Justin Lofton, who had gradually fallen behind ARCA RE/MAX Series point leader Parker Kligerman in the championship chase, came to Berlin Raceway with a newly-announced game plan in place; and it worked.
The Westmorland, California driver also held off the lead-lap pack during a green-white-checker finish to win the Wolverine Power Systems 200 Saturday night at the legendary Marne, Michigan short track.
"What an incredible night," said Lofton. "My guys were perfect tonight. We had the best car and it certainly showed. This is my favorite car. We went off a different pit strategy and it worked. I really have to hand it to my guys for making the call. This win feels every bit as good as the one at Talladega."
Lofton, who pitted just once out of sequence with the leaders, drove back to the front and stayed there for the remainder of the race to earn his third career series victory. He also closed to within 100 points of Kligerman headed to Pocono Raceway for the next event on tour.
Through it all, it was a banner night for Lofton, who, not only won the Menards Pole Award with a new one-lap track record, led 171 of 207 laps. Lofton also snapped Kligerman's four-race win streak after proclaiming earlier in the week that was racing for wins alone from here on out rather than racing for points.
Matt Merrell got to within a half-length of Lofton on the final lap in turn three but washed up the track as Lofton sailed off the bottom end of turn four toward the checkered flag. Merrell finished a career-best second, three lengths away in the ColinsHope.org-Red Line Oil Dodge.
"I thought I had a chance to get by Justin Lofton but I just couldn't keep up with him at the end of the race," said Merrell. "He was getting some really good runs. I don't think the 6 car was necessarily better; we were pretty even-but this track really eats up tires and that's what got us at the end."
Seventeen-year-old Chad Finley, in the Auto Value Service Centers-AutoParts2020.com Chevrolet, finished a career-best third, but not before causing some controversy resulting from an altercation with series veteran Frank Kimmel.
"Everybody comes in to this place and dives up the track," said Finley. "I probably should have been more patient with him [Frank Kimmel] especially with as much experience as he has here and as good as he has been here, so I apologize for that. It feels good, but it's not all me. It's everyone over at BKR Racing; especially my crew chief [Wayne Setterington]. He's just awesome and we work really well together."
Finley, who was battling Kimmel for third under five laps to go, turned Kimmel off turn four. That left Kimmel sideways on the frontstretch and an open target for Michel Disdier, who plowed into Kimmel's left-front corner on the way by. Kimmel then crawled back to pit road in a shower of sparks before returning in time to finish a disappointing 12th.
"What a night," said Kimmel. "We had a great car all day - from practice to qualifying and on into tonight. Overall, though, it was great to battle for the lead, even if we had somewhat of a disappointing finish. We were definitely a factor until the 29 car turned us and we just flat got ran over. That was really frustrating. It would have been great to not only have the finish we deserved but to have reached that 10,000 laps led mark. Either way, we still accomplished another goal here by leading our first laps of the season, which is a great thing for this team because they've worked hard all year long."
Kimmel, after leading 36 laps, inched closer to yet another milestone. The Clarksville, Indiana stock car legend is now just 6 laps shy of leading 10,000 laps in ARCA RE/MAX Series competition.
Pete Shepherd finished fourth in the Venturini Motorsports-National Exhaust Systems Chevrolet. Joey Coulter was fifth in the Darrell Gwynn Foundation-Tempest Cycles Chevrolet.
Lofton led the first 108 laps before finally making his one and only pit stop for new tires and fuel, long after every other lead lap driver had pitted. Kimmel took control of the top-spot from there until the eventual winner, who rejoined the field in eighth, quickly charged back through the pack to take the lead for good and lap 145.
Kligerman, suffering from the flu, ended up finishing sixth in the Cunningham Motorsports Dodge.
"That's what championships are made of," said Kligerman. "They are made of making the best out of your bad days, and that's what we had today-a bad day. I'm feeling sicker and sicker as the adrenaline wears off. It was a rough day out there. No one seemed to have any room for us. Funny how that works out. We'll go to Pocono and make up for it, hopefully with a win."
Craig Goess was seventh in the Greenville of North Carolina Toyota in front of Justin Lloyd, who finished eighth in his career-first start on the LNCS-Calero Investments-RM Technology Chevrolet.
Bryan Silas fought his way back onto the lead lap after getting spun early in the race to finish a solid ninth in the Rockingham Speedway-Holland Pumps Chevrolet. Tom Hessert finished 10th in the Cherry Hill Classic Cars Ford.
The ARCA RE/MAX Series travel next to Pocono Raceway for the Pennsylvania ARCA 200 Saturday, August 1st, live on SPEED at 1:00 PM ET. The ARCA Racing Network will also carry live streaming audio of all the on-track activity at ARCAracing.com
The official finish for Saturday's Wolverine Power Systems 200 at Berlin Raceway for ARCA RE/MAX Series stock cars with starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, type of car, laps completed, and reason out of race, if any:
1. (1) Justin Lofton, Westmorland, Calif., Toyota, 207; 2. (3) Matt Merrell, Portland, Texas, Dodge, 207; 3. (2) Chad Finley, Dewitt, Mich., Chevrolet, 207; 4. (13) Pete Shepherd, Brampton, Ont., Chevrolet, 207; 5. (11) Joey Coulter, Miami Springs, Fla., Chevrolet, 207; 6. (4) Parker Kligerman, Westport, Conn., Dodge, 207; 7. (5) Craig Goess, Greenville, N.C., Toyota, 207; 8. (14) Justin Lloyd, Mooresville, N.C., Chevrolet, 207; 9. (15) Bryan Silas, Stuart, Fla., Chevrolet, 207; 10. (17) Tom Hessert, Cherry Hill, N.J., Ford, 207; 11. (19) Steve Arpin, Fort Frances, Ont., Toyota, 207; 12. (7) Frank Kimmel, Clarksville, Ind., Ford, 207; 13. (12) Grant Enfinger, Fairhope, Ala., Ford, 206; 14. (10) Patrick Sheltra, Indiantown, Fla., Dodge, 206; 15. (16) Robb Brent, Shelby Township, Mich., Dodge, 206; 16. (20) Michel Disdier, Nice, France, Ford, 204; 17. (23) Kory Rabenold, Slatington, Pa., Ford, 203; 18. (22) Jeremy Petty, Smolan, Kan., Chevrolet, 201; 19. (21) Andrew Belmont, Mooresville, N.C., Ford, 201; 20. (33) Jason Basham, Henryville, Ind., Chevrolet, 199; 21. (25) Darrell Basham, Henryville, Ind., Chevrolet, 197; 22. (28) Jody Hixson, Soddy Daisy, Tenn., Chevrolet, 191; 23. (9) Jonathan Eilen, Hampton, Minn., Dodge, 125, accident; 24. (30) James Hylton, Inman, S.C., Ford, 116, accident; 25. (18) Tim George, Jr., New York, N.Y., Toyota, 116, accident; 26. (32) Barry Fitzgerald, Sykesville, Md., Ford, 85, overheating; 27. (27) Dale Shearer, Alhambra, Ill., Ford, 78, handling; 28. (8) Michael Simko, Clarkston, Mich., Chevrolet, 76, overheating; 29. (29) Brad Smith, Shelby Township, Mich., Ford, 62, overheating; 30. (26) Scot Alves, Camino, Calif., Dodge, 31, clutch; 31. (31) Todd Antrican, Lebanon, Ohio, Chevrolet, 18, handling; 32. (6) Billy Leslie, Algonac, Mich., Ford, six, accident; 33. (24) Larry Meadors, Louisville, Ky., Ford, 3 vibration; 34. (34) Wayne Peterson, Pulaski, Tenn., Chevrolet, 0, accident.
Time of race: 1 hour, 48 minutes, 51 seconds; Margin of victory: .512 seconds; Lap leaders: Lofton 1-108, Kimmel 109-144, Lofton 145-207.
Post Race Special Awards
Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell: Justin Lofton/No. 6 Lofton Cattle-Valvoline Instant Oil Change Toyota (16.857seconds/93.540 mph) *NTR
Highest Finishing Rookie:Joey Coulter/No. 16 Darrell Gwynn Foundationn-Tempest Cycles Chevrolet
Cometic Crew Chief of the Race:Mark Rette/No. 6 Lofton Cattle-Valvoline Instant Oil Change Toyota
Klotz Engine Mechanic of the Race:Mark Rette/No. 6 Lofton Cattle-Valvoline Instant Oil Change Toyota
CGS Imaging Hard Charger:Steve Arpin/No. 20 Pinewood Sports & Marine Toyota
Aaron's Lap Leader:Justin Lofton/No. 6 Lofton Cattle-Valvoline Instant Oil Change Toyota. 171 of 200 laps
TOP TEN UNOFFICIAL ARCA RE/MAX SERIES POINTS AFTER THE WOLVERINE POWER SYSTEMS 200 PRESENTED BY GENERAC AT BERLIN RACWAY ( RACE 12 of 21; 7-25-09);1) Parker Kligerman, 3055; 2) Justin Lofton, 2955; 3) Frank Kimmel, 2695; 4) Joey Coulter, 2595; 5) Craig Goess, 2580; 6) Bryan Silas, 2545; 7) Steve Arpin, 2416; 8) Patrick Sheltra, 2380; 9) Tom Hessert, 2320; 10) Tim George, Jr., 2200.