There were a number of drivers who would have been considered favorites to win the Hayes Jewelers 200 Modified race at Bowman Gray Stadium on Saturday night but few would have placed Brian Lofton on that list. As a matter of fact, the driver did not even have a ride for the event contested on the Winston-Salem, NC track until the night before the race when his team’s original driver was unable to make it the event.
But in the end, it was Lofton who beat out all contenders including more recognizable names such as nine-time Hayes Jewelers 200 winner Burt Myers and four-time champion Tim Brown along with Jason Myers, Jonathan Brown, Lee Jefferies and James Civali.
Brown led the way in qualifying for the Modified division as he toured the flat quarter-mile in 13.782 seconds to win his 13th career pole for ths race. Burt Meyers, Brandon Ward, Randy Butner, Lee Jefferies, Jonathan Brown, Zack Brewer, Drew Ward, Brian Lofton and Ronnie Clifton rounded out the top-10 in time trials.
During the early laps of the 200-lap main event it would be Burt Myers and Tim Brown would exchnge the lead while Ward, Jefferies, Butner and Jonathan Brown kept the two front runners in sight.
Although the race was slowed multiple times for caution flags, there was a period during the first quarter of the race in which the field clicked off laps with no incident. During that time, Myers got out to the led with Brown shadowing his rival along with Ward and Jefferies.
Just after the quarter mark, Jonathan Brown began to surge as he moved into the top-5 following a lap 56 restart. Butner and Jason Myers also looked as if they wanted in on the action at the front of the field as they took the fifth and sixth positions respectively on lap 59.
Jonathan Brown would grab third on lap 78 and immediately set out after the race leaders. Tim Brown responded by taking the top spot away from Myers after a lap 92 restart.
But it would be in the second half of the race when the action expected from a Bowman Gray race would take place.
Contact between Brown and Myers as they fought for the lead on lap 125 resulted in a flat tire on the Myers machine. His crew made repairs during the caution period and kept their driver on the lead lap.
In the meantime, James Civali had emerged as a new threat to the Myers-Brown dominance of the race’s first half.
Then on lap 141 it would be contact between Brown and Civali that would send both of those drivers to the pit area after the yellow flag waved for their incident. Jonathan Brown proved to gain the most from the Tim Brown and Civali mishap as he gained the lead which he would hold until lap 185.
Civali charged all the way back up through the field following his lap 141 incident and took the lead away from Jonathan Brown with 15 laps remaining. Two laps later, the fast rising Loftom moved around Brown to acquire second. That, in turn, set up the race’s defining moment.
Lofton tagged the rear of Civali’s car on lap 196 and sent the No. 79 machine for a spin. While under caution, Civali ran up beside Lofton and forced the No. 15 car into the grass as the two disputed to earlier contact. Lofton, however, maintained the lead of the race.
Once back at full speed, Tim Brown made every effort to force Lofton out of the preferred racing line but was unable to do so. Ultimately, it would be the No. 15 of Brian Lofton who sailed under the checkered flag to collect his first Hayes Jewelers 200 victory at the most historic of NASCAR sanctioned tracks.
Brian Lofton won out ahead of Tim Brown, Chris Fleming, Lee Jefferies, Randy Butner, Daniel Yates, Daniel Beason, Jason Myers, Danny Probst and Burt Myers.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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