The battle for the ARCA RE/MAX Series championship came down to a battle to the very end Saturday night at Salem Speedway where Justin Lofton held off a hard late-race charge from rookie Parker Kligerman to win the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA Fall Classic.
"This is just absolutely awesome to get a win at Salem," said Lofton, driver of the Lofton Cattle Toyota. "It just means so much to me. There's probably no other series that I am going to get to race in for the rest of my career that races at a track like Salem and to get a win here at this track in the ARCA RE/MAX Series is just absolutely awesome to me. This win is just as big as Chicagoland, Pocono and any of them. I think my battle with Parker Kligerman just shows the ability of the drivers in this Series."
Lofton also regained the points lead over Kligerman by 25 points with just two races left.
"Me and Parker are going to be racing each other for a long time to come so there is no reason to get off on a bad note early in our careers," added Lofton. "I barely lifted during those last 20 laps. It was unbelievable but that's what it's about. When you can get a win like that running this close it just means that much more to you then if you were to just run away with it."
Kligerman, on the inside groove, was completely alongside Lofton for much of the final 10 laps, but could not find the momentum to pull off the pass. Kligerman, in the Cunningham Motorsports Dodge, took one more shot at Lofton off turn four coming to the checkered flag, but had to settle for second, a half-length away.
"I think I kind of let my team down there at that last run," said Kligerman. "I should have gotten by Justin Lofton but we're racing for a championship here and I don't want to get into the situation that you saw those two (Ricky Stenhouse and Scott Speed) get into running for the Championship last year. Hopefully Justin Lofton will remember that the next two races going into the end of the season."
Kligerman had several opportunities to move the eventual winner in the closing laps but chose otherwise.
"I was running right behind him [Justin Lofton] and I could have moved him a bunch of times," added Kligerman. "He was all over the place and I thought 'I'll just get by him, I'll get by him clean and we'll go on to the next race and we don't need to get into a pushing match for a Championship. Maybe I'm a little bit too nice but hopefully he will remember that next week."
Dakoda Armstrong finished a career-best third in a second Cunningham Motorsports Dodge.
"I just have to thank this Cunningham Motorsports team," said Armstrong. "They put an awesome car together. I was a little bit worried because I didn't think our car was that great during practice. I wish there would have been a yellow there at the end so that I could have caught back up to them but even without one it was a great race for us."
Frank Kimmel finished fourth in the Ansell-Menards Ford.
"It was an interesting night, that's for sure," said Kimmel. "Our car was okay-it wasn't great. It had brake problems. It didn't handle very good right in the middle of the racetrack and then we kind of got screwed out of the Aaron's Lucky Dog really bad right there at the end of the race. We would have finished third instead of fourth but that was a bad, bad call. We didn't scratch the car too much and we finished the race so we will go on from there."
Steve Arpin was fifth in the Taylor Chassis-Pinewood Sports Chevrolet.
Lofton, from the second starting position, dominated much of the race, leading 161 of 200 laps. Outside of Kligerman, Lofton's biggest challenger was Joey Coulter, who was the only driver in the field who was able to pass Lofton. After Lofton led the first 136 laps, Coulter finally caught Lofton and made the pass on the 137th lap. From there, Coulter continually pulled away from Lofton before a late-race caution bunched up the field inside of 40 laps from the finish. Coulter held off Lofton for five laps after the restart but slipped high in turn one allowing Lofton to get underneath for the lead on lap 169. It got worse for Coulter a few laps later when the Miami Springs, Florida driver bounced off the wall in turn four ending his night 20 laps shy of the finish. The incident brought out the final caution of the night that set up the battle to the checkered flag between Lofton and Kligerman.
Stephan McCurley, making his return to ARCA RE/MAX Series competition, finished sixth in the Porter Glass-American Screen-Royal Purple Chevrolet in front of Terry Jones, who drove the Jones Group Dodge home in seventh. Tom Hessert finished eighth in the Cherry Hill Classic Cars Ford with Bryan Silas trailing in ninth in the Rockingham Speedway-PBG Ford. Ken Butler III finished 10th in the LoanMax Ford.
Chris Buescher earned the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell but fell out just before halfway with battery issues. Just five cautions slowed the race for 28 laps.
The next event for the ARCA RE/MAX Series will be the Kansas Lottery 150 at Kansas Speedway Thursday night, October 1st, live on SPEED at 5:00 PM ET.
Official Results, ARCA RE/MAX Series, Salem Speedway
Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA Fall Classic (9-19-09)
Salem, Ind., (AP) _ The official finish for Saturday's Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 at Salem Speedway 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. (2) Justin Lofton, Westmorland, Calif., Toyota, 200; 2. (5) Parker Kligerman, Westport, Conn., Dodge, 200; 3. (9) Dakoda Armstrong, New Castle, Ind., Dodge, 200; 4. (6) Frank Kimmel, Clarksville, Ind., Ford, 199; 5. (8) Steve Arpin, Fort Frances, Ont., Chevrolet, 199; 6. (12) Stephan McCurley, Humble, Texas, Chevrolet, 198; 7. (11) Terry Jones, Amherstburg, Ont., Dodge, 198; 8. (17) Tom Hessert, Cherry Hill, N.J., Ford, 196; 9. (14) Bryan Silas, Stuart, Fla., Ford, 196; 10. (16) Ken Butler III, Lilburn, Ga., Ford, 196; 11. (18) Gabi DiCarlo, Phoenix, Ariz., Toyota, 195; 12. (19) Jeremy Petty, Smolan, Kan., Chevrolet, 194; 13. (7) Matt Merrell, Portland, Texas, Dodge, 188; 14. (20) Kory Rabenold, Slatington, Pa., Ford, 185; 15. (4) Joey Coulter, Miami Springs, Fla., Chevrolet, 180, accident; 16. (10) Patrick Sheltra, Indiantown, Fla., Chevrolet, 176; 17. (24) Jason Basham, Henryville, Ind., Chevrolet, 176; 18. (23) Brad Smith, Shelby Township, Mich., Ford, 173; 19. (21) Darrell Basham, Henryville, Ind., Chevrolet, 171; 20. (13) Robb Brent, Shelby Township, Mich., Dodge, 162, accident; 21. (1) Chris Buescher, Prosper, Texas, Ford, 95, battery; 22. (15) Tim George, Jr., New York, N.Y., Toyota, 94, accident; 23. (3) Craig Goess, Greenville, N.C., Toyota, 62, engine; 24. (28) Barry Fitzgerald, Sykesville, Md., Ford, 57; 25. (26) Todd Antrican, Lebanon, Ohio, Chevrolet, 53; 26. (27) James Hylton, Inman, S.C., Ford, 16, handling; 27. (22) Todd Bowsher, Springfield, Ohio, Ford, 10, handling; 28. (25) Shannon Robertson, Murphreesboro, Tenn., Chevrolet, 3, transmission; 29. (29) Larry Meadors, Louisville, Ky., Ford, 2, handling.
Time of race: 1 hour, 20 minutes, 47 seconds; Margin of victory: .128 seconds; Lap leaders: Lofton 1-136, Coulter 137-168, Lofton 169, Coulter 170-176, Lofton 177-200.
Salem Post Race Awards
Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell:
Chris Buescher/No. 17 David Ragan Fan Club Ford
Highest Finishing Rookie:
Parker Kligerman/No. 77 Cunningham Motorsports Dodge
Cometic Crew Chief of the Race:
Mark Rette/No. 6 Lofton Cattle Toyota
Klotz Engine Mechanic of the Race:
Mark Rette/No. 6 Lofton Cattle Toyota
CGS Imaging Hard Charger:
Tom Hessert/No. 20 Cherry Hill Classic Ford
Aaron's Lap Leader:
Justin Lofton/No. 6 Lofton Cattle Toyota
TOP TEN UNOFFICIAL ARCA RE/MAX SERIES POINTS AFTER THE KENTUCKIANA FORD DEALERS ARCA FALL CLASSIC 200 (RACE 19 OF 21; 9/19/09);1) Justin Lofton, 4740; 2) Parker Kligerman, 4740; 3) Frank Kimmel, 4375; 4) Joey Coulter, 4140; 5) Craig Goess, 3875; 6) Bryan Silas, 3860; 7) Steve Arpin, 3820; 8) Patrick Sheltra, 3770; 9) Tom Hessert, 3685; 10) Robb Brent, 3630.