Friday, April 20, 2012

Talkin' Trucks with Justin Lofton: Starting off 2012 strong

As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series takes on Kansas Speedway this weekend, I thought we should talk some truck series racing, as I do best. 

Justin Lofton prior to Daytona qualifying.
Photo courtesy of CollegeComplete.com
Justin Lofton, driver of the No. 6 CollegeComplete.com Chevrolet for Eddie Sharp Racing, is headed to Kansas second in the points and with special guidance for the team this weekend.

You may not know that Justin Lofton has been competing in some form of racing most of his life although you could also say it is in his blood. Lofton's dad Bob was an off-road racer (hobby, not competitive) back in 1986, when Justin was a year old. Justin started with downhill mountain bikes at age 11, but his parents moved him to cars for safety reasons.

"I would get hurt on my mountain bikes, so when I was 17 my parents decided to put me in an actual race car, with a roll cage. That was a car out of Hill Climb Racing."

Hill Climb Racing is where Lofton got his racing start and met Gay Smith whom he credits as his mentor. 

Making his NASCAR debut in 2009, Lofton finished the 2011 season 14th  in the points standings. With a career-best start to the season, Lofton and the No. 6 team have finished in the top 10 in all three races – third at Daytona, fourth at Martinsville and 10th  at Rockingham. 

"A lot of it has to do with rejoining Eddie Sharp halfway through last season," Lofton said in response to his season thus far. "When we did that, we started putting things in place for this year as far as we acquired the KHI (Kevin Harvick Inc.) equipment, we starting hiring and scouting different crew members and we kind of treated the last eight races in 2011 as pre-season. It has really paid off for us. We have worked really hard during the offseason. The guys took very few days off for Christmas and New Year and it is really cool to see that all pay off now."

"We went to two of my worst tracks this season. Daytona and Martinsville are tracks I really like but I just was never able to put a whole race together. We came out of there third and fourth and went to Rockingham and had a solid top-ten finish. We had a stronger truck than that but had some mechanical issues that kept us from running better. To have this start and have the equipment we have, we are going to be tough all throughout the year." 

That hard work by Lofton and the entire Eddie Sharp Racing organization is showing this weekend in Kansas. Perhaps the second place in points is providing extra motivation this weekend, but in Friday's practice Lofton was p.6 in first practice and p.5 in final practice.

"This isn't a very good track to me, practice and qualifying times, even back in my ARCA days I was never really super quick here but we always raced really well. To have two strong practices like we did it just shows how competitive we are going to be tomorrow."

The No. 6 team with soldiers from Fort Riley.
Courtesy of Justin Lofton
Before he made his way to the track  Wednesday evening, Lofton made a special visit to Fort Riley, Kansas. A yearly trek to the base, about a two-hour drive from the Kansas Speedway, has become a special part of the weekend for Lofton and his team. 

"I really enjoy it," Lofton said of his third visit to the base. "We have made a lot of good friends that we get to see a couple of times a year when we go out to Fort Riley, then at Iowa and some will go to Kentucky and I have stayed in contact with quite a few over the offseason."

The turnout at the event was great and these visits create lasting memories for Lofton and the team. From sitting in an Apache helicopter to riding around the base on horseback (a first for some of the crew members from what I hear), the event has a lasting impact on Lofton.

"They all do so much for us and many pay the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe, it's the least we can do to go out there and show our appreciation." 

In addition to his Fort Riley friends cheering him on this weekend, Lofton has an angel riding shotgun with him.

Eve Haim will ride with Lofton this weekend at Kansas Speedway.
Courtesy of CollegeComplete.com Facebook
Eve Haim passed away in June of 2011 after a battle with Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS). Eve was the mother of College Complete CEO Dan Haim. Haim pledged to be at every race this year, but this weekend is the exception: Eve's hometown is dedicating a park in her honor and Dan will be in attendance. To remember Eve, the No. 6 team is honoring her by placing her name above the driver's side door. 

(Update: Justin Lofton qualified in 3rd position for the SFP 250 which can be seen live on SPEED today at 2pm est.) 

0 comments :

Post a Comment