Justin Lofton and NTS Motorsports have proven to be a strong combination during their previous three starts together in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and had high hopes for success when they landed deep in the Pocono Mountains on a sunny Thursday morning. Working through a day with no on track activity, Lofton and his No.20 NTS Motorsports Crew Chief, Jeff Hensley, began working on their strategy to get to the front and stay there throughout the event. Lofton, a driver with seven previous starts at Pocono between the NCWTS and the ARCA Racing Series, strapped in for the first time on Friday morning for dual-practice sessions to prepare for The Pocono Mountains 150 the following day. During the first 80 minute session, Lofton and Hensley worked to get the truck to be more stable through the infamous "Tunnel Turn" but were happy with their setup moving into the final session. With only 12 total laps, Lofton ended the session third on the chart, after turning his fastest lap of 54.347. The truck continued to be strong with minimal changes through the final session of the day and Justin maintained his spot in top five with a fast lap of 54.592 and a top speed of 164.859.
As the sun rose over the mountains in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, teams prepared for three rounds of knockout-qualifying to determine the starting lineup for the afternoon's 60 mile event. When the track was opened for the first 25 minute session, Lofton headed out quickly and laid down a lap time of 54.905 and was firmly secured inside the top 24 to advance to the second session. With slightly changing track conditions, Lofton asked Hensley to tighten his truck up slightly for the next 10 minute round, as the crew prepared to make their way into the top twelve. On the first run, the No.20 Chevrolet ran a time that would posted him eleventh, but would not hold inside the top twelve to advance to the next round if he didn't improve it. Striving for a better lap the second time out, Hensley and the NTS Motorsports crew prepared the truck for additional laps and sent their driver back out on track. Lofton made it past the start/finish line time just before time expired on the session and when his time was recorded, he advanced into the sixth position, with a time of 54.356 and would be one of the fastest trucks to fight for the top spot. With only five minutes to determine the position of the final 12 starting spots, all trucks hit the track at the last possible second and only recorded one lap at top speed. Lofton ran a lap time of 53.929, which held for a starting spot inside the top 10, and placed him inside row four in the seventh position.
As the trucks were impounded by NASCAR following qualifying, the teams and drivers had less than 2 hours before being called to Victory Lane for Driver Introductions for The Pocono Mountains 150. Just after 1:00PM, the command was given to fire engines and the start of a 60 mile race on one of NASCAR's most unique tracks was underway. Immediately, Hensley and Lofton began working on a different strategy than the rest of the field. By lap 18 caution would be displayed for the first time and Crew Chief Jeff Hensley made a daring call to keep Lofton off of pit road to gain valuable track position. When the green was displayed on lap 21, the No.20 truck was inside the top 3 and holding his own on older tires. Just after the halfway point on lap 30, Lofton pitted under green for 4 tires and fuel and minor chassis changes, to help on corner entry. Lofton rejoined the field in 21st position as he and his crew chief stuck to their plan to save fuel and be at the front by the end of the race.
Action would pick up on track as the laps wound down, working through multiple cautions at the end of the event, Lofton had made his way back inside the top 10 with 8 laps remaining. After going into overtime and a green-white-checkered restart after the race had reached its scheduled distance, the NTS Motorsports driver brought home a strong finish in 9th at the end of the day. Justin Lofton and the entire NTS Motorsports crew left Pennsylvania with a lot of momentum and additional information leading into the next event on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Schedule. The series will take a week off and return to action on August 16th at Michigan International Speedway.
Justin Lofton's Post-Race Thoughts: "I was very happy to get back behind the wheel for NTS Motorsports this weekend at Pocono. Long Pond is one of my favorite places to run and I think that it really matches my driving style. Jeff (Hensley) and the NTS Motorsports guys really gave me a good truck throughout the entire event and we were good from the start of first practice until we took the checkers on Saturday. It's always great to head home with a top ten finish and I am really looking forward to making a few more starts with the guys from Kernersville this season."
Jeff Hensley's Post-Race Thoughts: "I can't say enough about the work ethic of my NTS Motorsports crew. We were good right off of the hauler, but the guys kept working to make it better. Justin drove a great race and gave a lot of great feedback that helped us get the most out of our Chevrolet Silverado. We keep putting strong runs together and I know that a win is coming for us very soon."
NTS Motorsports PR