After Engine Change, Early Damage, Lofton Charges Back to 16th in Pocono
The Good Sam RV Emergency Road Service 125 event weekend at Pocono Raceway was an eventful one for Justin Lofton and the No. 6 CollegeComplete.com (http://www.collegecomplete.com) team, but when it was all said and done, they persevered to a 16th place finish.
"We had a few challenges that's for sure," Lofton said. "But the guys didn't give up and laid out a solid game plan. We ended up pretty competitive. To leave Pocono where we did is pretty impressive."
The challenges began for Lofton and his Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR) crew on Friday following practice when they noticed a potential problem under the hood. Uncertain if the engine could go the distance due to their find, they opted to swap out engines. With the backup engine now in his Toyota Tundra, Lofton took to the 2.5-mile Pocono track on Saturday for qualifying. The effort gave Lofton the 21st starting position for the race.
The field took the green flag under threatening skies. Knowing that the halfway mark may be the end of the event due to the impending weather, the competition got dicey early. The first caution flag waved just four laps in for debris. As the green flag flew for the restart, the close quarters caused some problems as trucks stacked up. With trucks in front of him slowing, Lofton was unable to get on the brakes quick enough and he made contact with the Jason White machine, causing right front fender damage.
While under yellow for the melee, Lofton dropped down pit road and the crew began to make repairs. Lofton returned to the track, but laps later, the race was halted due to persistent rain that moved into the area. With the halfway mark eight laps away, the race was delayed until Sunday morning.
Just after 9 AM on Sunday and with the sun poking through the clouds, Lofton climbed back behind the wheel of his CollegeComplete.com Toyota. Despite the early troubles, the team used the rain delay to their advantage, formulating a plan for the second half of the event. When the racing resumed, Lofton quickly drove down pit road in order for the crew to finish repairs to his damaged Tundra. After pulling out sheet metal, adding a new right side nose and a lot of tape, Lofton rejoined the event in the 24th position, a lap down.
The face of Lofton's race changed on lap 32 when the yellow flag waved for debris. The yellow allowed Lofton to be the lap beneficiary, enabling him to rejoin the lead lap.
The second half of the race was a solid one for Lofton and the No. 6 team. With 11 laps to go, the 25-year-old found himself knocking on the door of the top-10 in the 13th position. A caution flag with two laps to go however set the field up for a green-white-checkered flag finish.
At the drop of the green flag, the competition jockeyed for positions, as Lofton, knowing the nose of his Tundra was already battered, eyed a solid finish. After crossing the finish line, he got it, ending the day in 16th.
"The guys did a great job fixing the truck. Aero is so important at Pocono, there is no way we could have finished the race without those front end repairs. It might not look the best, but it ran pretty good after that," Lofton said.
Justin Lofton PR