Sharp Decisions Got Lofton To Victory Lane
CONCORD, N.C. – For NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner Eddie Sharp, Justin Lofton’s first career victory in Friday night’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway was a gamble that paid off.
Lofton simply viewed it as the fifth move in a chess match.
“First move, going back to Eddie’s,” explained the 26-year-old Lofton, who took the standings lead by a single point over Timothy Peters. “Second move, hiring the right crew chief. Third move, switching to Chevrolet, ECR. Fourth move, aligning ourselves with RCR. Fifth move, going to win a race. Everything has been a strategic move; everything has had a purpose, a direction.”
For Sharp, Lofton and crew chief Daniel Bormann, Friday’s victory merely reinforced something they already knew – that they needed to tackle the racing business together.
In 2009 Sharp and Lofton won the ARCA RE/MAX Series championship and then parted company. Lofton wanted to move to the next level in his racing career and Sharp wasn’t in a position to go with him. In 2010, Lofton drove for Tom DeLoach’s truck team. He then moved to Germain at the beginning of 2011. However, by last year’s 10th race, Sharp and Lofton had reunited with Bormann.
“Life is about making decisions and sometimes decisions are made for you,” Sharp said. “Right after the Texas race last year, I had Craig Goess driving for me and his father called me that Monday and quit. That was all the business I had going through my doors. I sat there for almost a week and tried to figure out how I was going to pay these guys.
“I was sitting at my desk on a Monday morning one week later, my cell phone was lying right in front of me and I looked down and it started vibrating. It was Bob Lofton, Justin’s dad. I went this is going to be really good or really bad. I answered the phone and it was Bob and he said, ‘Son, let’s put the band back together.’ I had no idea he had just left Germain and I didn’t know what the status was. He had no idea the Goess family had chosen to go do something else. Man, it’s just fate when things are meant to be.”
A few months later Kevin Harvick announced he was closing his truck operation. Sharp took a major leap and purchased the Kevin Harvick Inc. equipment.
“There were a lot of people over the winter that thought I was nuts,” Sharp said. “There were a few mornings I got up and I was pretty convinced I was nuts. You can buy all the equipment in the world and all the stuff, but it’s really down to people. Between what Dan has assembled around Justin and the relationship we developed over the winter with RCR and the technical alliance with them, that spoke a lot about what I was doing. The ECR motor program, Richie Gilmore and the guys … we put all our cards on the table. This is what I do. I don’t own a bunch of dealerships, I don’t own another business. I get up every morning and I’m in that shop.”
Friday night, the confidence the men had in each other, as well as that supplied by Lofton’s father, paid dividends. Lofton led twice for 44 laps in the 134-lap event, including the final 10. It was the decision not to pit for fuel late in the race that gave Lofton the edge he needed, but made Bormann a nervous wreck on the pit box as the laps wound down.
“That’s the closest I’ve ever been at the end of a race (on fuel) and being able to make it,” Bormann said. “He ran out of fuel going into turn one on the cool down lap. He screamed when he took the checkered flag and then he said, ‘I’m out.’”
Lofton, who started second in the event, averaged 109.786 mph in the race that had eight caution flags for 36 laps and eight lead changes among seven drivers.
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