CONCORD, N.C. — Once he finally figured out his restarts, the rest was easy for Justin Lofton.
Lofton raced to his first NASCAR Truck Series victory Friday night, getting the jump on race leader Brad Keselowski on a late restart and holding on at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Lofton had 15 top 10s in the series before finally getting his first win in his 55th career start.
Lofton became the fifth driver to win in five races this year on the Truck Series and took over the points lead.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Lofton said.
An angry Keselowski finished second, and Todd Bodine was third.
It was ironic Lofton won the race after a strong restart because it looked early on as though that’s exactly what would cost him the race.
Every time there was a caution it seemed Lofton would fall further behind.
“I had terrible restarts all night,” said Lofton, who started the race second.
On one restart he dropped from second to 12th. Later on, he fell back to 20th. Once he got the timing of his car figured out he was off to the races.
“The first two restarts we had we were trying some different stuff and I didn’t know how to start,” Lofton said. “I needed clean air. This car was fast and it wanted to lead. Everyone saw what we could do when we were in front.”
Keselowski saw it all too well.
He was looking to become the 24th driver to win in all three NASCAR national series but got bumped from behind by Ron Hornaday Jr. on one of the restarts late in the race while on the front row. He nearly got sideways, costing him valuable seconds and the overall lead.
After the race Keselowski went over to Hornaday’s car and began shouting at him.
Hornaday tried to ignore him, but Keselowski wouldn’t leave until he spoke his mind.
“I told him I take care of him all of the time and I respect him,” Keselowski said. “And he shows me know no respect. Well, I’m not going to show him any respect from now on.”
Hornaday said he’s not sure what the problem was.
“I guess Brad is mad at me,” Hornaday said matter-of-factly. “I got into the back of him on a restart, but they stopped and played jackrabbit and somebody got into the back of me. We’re all looking for spots.”
Bodine challenged at the end, but couldn’t come up with the win.
But he was proud to see Lofton, who has become his protégé to some degree, get his first win.
“The Bodines are great people and they like taking on the young kids and mentoring them,” Lofton said. “I don’t think Todd has the best reputation in the garage from what I can tell, but that was Todd 10 or 15 years ago. And that’s exactly everything he tells us not to do — all of the things he did. To have his support day in and day out has really accelerated my learning curve.”
Kyle Busch, the two-time defending champion, did not participate in this year’s event.
Ty Dillon started on the pole but fell a lap back midway through the race after having to pit when his right front tire went down. He was able to fight back and finish 10th in a race that included eight cautions, one year after there were a record-setting 10 stops in action.
Timothy Peters, who came in leading the series in points, finished ninth.
James Buescher, who won the last Truck race in late April, was taken out on lap 84 when Paulie Harraka went spinning into the wall on turn one and caught the back of his truck. As for Nelson Piquet, who had three top-10 finishes in four races this year, he found the concrete wall in turn four a few laps later after losing control of his car.
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