CONCORD, N.C. (May 16, 2008) -- On an otherwise perfect night for racing at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150’s strong fourth-place finish was overshadowed by the lost opportunity of a victory.
When the green flag dropped at 8:45 p.m. Friday evening, the Northern Tool and Equipment Ford F-150 rolled off the starting grid in the fifth position. Drivers hardly got their tires warm before a caution came out on lap eight due to an early wreck. After returning to green-flag racing nine laps later in the fourth position, Darnell and most of the field decided to come to pit road when a caution came on lap 22 due to debris on the track. Darnell had reported to crew chief Matt Puccia a few laps earlier that the truck was tight in turns one and two, but solid through turns three and four. Puccia decided only to take fuel and make a minor track bar adjustment. Darnell came out of the pits in the fifth position.
The No. 99 Ford F-150 showed its most dominant racing of the young 2008 season when on lap 30 Darnell marched his way up into the second position and followed race leader Kyle Busch for the next 40 plus laps. By lap 50, Darnell and Busch quickly found themselves pulling away from the rest of the field and catching up to lapped traffic. Five laps later Puccia came across the radio reporting to his driver that he would need to come in for a scheduled pit stop around lap 75 for tires and fuel. Darnell again reported to his crew chief that the truck was tight off one and two. When Darnell came in for the pit stop, along with four tires and fuel the team made another track bar adjustment in an effort to make a run to the front. However, after an extended stay on pit road due to a lug nut problem, Darnell found himself back in the fifth spot once the green-flag stops for the rest of the field concluded by lap 85.
When a caution came out 13 laps later due to debris, the leaders came in for what they hoped was their final pit stop. It was decided the No. 99 Ford F-150 would take only a splash of fuel and make another track bar adjustment. The team went against putting on fresh tires to hold its track position. The gamble paid off as Darnell took over the lead by lap 104. News continued to get even better for the No. 99 team when just two laps later Busch, who had begun the day on the pole, led 86 laps of the race and looked as if he was inching his way to victory lane, was involved in a wreck with Ron Hornaday. The leaders decided to stay out and fight it out to the finish. Over the next 15 laps, Darnell continued his pursuit of his first victory of the 2008 season by racing in clean air allowing the No. 99 Ford F-150 to pull away from the rest of the field. But when another caution came out on lap 125, things started to turn sour for the NT+E team.
When the race resumed on lap 128, Darnell seemed to have a problem with the truck on the restart allowing No. 23 driven by Johnny Benson to pass him for the lead. According to Darnell, there seemed to be a problem with the truck getting into second gear on the restart and throughout the race. “The truck just felt like it couldn’t get going in second gear. I noticed on one restart when Travis (Kvapil) was behind me that it looked like he was having the same problem getting going, so it’s frustrating and disappointing,” said Darnell.
Along with the gear problem, Darnell also said the way Benson took off may have contributed to the bad restart. “On that last restart, I don’t know. The way I read the rule, the leader sets the pace. I knew Johnny was hanging back a little bit, so I was just kind of waiting. We weren’t even to the double red lines yet and I hadn’t fired off. He took off and went and got up on the outside there and, unfortunately, it ruined our race for us. It would have been a good race between me and him at the end. He had a little bit fresher tires than we did. I’m just disappointed,” added Darnell.
The NT+E team ended the night with a positive fourth-place finish. Even though they would have liked to have pulled out the win, it’s the best showing of the year for the No. 99 Ford F-150. This was certainly a step in the right direction and something for the team to build off of for the rest of the season. With the fourth-place finish the NT+E team moved back into the top 10 in points where they are currently ninth.
The Craftsman Truck Series races next at Mansfield Motorsports Park on Saturday, May 24, 2008.
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 and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.