The 2010 ARCA schedule continues to take shape. The season will open at Daytona Int'l Speedway on February 6, 2010, as part of a triple-header race night to include NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying for the Daytona 500 and the Budweiser Shootout. Other speedways on the 2010 ARCA schedule include Texas Motor Speedway (April 16), Talladega Superspeedway (April 23), Pocono Raceway (June 5 and July 31), Michigan Int'l Speedway (June 11) and Chicagoland Speedway (August 27), among others. In addition to superspeedways, the 2010 ARCA schedule will include a healthy mix of short tracks, including appearances to Salem speedway (April 11 and September 18) and Iowa Speedway (July 10). The complete schedule will be released on arcaracing.com in the coming weeks.
ARCA Drivers Stay Busy during first weekend of the "Off" Season
Although the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series has ended, drivers stayed busy during their first weekend of the "off" season participating in racing events throughout the country. Joey Coulter, who finished fourth in points in 2009, competed in the Mason Dixon 500 Late Model race at South Boston Speedway in South Boston, Virginia, where he finished 17.
Kyle Busch, a former winner in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina, and then traveled to Winchester Speedway in Indiana, where he won the Winchester 400 CRA Late Model race. Former ARCA RE/MAX Series winner Chuck Barnes, Jr., finished fifth in the race and current ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Johanna Long finished 31. ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series competitor Danny Jackson finished 29. Several ARCA Late Model Series drivers also competed, Brent Jack finished 12, John Van Doorn finished 23 and Scott Hantz finished 26.
Championship Awards Banquet to Honor the Stars of ARCA
This year's ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet will honor the Stars of ARCA, including drivers who have earned ARCA Championships since the series' inception in 1953. The banquet is on Saturday, December 5, 2009, at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Kentucky. For tickets, call (734) 847-6726.
202 Races for RE/MAX, Int'l
The American 200 at Rockingham 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 maintain its involvement in ARCA as a presenting sponsor in 2010.
2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Produces Third-Closest Championship Points Margin in History
Justin Lofton and Parker Kligerman concluded the 2009 race season at Rockingham Speedway, where Lofton was able to clinch his career first ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship by a margin of five points, the equivalent of one finishing position or one lap led. It is the third-closest final points spread in the 56-year history of the ARCA RE/MAX Series and a fitting end cap to 2009 for two NASCAR hopefuls who have spent their time in ARCA honing their skills through close, side-by-side racing on a diverse schedule that included paved speedways and short tracks, two dirt tracks and a roadcourse.
"So far ARCA has done an awesome job of preparing me for the next step in my career," said Lofton. "Especially stepping up the competition with drivers like Parker Kligerman and running against the Penske organization like that. ARCA does a great job preparing drivers. Parker Kligerman showed that last week. He went out to his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race and sat on the pole, finished 16th. I didn't qualify as well in my first Nationwide race but I finished 16th. I've gained a lot of respect in those garages from being here in ARCA and running like we have. More than anything me and Parker running against each other the way we have this year has brought a lot of recognition to both of us. A lot of people are talking and noticing the way that we have raced each other all year. I don't think we ever got together. It just really goes to show that we are capable of racing that way and we can race with the big boys. I realized how much focus is on us and how many people are watching us. I learned a lot from last year with Scott Speed and Ricky Stenhouse [both losing the ARCA Championship by getting into each other on the track]. It might have been a big media/publicity stunt thing but ultimately I think it has hurt both of their careers. I knew it would be better to finish second knowing that you raced clean against an awesome competitor like Parker Kligerman and the 77 team then to go out there and win it because I wrecked him."
The ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship has been closer on just two previous occasions. Ron Hutcherson and Dave Dayton tied to form ARCA's only co-championship team in 1974. In 1957 Iggy Katona won the title over Nelson Stacy by 4.5 points.