FONTANA, Calif. (February 23, 2008) – Erik Darnell was able to rebound from his disappointing Daytona finish of one week ago with an 11th-place finish at the newly renamed Auto Club Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
In a weekend plagued by inclement weather, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying session scheduled for Friday afternoon was cancelled, resulting in the starting field being set by 2007 owners’ point standings. Darnell took the green flag in the 14th position, but quickly advanced to the 11th spot by the time the field completed the first lap. Darnell held the position until lap five, when the first caution of the event flew for a single-truck incident involving the No. 9 truck. Electing to stay on the track and hold position while some of the leaders came to pit road, Darnell would line up in the eighth position for the lap 10 restart.
The field would get few laps of racing in before the second caution of the event flew at lap 14 for debris in turn three. Complaining that his No. 99 Ford was loose in and tight off the corners, crew chief Matt Puccia elected to bring Darnell to pit road for tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. The Northern Tool + Equipment team performed well, but Darnell would line up in the 16th position for the lap 17 restart as varying pit strategies played out on pit road.
By lap 25, Darnell had advanced to the 13th position. He reported that the changes made on the stop loosened his entry into the corners even more, and that it did little to help him off the corners. Darnell did what he could with his F-150, advancing to the 11th position by the time the third caution of the event came at lap 44.
Darnell followed the leaders to pit road, with Puccia making the call to take tires, fuel and remove a spring rubber from the right rear. Darnell’s crew performed flawlessly once again, and got him off pit road in the 10th position for the restart at lap 48.
With the field settled in for a long green-flag run, Darnell continued to hold the 10th position. He reported to the crew that his most recent changes did little to help his handling issues. Despite not having the handling he hoped for, Darnell began to record lap times faster than the five trucks running ahead of him. As the leaders began to come to pit road for a final fuel stop to make it to the distance, Darnell cycled around as the leader at lap 85, collecting five bonus points towards the season championship. Puccia called Darnell to pit road at lap 86, instructing the Northern Tool + Equipment team to change right-side tires and add fuel. A slight problem on the stop resulted in additional time being spent on pit road, sending Darnell back on track in the 14th position. Darnell made the most of the closing laps, bringing the No. 99 to the checkered flag in the 11th position.
“It was a frustrating day,” said Darnell. “I thought our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford was a little bit better than that in practice. We were just really tight in the race. Believe it or not, track position was worth a lot today. It was really hard to pass anybody, especially if you were on the inside. We fought it the whole race. We worked on our Ford F-150 and made it a little bit better, but we didn't get it to where we needed it to be. It was a frustrating day for the whole team.”
Following their 11th-place finish at California, Darnell and the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment team hold the 11th position in the Craftsman Truck Series point standings. The Craftsman Truck Series races next at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, March 7, 2008.
About Northern Tool + Equipment
Northern Tool + Equipment has been a supplier of high-quality tools and equipment for more than 25 years, selling products through direct mail, the Internet and at nearly 60 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 and Joey Clanton; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.