HAMPTON, Ga. (October 25, 2008) – Erik Darnell and the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment team were hoping to make some noise this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He came into Saturday’s E-Z-GO 200 sixth in the Craftsman Truck Series standing with just four races to go in the 2008 season. Darnell’s sixth-place finish moves the team into a tie for fourth in the standings and a lot of added confidence heading into next week’s showdown in Texas.
For the second week in a row qualifying was cancelled due to the inclement weather and drivers were placed on the started grid based off owner points. Darnell and his No. 99 NT+ E Ford F-150 started the race from the seventh spot. While the field was starting to settle in on the 1.54-mile surface by lap five, Darnell was making quick work on the track passing Todd Bodine and Johnny Benson for fifth-place.
By lap 15, Darnell had slipped back to sixth and was on the verge of losing another spot to the No. 15 of Denny Hamlin before the first caution of the afternoon kept Darnell in his respectable position. Darnell’s first comments during the caution were that his No. 99 machine was quite loose on the race track. Crew chief Matt Puccia told Darnell they would get him fixed up on lap 25 with NASCAR issuing a competition yellow flag due to the teams not being able to complete both practice sessions. Darnell was now in 10th- place when he entered the pits under yellow. The stop called for fuel, four tires and both air pressure and wedge adjustments. The fast work by the NT+E crew put Darnell in fourth place when the green flag came out on lap 29.
However, in a span of just one lap Darnell dropped three spots and was now losing ground on the top five. For the next 27 laps with the field spread out over the entire track, Darnell was securely holding down the seventh position. A third caution on lap 57 allowed Darnell to tell his crew chief that his Ford F-150 had no front-end grip, forcing it up the race track. After taking fuel, four tires, an air pressure adjustment along with a change to the track bar, Darnell sped away getting the sixth spot when racing went back to action on lap 62.
Over the next 25 laps, Darnell kept his sixth-place position, while at the same time battling through lapped traffic. By lap 87 the No. 99 NT+E Ford F-150 was now 15 seconds off race leader Ron Hornaday.
The fourth caution on lap 88 due to debris allowed the No. 99 to come down pit road for one final stop. Darnell radioed in saying he was still having front-end problems. He added that the previous pit stop initially helped with his lack of grip, but got worse has the laps ticked away. The No. 99 crew made another round of air pressure and track bar adjustments, along with four tires and fuel. The fantastic work by the No. 99 crew got Darnell out in fourth- place with just 36 laps to go.
Darnell quickly lost a spot on the restart, but held onto the fifth position for the next 24 laps. With just seven laps to go though, the No. 22 of Scott Speed overtook Darnell for fifth place. The No. 99 battled the remaining laps, but was unable to catch back up to the top five finishing in sixth- place.
“That wasn’t too bad. Our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford was pretty decent today. I thought in practice this morning we had the truck a little bit better, but once we started the race it wasn’t as good as I thought it was. I can’t say enough about everybody on this whole Northern Tool + Equipment pit crew. The guys did an awesome job on pit road today. We gained spots every time we came down. I feel like I kind of let them down a little bit on the race track, but I was just trying to drive my butt off and keep it up there. It seemed like the truck was different every lap. It felt like I had front grip and then I’d lose it and be sideways coming off the corner. It was just a little bit of a handful today, but sixth place is a decent run, especially the way our last two weeks have gone at Martinsville and Talladega. Hopefully that will help us out in the points and get us back up there in the top five,” said Darnell.
Today’s finish along with rough afternoons for Matt Crafton (29th) and Mike Skinner (26th) moves Darnell into a tie with Matt Crafton for fourth place in Craftsman Truck Series point standings. With only three races remaining, the next stop is Texas Motor Speedway for the Chevy Silverado 350K on Halloween night beginning at 9:00 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, John Wes Townley and Bobby East; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.