Chip Lofton, a strategic marketing partner of more than a dozen National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) professional teams over the past four years, has announced his intention to step back from sponsorship activation at the close of the 2021 season for medical reasons.
Lofton has been battling the effects of cobalt poisoning following hip-replacement surgery and faces more surgery and rehabilitation to correct complications.
He remains part owner with Mark Beaver of the Pro Stock car that Richie Stevens drives under the Beaver Motorsports banner in the Camping World Drag Racing Series. “That will keep me involved in drag racing,” Lofton said. “I don’t see it as the end of the road but as a bend in the road.”
“I’m not looking for sympathy,” Lofton, 72, said. “I’m trying to raise awareness for anyone who might have a metal-on-metal hip implant who might be misdiagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.”
We never know what our future holds, but I’m grateful to all the teams that allowed me to be a part of their program. I hope I proved that there is a place in NHRA for the little guy.
He said his hope is that others like him could undergo testing to see if they have been stricken with cobalt poisoning. He has struggled with the illness for three years.
According to the Mount Sinai Health System, New York City’s largest academic medical system, cobalt poisoning – an exposure to excessive amounts of the natural element that actually is healthy in much smaller increments as a component of Vitamin B12 – can cause serious health problems. They include cardiomyopathy (characterized by the heart having trouble pumping blood), nerve problems, headaches, cognitive difficulties, vertigo, deafness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vision problems, hypothyroidism, and thickening of the blood.
Cobalt toxicity can occur from the wear and tear of some cobalt/chromium metal-on-metal hip implants. This kind of implant is an artificial hip socket that fits a metal ball into a metal cup, or socket. Sometimes, cobalt particles are released and introduced into the bloodstream as the metal ball grinds against the metal cup when a hip-replacement patient walks. The cobalt can infiltrate into vital organs.
Lofton said his doctor told him his body in time could detox the cobalt from his blood but not from his brain.
So his mission in sharing his story is twofold, Lofton said: “I also am hoping someone out there can tell me how to get this out of my brain that I might have a full recovery.”
He said, “I sold Strutmasters in August of 2020, and with all that has transpired, that has been a good decision. I’m a partner in the bigger company, and together we have been able to grow Strutmasters significantly. They have been awesome to work with. We never know what our future holds, but I’m grateful to all the teams that allowed me to be a part of their program. I hope I proved that there is a place in NHRA for the little guy. I am just another little guy. Hope to see all of you soon. Thanks for the ride of a lifetime.”
Lofton has helped fund the racing programs of such NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series drivers as Justin Ashley, Clay Millican, Doug Foley, Buddy Hull, Mike Bucher, Joey Haas, Lex Joon, and Audrey Worm (Top Fuel); Terry Haddock, Paul Richards, and Chris King (Funny Car); Wally Stroupe, Richie Stevens, John Gaydosh, Bo Butner, Steve Graham, and Shane Tucker (Pro Stock); Scotty Pollacheck, Matt Smith, and Angie Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle); J&A Service Pro Modified Series racers Rickie Smith and Chip King; Johnny Pluchino (Mountain Motor Pro Stock); and Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competitors Ed Federkeil, Steve Foley, and Dan Fletcher.
Before he became involved in the NHRA, Lofton was part of a group that owned stock car’s Hooters Pro Cup Series. And he helped son Matt Lofton in his racing pursuits in late-model stocks, ARCA, and finally in the NASCAR Truck Series from 2006-2012. Together they won a race in 2007 and had three podium finishes in 2012.