Jared C. Tilton
Justin Lofton finally emerged as a NASCAR championship contender last season, leading the Truck Series standings for three weeks and even won his first career race at Charlotte. But bad luck and inconsistency down the stretch derailed his momentum and dropped him to eighth in the final rundown.
Despite tasting his first bit of success, Lofton has decided to scale back his NASCAR schedule next season, instead focusing his title aspirations towards the newly-formed Stadium Super Trucks Series organized by Robby Gordon.
Before moving to NASCAR, Lofton fancied a career in off-road racing. His background and long-time friendship with Gordon helped the Stadium Truck deal come together pretty quickly.
“This is going to be cool,” Lofton told SB Nation over the phone on Friday. “I’ve known Robby Gordon for a long time and this is something he’s wanted to do for as long as I remember. We grew up doing this and it’s something I have a passion for.”
The Stadium Super Truck Series is 12-race rally-style tour that will contest events on temporary circuits constructed on some of the largest stadium venues in the United States. Rallies will be contested at University of Phoenix Stadium, Soldier Field, Cowboys Stadium and the Metrodome just to name a few.
The series is aided by a tape-delay national television package between NBC and the NBC Sports Network.
According to Lofton, this isn't the end of his stock car career, but rather a new approach to retuning to NASCAR. He cited the lack of sponsorship and funding as the primary reasons he couldn’t return full-time in 2013 but believes success in off-road can catapult him back towards NASCAR.
"I want to be seen as the NASCAR driver who went over to the Stadium Truck Series and found some success," Lofton said. "Hopefully some of my NASCAR fans will follow me on this new venture and I'll take some rally fans with me when I come back to NASCAR."
Lofton hasn't finalized his 2013 NASCAR schedule yet, but expects to run at least 10 Truck Series races on tracks longer than a mile for Eddie Sharp Racing. He added that he's not overly excited about the new direction of the Truck Series with road courses, dirt and short tracks all returning to the schedule due to the costs involved with racing on those circuits.
“We found the bulk of our success on speedways,” Lofton said. “It just doesn’t make a lot of financial sense to just run one road course and dirt track because we have to build one-off trucks for those races. It’s going to be interesting to see how that works out this year.”