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November 1, 2008 2:18 PM

Darnell’s Texas Night Upended by Late Flat Tire

FT. WORTH, Texas (October 31, 2008) – It was back at the spring race at Texas Motor Speedway where Erik Darnell and the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment team had their night cut short when a flat tire was just one of several things to go wrong for the team that night. Fast forward to tonight’s Chevy Silverado 350K and it felt like déjà vu all over again.  As Darnell was making his way into the top three with 37 laps to go, he reported his right-front tire going down. A stop to the pits under green put Darnell down a lap where he would finish in 18th place.  Ironically, it was the same right-front flat that derailed Darnell’s night back here in June. 

Darnell and his No. 99 NT+E Ford F-150 lined up for Friday night’s race from the 12th position. The race turned dicey after only two laps when a five-truck pile up at the top of turn one brought out the first caution of the evening. Darnell escaped the carnage after dipping down to the low side of the track. Once the field was sorted out, Darnell was shown in the sixth spot when racing went back to green on lap 12.

Just two laps later Darnell found himself involved in what could have been an early exit to the night when the No. 07 of Max Papis brushed the No. 99 coming out of turn two to bring out the second caution. Darnell’s quick instincts behind the wheel worked to his advantage as his Ford F-150 was not damaged in the incident.

By lap 33 Darnell was now in seventh place and in a three-pack battle with the No. 22 of Scott Speed and the No.18 of Dennis Setzer. As the three trucks went back and forth fighting for positions, Darnell’s Ford F-150 seemed to come alive as he was putting up times as fast as race leader Kyle Busch by lap 48. 

Darnell reported during the third caution on lap 56 that the truck was starting to come around after beginning the race on the tight side. Crew chief Matt Puccia made the call for fuel, four tires and an air pressure adjustment. The speedy work by the crew got Darnell out in third behind Busch and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Travis Kvapil. As Busch and Kvapil began to pull away from the rest of the field on the restart, Darnell was doing all he could just to keep up with them. By lap 92, No. 99 was holding onto the third spot comfortably while recording the fastest laps on the track. At this point in the race Darnell was pleased with the way the truck was handling and knew it was only a matter of time before he would be up front challenging for the lead.

A caution on lap 93 gave Darnell the opportunity to come down pit road to get the necessary work done on his truck. Another terrific stop by the No. 99 crew after taking fuel, four tires, one round of track bar and another air pressure adjustment got Darnell out in second place with 49 laps to go.

Now with just 37 laps to go and the No. 99 Ford F-150 holding onto the fourth position, Halloween night struck the team in the worse possible way when Darnell reported a right-front tire going down on the backstretch. Darnell was able to make it back in to the pits without incident, but the damage was already done. The stop under green put Darnell one lap down and in 18th place. Darnell raced the remaining laps hoping to catch a caution and get back on the lead lap. That caution never came and the No. 99 NT+E Ford F-150 ended the night with an 18th-place finish.  

"We had a flat right-front tire, that's what costs us the race. We were definitely a top-three truck. Our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford was really good tonight. Matt Puccia and all the guys did an awesome job on pit road, we picked up spots every time. We made the right adjustments and it was fast. I couldn't quite get going on the short run. It would take about seven or eight laps, but after that our truck really came in and ran really well. It was a very disappointing night to finish 18th with a truck that was that fast. We cut a right front here in the spring, too. We just ran something over and got a hole in it. We've got two more races to try and make up some more points," explained Darnell.

Even with the 18th-place finish, Darnell is now in sole possession of fourth place in the overall Craftsman Truck Series standings, but only by three points with Matt Crafton on his heels. Darnell and the No. 99 team look to rebound from tonight’s misfortune when they travel to Phoenix for the Lucas Oil 150 on Friday, November 7, 2008 at 8 p.m. ET.

About Northern Tool + Equipment

Northern Tool + Equipment has been a supplier of high-quality tools and equipment for more than 27 years, selling products through direct mail, the Internet and at nearly 70 retail locations in 11 states. Along with a deep selection of hand, power and air tools, Northern Tool + Equipment carries a wide variety of products, including generators, pressure washers, air compressors, hydraulics, small engines, trailers, water pumps, tractors, welding equipment and much more. Northern Tool + Equipment also serves as the exclusive distributor of NorthStarTM brand equipment, which is fabricated and assembled at the company’s 250,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility. For more information, visit www.northerntool.com.

About Roush Fenway Racing

Roush Fenway Racing operates 13 full-time motorsports teams, five in NASCAR Sprint Cup with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; four in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun; three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Travis Kvapil and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

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