BRISTOL, Tenn. (August 20, 2008) – On a warm Bristol evening Erik Darnell didn’t expect he would be in a position so early on in the O’Reilly 200 where he would have to fight his way from three laps down to eventually get back on the lead lap with just 53 laps to go in the race. But, Darnell and the entire Northern Tool + Equipment team fought the entire race to get the No. 99 Ford F-150 a top-15 finish.
The O’Reilly 200 began Wednesday night with the No. 99 Ford F-150 starting near the back of the pack in the 23rd position. By lap two Darnell had moved up to 20th and had his eyes set on gaining ground on the field. It was but three laps later though when a sequence of events would put the NT+E team in the pits under green-flag racing.
Lap five began with the No. 11 of David Starr getting loose going into turn two sending Darnell up the track. This caused three-wide racing going into turn three with the No. 99 being the unfortunate victim of trying to hold down the outside line. Darnell was bumped again by the No. 11 in turn three, but this time it was the No. 08 of Jason White who sent Starr up the track giving Darnell a left-front flat. The Ford F-150 came to pit road where the No. 99 team put on a fresh set of left-side tires. The team had problems getting off the damaged tire due to the hit from Starr. Once Darnell got back onto the track, he was now three laps down and shown in last place (36th).
Darnell knew for him to get back on the lead lap it was not only going to take a lot of patience, but also quite a bit of luck. At lap 10 when the first of a record 12 cautions would come out Wednesday night, Darnell was able to make up a little bit of ground when he picked up a lap and was now only down two when the race restarted on lap 14.
When the second caution came out on lap 41, the No. 99 came in for four tires and fuel. While making his way down pit road, Darnell told crew chief Matt Puccia the truck was a little tight, but was handling a lot better in the turns than at the start of the race. The NT+E Ford F-150 was now 34th when racing went back to action on lap 45, but still two laps down.
As more and more cautions hit the track over the next 71 laps, it looked as if Darnell’s chances of getting back on the lead lap were getting better and better as the race went on. At lap 118, a sixth caution meant the No. 99 was next in line for the Lucky Dog award. Darnell was now one lap down and holding onto the 23rd spot with just 68 laps to go.
The NT+E team was hoping for one more caution before race ended because that meant Darnell would pick up the Lucky Dog award again and finally get back on the lead lap. The team’s wish came true with just 53 laps to go when a caution put Darnell back on the lead lap and ready to once again contend with the leaders.
Now on the lead lap, he began to slowly work his way up through the field and by lap 196 was in 13th place. With just two laps to go and eyeing a possible top-10 finish, the No. 99 got loose going into turn four bringing out the final caution of the night. Darnell avoided any extensive damage to the NT+E Ford F-150 and was able to finish the race under a green-white-checkered finish coming away in 15th place.
“It was frustrating. We put ourselves behind the eight ball in qualifying and started 23rd and we were making progress early on in the outside lane but two trucks got together ahead of me and one of them got loose and shot up in the left front and cut the tire down five laps into the race. We were just behind from there. The Northern Tool + Equipment Ford was decent during the race. I’ve got to give credit to Matt and all the guys for keeping after it all night. We struggled in practice. We were not very good at all and those guys threw everything they knew at the truck and got it better. It was actually pretty decent in the race and was definitely a top-10 contender at the end, I know that. From where we started the day, that’s a big improvement,” said Darnell.
Darnell’s Bristol finish dropped him two spots in the overall standings to seventh place with just nine races to go in 2008 season. The No. 99 NT+E team now sits 287 points out of the top spot held by Johnny Benson. The Craftsman Truck Series will take a short vacation and go back to racing on September 6th for the Dodge Ram Tough 200 at Gateway International Raceway beginning at 2:30 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.