RICHMOND, VA (May 1, 2009) – Erik Darnell had waited a long time for tonight’s Lipton Tea 250 to arrive to say the least. It was November 2008 at Homestead when Darnell crossed the finish line in what would be his last race in the Camping World Truck Series. Nearly six months later the 26-year old was finally back racing, but now in a race car. Darnell’s first race at Richmond International Raceway wasn’t exactly how he thought it would end up, but the Nationwide rookie fought hard until the end finishing just outside the top 10 with a 12th-place finish.
When the green flag dropped on a warm, but breezy evening at Richmond International Raceway, the driver of the No. 6 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford Fusion started the Lipton Tea 250 from the 20th spot. By lap five Darnell had moved up four spots and was rather pleased with the way the car was handling with the exception of it being somewhat tight. As the leaders made their way around the ¾ mile oval track on lap 52 Darnell was shown in 18th, and just eight laps later was one lap down. Three laps later after going down a lap the third caution of the evening came out and crew chief Mike Kelley was anxious to bring the No. 6 machine to pit road. With Darnell’s diagnosis of the car being really tight, Kelley decided to go with two rounds of track bar, an air pressure adjustment, fuel and four tires. Darnell lost three spots on the stop and restarted from the 21st position.
By lap 80 Darnell had two other drivers in front of him who were also down a lap, so he knew the Lucky Dog award would not be coming his way anytime soon. When the fifth caution brought racing to a halt on lap 91 Darnell and Kelley had a long discussion about whether to bring the No. 6 in or stay out for track position. After going back and forth the decision was made to stay out. That would turn out to be the right call as Darnell grabbed the Lucky Dog on the very next caution on lap 105. Darnell brought his NT+E Ford Fusion down to pit road during the caution getting a rubber added to the right rear, receiving fuel, four tires and going down round of track bar. Darnell was now the last car on the lead lap restarting 20th.
The No. 6 received damaged to its left front fender several laps later when the No. 26 car of Brian Keselowski seemed to have missed a gear and slide up the track hitting Darnell. The damage was not extensive as Darnell made his way down pit road under yellow brought out by a wreck in turn two. While the crew used a baseball bat to work on the damaged fender, it also gave Kelley the opportunity to figure out what to do about the tightness Darnell was still fighting through. The call was made to go with a wedge adjustment along with taking fuel. The No. 6 sped away from pits and restarted 19th on lap 137.
Over the next 30 laps Darnell picked up three spots, but also saw the leader in his rear view mirror. On lap 176 the No. 6 was finally passed and again down one lap. Darnell’s last pit stop of the night came under the seventh caution on lap 203. Still battling a tight race car Kelley called to go down one round on the track bar, put on four fresh tires and top off with fuel. The NT+E Ford Fusion restarted 17th with just 41 laps to go. The final adjustments seemed to work in Darnell’s favor as he slowly moved up through the pack over the remaining laps. When the checkered flag dropped on lap 250, Darnell’s first race of the 2009 season ended with a solid 12th-place finish.
“Our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford Fusion was pretty decent tonight, I would have liked to had a better finish than where we ended up, but I’ll take it. We had a tight race car for much of the night, and then had to deal with going down a lap twice, so it wasn’t an easy night out there. The car actually ran fairly well near the end; we just never had great track position. I’m really proud of the work Mike Kelley and the crew did tonight. They worked their butts off and the right calls were made. The car is a work in progress for me, but I cannot wait to get Darlington next week,” said Darnell.
Darnell and the No. 6 NT+E team are back in action next week at the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 at Darlington Raceway. Coverage begins at 7 PM on ESPN 2.
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 is NASCAR’s largest team operating nine motorsports teams. Five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; three in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Colin Braun; and one in the Camping World Truck Series with Braun.