ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Justin Lofton, in the Lofton Cattle Toyota, held off rookie Grant Enfinger in a last-lap shootout to win the Ansell Cut Protection 150 Friday night at Chicagoland Speedway.
Lofton had 17 lead-lap cars in his rearview mirror for the final restart, which came on lap 99 of the 100-lap, 150-mile race.
"At that last restart, honestly, the only thing I was thinking was ‘oh dang' because I had acquired a little bit of a lead there and I knew that there were some pretty strong cars behind me," said Lofton. "It was great during that race to be able to battle against some of those guys for the lead, especially Brian Ickler because I grew up racing with him and to race him in the ARCA RE/MAX Series and come out ahead feels pretty good to me."
Enfinger, on fresher tires, drove underneath Lofton off the fourth corner but fell short by less than a length at the checkered flag. Enfinger, in the BeasleyAllen.com-Roush Yates Performance Parts Ford, settled for second, earning his second runner-up finish of the season.
"I have never been more disappointed," said Enfinger. "It was a great run, I was glad to see that we were the fastest car -that was our goal I after Kentucky. I kind of felt like we had a second place car, we were determined to be the fastest car here this weekend. It took us a hundred laps to do it but we definitely proved that we had the fastest car tonight. I want to thank Roush Performance Parts for all of their help, and Beasley Allen for making this race possible - this was not part of our four race deal, but they stepped up and they are liking the way things are going for the team and hopefully we can be at more races in the near future."
Lofton also regained the point lead from Parker Kligerman, who ran out of gas coming to the green flag on the final lap. Kligerman, who was running third before the tank ran dry, ended up 17th, one lap down. Lofton, who only pitted once, was also tight on fuel.
"I knew that we were okay on fuel because my crew chief, Mark Rette, came onto the radio and assured me that we would be okay," added Lofton. "Fuel mileage and pit strategy is something that we have been working on all year long. It was definitely close though. I started to run out while I was celebrating doing burnouts on the frontstretch after the race."
Rookie Hal Martin, Kligerman's teammate, finished a career-best third in the Cunningham Motorsports Dodge in only his second series start.
"There was not a whole lot of options in my home state of Louisiana when it came to local racetracks so I moved to Alabama where I was Late Model racing," said Martin. "We decided to spread out a little bit and from there I found the ARCA RE/MAX Series and started talking to Cunningham Motorsports. I couldn't have asked for a better team. They have been so helpful. This is my second ARCA race and now we are preparing for Kansas later in the year."
Brian Ickler, in the BrianIckler.com Toyota, held off veteran Frank Kimmel to finish fourth. Kimmel was fifth in the Ansell-Menards Ford.
"It was another good, solid finish for this Ansell- Menards team," said Kimmel. "A top-five is a hard fought finish in this series and especially this year when the competition is really strong. Overall, it was a great few days at the track and I feel like we put on a strong showing for the contingent of Ansell folks on hand for their race. It's really an honor to race for a company as supportive as Ansell and this has been a great season so far and we look forward to representing them long into the future."
Lofton, who led the most laps with 55, had a half-straightaway lead over the field under 10 laps to go when Bryan Silas spun off turn two to bring out the seventh and final caution of the race. That bunched up the pack for the final restart during which the field received the green and white flags together. Lofton got the jump on the restart and stretch his advantage to five lengths while Enfinger and Martin battled side-by-side for second. Then both Enfinger and Martin erased Lofton's advantage down the backstretch setting up Enfinger's last-ditch effort to pass the eventual race winner off turn four.
Rookie Joey Coulter, in the Darrell Gwynn Foundation-Tempest Cycles Chevrolet, came from the back row to finish sixth in front of Jesse Smith, who finished seventh in the Texas Corral-Lloyd's BBQ Toyota.
Craig Goess finished eighth in the Greenville of North Carolina Toyota. Patrick Sheltra steered the Buffalo Wings & Rings Dodge to ninth in the final running order. Michael Simko brought the Wolverine Power Systems Chevrolet home in 10th.
Three drivers exchanged the lead five times while seven cautions slowed the race for 33 laps. Ickler, who led 41 laps, also earned the Menards Pole presented by Ansell earlier in the day with a speed of 177.637 mph. Kligerman led four laps.
The next event for the ARCA RE/MAX Series comes Friday night, September 4th at Toledo Speedway with the ARCA RE/MAX 200 presented by Federated and Belle Tire. After that it'll be a tight turnaround in time for the Monday, Labor Day September 7th Southern Illinois 100 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds mile-dirt.