ATLANTA, Ga. (March 7, 2008) – Erik Darnell’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday night started strong, with the driver of the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford quickly working his way inside the top 10. A speeding penalty on pit road in the later stages of the race derailed the strong performance of the No. 99 team, but Darnell was able to rebound and post a 12th-place finish.
Darnell took the green flag in the 14th position, but advanced to the 10th spot by the end of the first lap. He continued his move forward, jumping to the eighth position on lap six. Darnell reported to the Northern Tool + Equipment team that he was extremely loose as he began to drop the positions he’d gained in the early going. When the caution flag was displayed for the first time at lap 19 for an incident involving the No. 23 truck, Darnell elected to come to pit road for tires, fuel, a wedge and air pressure adjustment. Quick work on pit road allowed Darnell to rejoin the field in the 10th position for the lap 25 restart.
Darnell continued his run towards the front, working his way up to the sixth position at lap 39. When the caution flag flew again at lap 40 for a spin by the No. 9 truck, Darnell once again came to pit road for tires, fuel, wedge and air pressure adjustments. With varying pit strategies playing out, Darnell rejoined the field in the 11th position for the lap 44 restart.
Darnell once again worked his way towards the front of the field, advancing to the seventh position at lap 69. He reported to his Northern Tool + Equipment crew that his No. 99 Ford was beginning to go back to being loose, and that he would need more rear grip to set him up for the final run of the race. As the leaders began to peel off the racetrack and come to pit road for green flag pit stops, Darnell assumed the lead of the race at lap 93. Crew chief Matt Puccia called Darnell to pit road at lap 94 to take four tires, fuel and another wedge adjustment. The crew performed flawlessly, but the No. 99 team was hit with a penalty when Darnell entered pit road too fast. Darnell was ordered to pit road for a drive-through penalty, resulting in losing a lap to the race leaders.
When rain began to fall at lap 110, the yellow flag was displayed once again. Puccia elected to take a gamble, calling Darnell to pit road once more in an effort to gain positions in the closing laps of the race. Darnell came to pit road, taking right side tires and fuel. A slow stop resulted in Darnell rejoining the field in the 16th position, one lap down to the race leaders.
Rain fell once again at lap 119, bringing out the red flag. The field was held under the flag for ten minutes before the race was resumed, setting up for a seven lap dash to the finish. Darnell restarted in the 13th position, and was able to get pass the No. 18 truck for the 12th position when the checkered flag dropped.
“It was a frustrating night,” said Darnell. “Our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford was actually pretty good. I'm proud of Matt Puccia and all the guys that work on this truck. We were pretty good in practice today. We didn't get the qualifying position I thought we’d get. Once we started the race, I knew we had a pretty good truck. We moved forward right away. We made the right adjustments on our pit stops to get the truck where it needed to be. We had a green flag pit stop and I was trying to get all I could, and got caught speeding entering pit road. I feel real bad for the guys because they did an awesome job on pit road tonight. All our pit stops were really good. I think it cost us a top-five finish in the end.”
Following their 12th-place finish at Atlanta, Darnell and the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment team hold the 13th position in the Craftsman Truck Series point standings. The Craftsman Truck Series races next at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, March 29, 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, Kvapil, Bobby East and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.