MADISON, Ill. (September 6, 2008) – On a day where track position turned out to be the key ingredient in the outcome of the Camping World 200 at Gateway International Raceway, it was something Erik Darnell was missing near the end of the race finishing in sixth-place.
Darnell and his No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150 began Saturday afternoon from the 18th position. During the first 19 laps he was having trouble making up any ground on the field getting as high as 16th and falling back at one point to 20th.
When caution number two came out on lap 20, Darnell immediately came across the radio saying his Ford F-150 was good through turns one and two, but loose off of three and four. He followed the leaders to pit road taking only right-side tires, fuel and making a chassis adjustment. The quick stop got him back out on the track in 13th when the field went back to racing on lap 25.
By lap 35, Darnell had broken into the top 10 and just 17 laps later held down the sixth spot. He seemed to be getting comfortable with his ride telling crew chief Matt Puccia he was pretty happy with the way it was handling on the track.
A third caution on lap 59 brought Darnell and the rest of the leaders in for their second stop of the day. After reporting to his crew chief the truck was just a touch tight through each of the four turns, Puccia told the No. 99 crew to make a four-tire change, fuel and take a half pound out of the left-side tires. The awesome work from the crew got Darnell out in forth when the race restarted five laps later.
With just under 80 laps to go it seemed to be a four-driver race with Ron Hornaday and Jack Sprague keeping spots one and two secure, while Todd Bodine and Darnell were right on their tails in positions three and four respectively.
The No. 99 would keep that spot for the next 22 laps until the fourth caution would bring Darnell in for a third time. He complained that the adjustment made earlier actually made the truck tighter. The call was made to take four tires, fuel and a round and a half of track bar. The additional time on pit road to take four tires didn’t hurt the team as Darnell only lost one spot on the stop after another fantastic job by the NT+E crew. A few of the drivers who jumped ahead of him on the stop only took two tires and Puccia hoped the four tire change would eventually payoff in the end.
The four new tires seemed to be working for Darnell as he jumped back into fourth position after overtaking the No. 88 of Matt Crafton on lap 127 and was now gaining ground on the overall point leader Johnny Benson in third-place. However, Darnell never got to Benson and actually lost two more spots when a late surge by Sprague put the No. 99 NT+E Ford F-150 in sixth-place when the checkered flag waved. Hornaday came away as the winner of the Camping World 200 after leading 112 of the 160-lap race.
“We had a really good truck. Our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford was pretty good today. I think we knew that after practice yesterday. We didn’t qualify where we wanted to but we knew we had a really good truck in race trim. The guys did a great job today. They were awesome on pit road. Our stops were phenomenal today. They got out ahead of guys every time. Track position was just very important today. I think we saw that at the end with Dennis Setzer and Benson. I don’t necessarily know those guys were as good as some of the trucks out there, but track position was huge and they got it and it was the right call for them. We were just a little bit too tight at the end and we couldn’t do anything with those guys in front of us and had to settle for a sixth-place finish,” explained Darnell.
Even with top-10 finish, Darnell was not able to make up any ground in the overall standings still holding onto seventh place. Darnell is now 307 points out of first place, but only 34 points away from jumping into the top five. The Northern Tool + Equipment team along with the rest of the Craftsman Truck Series will travel up to New Hampshire next week for the Camping World RV Rental 200 on Saturday, September 13th at 3 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 65 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, John Wes Townley and Bobby East; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.