(KANSAS CITY, Kan.) -- On an a day that began with high hopes of recapturing last year’s finish, this year’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 turned out to be one Erik Darnell and his Northern Tool + Equipment team would just like to forget. In the early stages of the race, Darnell was involved in a wreck while running sixth that forced the team to play catch up for the rest of the race. In the end all that could be salvaged for the #99 team was a disappointing 28th-place finish.
When the green flag dropped on a sunny, but cool Saturday evening in Kansas, Darnell and his Ford F-150 began their quest for a second win at the speedway by qualifying seventh earlier in the day. After only five laps into the race, Darnell had pushed his way into the top five. However, by lap 24 Darnell reported to crew chief Matt Puccia that the truck was great through turns one and two, but tight off three and four. The team caught a break on lap 26 when the caution flag came out allowing Darnell to come to pit road for fuel, four tires and adjustments.
After restarting in the fifth position, Darnell came across the radio several laps later reporting the same problems. But when a second caution came out on lap 35 involving a single car spin, Puccia decided not to pit so they could maintain track position. The call paid off as Darnell moved into fourth by lap 49.
Even though the Ford F-150 was staying in reach of the leaders, Darnell felt that if he didn’t bring the truck in soon for more adjustments, the problems would persist. The No. 99 team found themselves again back on pit road after a third caution came out. Along with fuel, Puccia decided to make a track bar adjustment hoping it would loosen the truck up. The added time working on the track bar cost the team as they fell back to seventh after the restart.
However, Darnell and his team never got the chance to see if the adjustments they had made six laps earlier would have paid off in the long run. While on lap 57 and Darnell holding onto the sixth position, he was hit from the inside going into turn two by Rick Crawford driving the No. 14 truck. Darnell was working the outside line when it appeared Crawford got loose sending the No. 99 truck into the wall. “I don’t know what happened out there. I heard ‘inside’ and the next thing I know a truck started coming around on me. We were at the top of the track at that time anyway. By the time I got it corrected, we were bouncing off the wall. It’s pretty unfortunate,” said Darnell.
Darnell was able to drive the truck off the track, but unfortunately the damage was so severe it had to be taken to the garage. The crew worked diligently to get the truck back on the track. After about 30 minutes behind the wall, the Northern Tool +Equipment Ford-F-150 made its way back onto the race track on lap 91.
Even though Darnell raced for nearly 60 laps with a badly damaged vehicle, he was able to pick up a few spots. However, by lap 141 NASCAR officials told Puccia that the truck was not maintaining the minimum racing speed and therefore had to shut it down for the night. Darnell ended up finishing 28th.
“It’s pretty unfortunate. The Northern Tool +Equipment Ford was good today. We’re just kind of cruising around; this is a long race. That’s kind of unfortunate how things ended the way they did,” added Darnell.
With the disappointing finish Darnell dropped five spots to 13th in the standing after five races, but is only 60 points out of the top five.
The Craftsman Truck Series races next at Lowes Motor Speedway on Friday, May 16, 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.