INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 25, 2008) – On a dark and overcast evening at O’Reilly Raceway Park, 34 drivers took to the track hoping to put on a show for the Indiana crowd. What they got was a race that brought out 11 cautions and most drivers on the lead lap making only one pit stop over the 200 laps. Erik Darnell and the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150 battled a tight race truck the entire night, but managed to pull out a third-place finish.
Darnell and his No. 99 Ford F-150 began race day by placing 18th in practice session one and 14th in the final session. He then put up the third-fastest qualifying time (22.773 seconds) for the Power Stroke Diesel 200. Darnell began the race inside of row two, but after just one lap had lost three spots. By lap 31 the No. 99 was gaining ground on the No. 13 of Shelby Howard for fifth, while at the same time battling through lapped traffic. Darnell reported at lap 39 during the first caution that his Ford F-150 was a little tight off of the throttle. He was also finding it difficult to do any kind of passing on the track. At lap 56, Darnell was 6.5 seconds off leader Ron Hornaday, but just 12 laps later was now in fourth and putting up lap times as fast as Hornaday.
It wasn’t until lap 83 when the second caution came out that the field would get to come to pit road for their scheduled stop. Before entering the pits and holding onto fourth-place, Darnell told his crew chief (Matt Puccia) the truck was now just a touch tight off of the throttle. With his pit crew ready for some redemption following a couple of miscues during last week’s race, Darnell’s Ford F-150 received four fresh tires and fuel during a quick and precise stop. The outstanding work by the No. 99 crew got the truck back on the track in the third spot behind Hornaday and Johnny Benson.
With just two cautions during the first 113 laps, it looked as if green-flag racing could go all the way until the end. However, that was not the case as race fans at ORP would see the yellow flag come out a whopping nine more times during the final 87 laps.
Darnell maintained his third spot in the race for 48 laps until fellow Ford driver Rick Crawford passed the No. 99 with 41 laps to go. He radioed in letting his team know the truck was way too tight on and off the throttle. Nothing could be done though because a pit stop would certainly crush the team’s hopes for a top-five finish. “It’s tough during these short races where you only get one chance or one pit stop to get the truck right,” said Darnell.
Following 33 laps in the fourth position, Darnell saw his possible top-five finish slowly fading away as he fell to fifth with just eight laps to go. However, Darnell gave it all he had during the final laps battling the No.88 of Matt Crafton to finish third.
“It was a pretty good night for our Northern Tool + Equipment team. We just kind of missed it. We got it good in the middle of the race, but we weren’t where we needed to be at the end. Unfortunately, it kind of bit us a little bit. We were too tight and I didn’t have anything for the 23 or the 33. Matt Puccia and all the guys did a great job this weekend. The truck was good again. We qualified well, we ran up front all night and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing. We’ve got to keep knocking out these top fives and try to make up points on these guys to get back in the championship hunt,” added Darnell.
Even with the top-three finish, Darnell actually lost ground in the overall standings. Going into the Power Stroke Diesel 200 the NT+E team was 200 points behind leader Johnny Benson. But with Benson’s win tonight the difference is now 225. The Craftsman Truck Series will take a week off and get back to racing on August 9 at Nashville Superspeedway for the Toyota Tundra 200 at 7:30 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. For more information on any of the Roush Fenway Racing teams, log onto www.RoushFenway.com.