Leaders Out For Win At Salem

The back and forth points battle between Justin Lofton and Parker Kligerman heads to the rough and abrasive short track, Salem Speedway, for this weekend's Kentuckiana Ford Fall Classic 200.

With just three races remaining in 2009, Lofton and rookie Kligerman are tied for the lead with 4,520 points each. One or the other is most likely to be crowned the 2009 champion since the next closest competitor is Frank Kimmel - 355 points behind.

Lofton has the taste for the championship after leading the points heading into the last race.

"We went into this year running for a championship; that has not changed," Lofton said. "We are going to attack Salem 110%. Our goal is to win, period."

Although Kligerman and Lofton have combined to win 12 of the season's 18 races so far this season, neither won the season's first visit to Salem Speedway this year. Lofton started from the pole and finished second for his first top-10 finish in three starts at the track, while Kligerman finished third in his track debut.

Lofton led the most laps in the spring race and was consistently, on average, the fastest car on track. Yet, he ran out of time and tires working his way back through the field after suffering bad pit strategy.

"It was just bad pit strategy. It was no one's fault. Sometimes it works in your favor; sometimes it doesn't," Lofton said of his heartbreaking loss. "We only pitted once, put right-side tires on it around lap 80, somewhere in there. We were hoping for a caution a little bit later to put four (tires) on it. We never got it. We ran the rest of the way and burned up the right rear.

"If your pit strategy doesn't match how the race plays out, then you're not going to win it anyway. With a caution at the right time, our pit strategy would have worked great, but it just didn't work out that way."

The two championship contenders will also have to adjust their strategy from the spring to take into consideration running at night at the track. The fall race is a night race starting at dusk at 7:15 p.m., while the spring race runs in the afternoon.

Kligerman feels that he is better prepared to accomplish his team's goal at Salem this fall - ending the race in victory lane.

"I've definitely developed more as a driver since we raced last time at Salem. I've learned more about the necessity to save tires. I should be much more efficient this time around," Kligerman said.

"Winning races is our main goal. We come to win. If we accomplish that, the championship will take care of itself."

Like Lofton, Kligerman also learned in his first and only race at Salem Speedway that tires are extremely important coming down to the wire at the track. Patrick Sheltra was able to pass him along with Lofton late in the race to take his only victory of the season because he had four new tires.

"I learned how important it is to keep the car clean (at Salem) so you have something to race with in the last 50 laps. I think it's a good strategy to be on the newest tires in the end," Kligerman said.

Both drivers will take to the track Saturday for all of the race's events. Practice will be held from 1:05 - 2:35 p.m. (ET), followed by qualifying at 4 p.m.

The Kentuckiana Ford Fall Classic 200 takes the green flag at 7:15 p.m. (ET) Sept. 19.

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