Justin Lofton and the Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR) College Complete ((http://ww.collegecomplete.com, 877-543-2655) Chevrolet team continued their streak of top-10 runs on Sunday as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) ushered in NASCAR’s return to Rockingham Speedway with the inaugural Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200. Lofton started the race from the 19th position, battled tire wear and an issue with the handling to finish in the 10th position.
“That was 200 laps of focus,” Lofton said after climbing from his No. 6 College Complete Chevrolet Silverado. “We came into the weekend wanting to survive, because we knew what a tough track Rockingham is. To come away with another top-10 is great. We battled the tires all day out there, and at times I felt like the truck was a handful. We didn’t get a chance to look it over and figure out why until after the race.”
Lofton, who celebrated his ARCA Racing Series championship at Rockingham in 2009, approached the 200-lap race with the mindset of racing the race track, knowing that the abrasive surface would abuse the tires.
By lap 25, he had raced his way into the top-10. While running in the ninth position, the California racer relayed that the truck was beginning to lose grip. His first opportunity for relief came on lap 63 under a caution flag. His College Complete team swapped out tires, added fuel, and made an adjustment in order to help him around the 1.017-mile track.
Lofton maintained his position within the top-10 as the race saw an extended green flag run through the halfway mark of the race.
On lap 114, he showed in the 11th position, the last truck on the lead lap. At that point, Lofton radioed to his team that the right front felt “loaded up.”
Seven laps later, he got another chance to drop down pit road in order to get new tires, fuel, and yet another adjustment.
Back on track, Lofton muscled his machine around the challenging track, noting that his College Complete Chevrolet handled better at the start of a run, but fell off quickly. Fighting what he believed at the time to be a combination of tire wear and a loose condition, Lofton relayed to crew chief Dan Bormann with just 40 laps left to run, “The only thing I can say about this truck is that it is evil.”
Laps later, the yellow flag waved for the fourth and final time during the race, allowing Lofton and the College Complete team the ability to swap out tires for the final run to the finish. With the restart waving 20 laps from the finish, Lofton lined up for the final time from the 10th spot.
He held the position through the finish, crossing the stripe in 10th, giving him his third consecutive top-10 run of the 2012 season.
After the race, the team discovered that the right front lower control arm was bent. The diagnosis explained why Lofton felt the right front was weighed down, and why the adjustments throughout the race didn’t do much to remedy the problem.
“That was something we had no way of noticing during the race,” Lofton said. “I’m so glad it held up for me. I’m a little tired after battling the truck and the track today, but that was a lot of fun. I’m happy to be back at The Rock and leave with a good finish,” Lofton added.
Lofton now shows second in the driver point standings, just six points out of the top spot.
The next race for Lofton and the ESR College Complete team will be next Saturday at the Kansas Speedway on April 21st.