MANSFIELD, OH (May 24, 2008) Erik Darnell and his No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment team can say they survived the 2008 edition of the Ohio 250. Over the course of the 250 lap race, a record 15 cautions came out making it one where teams were biting tooth and nail hoping just to finish the race. Darnell, who battled a lack of grip most of the race, came away with his third straight top-15 finish at Mansfield crossing the finish line in 11th place.
Darnell qualified 15th the day before and by lap 36 had slipped to19th when he reported his Ford F-150 was loose and sliding up the track. This was a problem that started the day before during both practice sessions and the No. 99 team was hoping for it not to happen so early in the race. When the second caution of the day came out, crew chief Matt Puccia decided to bring Darnell into the pits while the leaders stayed out taking fuel, four tires and making an air pressure adjustment. Darnell lost six spots while in the pits and restarted in the 25th spot.
The adjustments made earlier seemed to be paying off and by lap 68 Darnell came across the radio letting his crew chief know the truck was starting to come around and was a lot better in the center of the track.
Darnell had moved his way all the way up to the eighth position by lap 76 due to a couple of cautions and the No. 99 electing not to come to pit road. However, just a few laps later when the fifth caution of the day brought green-flag racing to a halt, Darnell headed to the pits for fuel. Puccia hoped by bringing the No.99 in for fuel at this stage of the race would be its last stop. However, when Darnell left the pits he was then told to come back in just to make sure his Ford F-150 was topped off. The extra stop moved Darnell all the way down to the 28th spot when racing resumed on lap 85.
By lap 150 Darnell had fought his way up to 13th, but over the course of the next 17 laps he would be involved in two incidents; one involving the No. 10 truck of Brendan Gaughan and the other driven by the No.20 of Scott Lagasse. Even though they would end up putting the No. 99 truck back as far as 27th, it gave Darnell the opportunity to make one final pit stop for fuel and four tires. The unexpected move would prove to be the difference in the No.99 NT+E team’s bid for a top-15 finish.
Over the final 78 laps, Darnell watched as the action around him began to unfold as seven caution flags came out. Puccia could be heard over the radio telling his driver during each of the final cautions to take it one driver at a time. The result was Darnell picking up 13 spots since getting together with Lagassee on lap 167 and just barley missing out on the top 10 with an 11th-place finish.
“With the way the truck was handling during most of the race sliding up the track and to see it get better towards the end was a job well done by the NT+E team. They made some good adjustments with the No.99 Ford F-150 and I’m pretty happy where we ended up. Track position at Mansfield is so important and when you have as many cautions as we did today, it makes it that much harder to have long green-flag racing. It sure was a mess out there today, but we got through it and I’m looking forward to Dover next week,” said Darnell.
Following today’s finish, the NT+E team still sits ninth in the Craftsman Truck Series standings after seven races. The next race will be at Dover International Speedway on Friday, May 30, 2008.
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 <!--NOVELL_REWRITER_OFF-->www.northerntool.com<!--NOVELL_REWRITER_ON-->.
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.