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Runner-up finish aids Lofton's lofty goals

NASCAR.com

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Justin Lofton was just two days away from mixing and mingling with the energy-drink-fueled action sports crowd, joining the X Games in progress just up the road in Austin. But the first item on the weekend's to-do list was pretty extreme in its own right.

Lofton, making just his second start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, exited into the arms of a jubilant NTS Motorsports crew Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway after a stellar second-place finish in the WinStar World Casino and Resort 400. The result was made all the more sweet by notching his first Keystone Light Pole Award since July 2012 earlier in the day.

"It's pretty awesome. Last year was pretty rough -- I only ran a part-time schedule and I came here in November with a broken arm and ran fourth," Lofton said, referring to a thumb injury suffered in a 12-truck pileup last fall at Talladega Superspeedway. "We were competitive all night and to come back and run second here, one of these days I'm going to bring home some cowboy hats and six-shooters, but we'll get there soon."

Lofton rose up into the top five late by stretching his final tank of gas to the checkered flag, running the same fuel strategy as race winner Matt Crafton. Even though he was unable to pressure the defending series champion into exhausting his fuel supply, Lofton counted the runner-up result as another major stride for his part-time team.

Lofton, 28, has split time behind the wheel of the NTS team's No. 20 Chevy with former series champ and current Sprint Cup regular Austin Dillon, NASCAR Next driver Gray Gaulding and former Daytona winner John King. The addition of a veteran presence was designed to aid the development of Gray Gaulding and Brennan Newberry, younger drivers in the NTS fold.

"That's basically why they've brought myself and Austin Dillon in to drive these trucks, just to show how really good they are and to give the confidence to the younger kids in Gray Gaulding and Brennan Newberry and Chase Pistone and them, and show them that hey, the trucks are on the right path and they can run up front," Lofton said. "Just trust the crew chiefs, trust the crew, trust the truck and get these Chevy Silverados up front."

The next stop for Lofton is a date with the stadium super truck division of the X Games, the annual action sports festival. The obstacle-laden, full-contact style of racing will draw heavily on his background in off-road motorsports, but Lofton made no bones about his intent to return to NASCAR full time after two seasons of spot duty.

More finishes like Friday night's, he said, could set his phone to ringing.

"Definitely. I sure love racing here in the Camping World Truck Series," Lofton said. "It's one of the most fun series I've raced in. The stadium super trucks is a lot of fun, and my off-road stuff is definitely a hobby and that's kind of my roots, like Tony Stewart racing sprint cars, and I think it gives me the confidence to get out here and run 180 mph, but I would sure love to be back here full time."

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