On Friday night under the lights at Nashville Superspeedway, Justin Lofton and the No. 77 Lofton Cattle Toyota Tundra team pulled through with a solid 16th place finish despite Lofton not having any radio communication with the team during the Bully Hill Vineyards 200.
“It was definitely a challenge, that’s for sure. For me, it was frustrating at times to not be able to simply tell the guys what I was feeling at what parts of the track,” Lofton said. “But Rudy (crew chief Ryan Fugle) laid out a plan and it worked out pretty good.”
Just after the command to start the engines, the Fugle-led team quickly learned that they couldn’t hear Lofton over the radio, only the sound of clicking when he keyed his microphone. Luckily, Lofton could hear his crew chief, as well as spotter Mark Green. At that point, Fugle laid out a game plan, asking Lofton questions and advising him to answer by cueing his mic.
Lofton took the green flag from the 14th position. By lap 23 Lofton had had enough time to get a handle on his Tundra, answering with a click when asked if his machine was tight.
His first pit stop of the day fell on lap 53. The team swapped out tires, added fuel, and sent Lofton back on track. The first caution of the night waved on lap 59, allowing Lofton to make another trip down pit road. This time, the team made a track bar adjustment, sending him back on track in the 12th position.
He held that spot through the next round of stops on lap 75, which saw the team add sticker tires, tweak on air pressure, and add fuel.
Lofton’s fourth and final visit to pit road came on lap 103 of the 150-lap race. This time, Fugle mixed things up by calling for right side tires and fuel. The call served up track position, with Lofton showing fifth for the restart with just 44 laps remaining.
Despite the lack of communication, the team put themselves in contention with Lofton maintaining a strong top-10 run up through a caution flag just 12 laps from the finish. Another caution flag flew in the closing laps, leaving only three laps to decide the race. With a quiet Lofton focusing on the finish and a truck in need of just one more minor tweak, he wheeled his way to a steady 16th place finish.
“I cued the mic under that last yellow and was talking to myself hoping they could finally hear me. The truck was running a bit loose on that final run but I couldn’t tell them, and we couldn’t do anything that late in the game. I am so proud of these guys. We’ve had a few strange things happen to us already over these first few races, but we keep bouncing back,” Lofton said.
Lofton and the No. 77 team will next hit the track in Dover, Delaware on May 13th. Last season, Lofton finished third on the one-mile track.