LAS VEGAS, Nev. (September 20, 2008) – The sights and sounds of the Las Vegas strip found its way down to the Qwik Liner Las Vegas 350 on Saturday night. The track’s record-breaking night of cautions was overshadowed by the dramatic finish put on by the No. 99 of Erik Darnell and the No. 5 of Mike Skinner. Darnell led 56 laps, but late cautions cost Darnell the victory whose Ford F-150 was untouchable the entire night on green-flag racing.
Darnell and his No. 99 NT+E Ford F-150 rolled off from the seventh position to begin Saturday night’s race. Four laps in, Darnell had fallen one spot and was fighting a little tightness with his truck. By lap 16, the No. 99 was part of a four-truck group with Brendan Gaughan, Matt Crafton and Ron Hornaday battling to get into the top four.
Lap 23 brought out the second caution of the evening with Darnell telling crew chief Matt Puccia that he was struggling with the bumps through turns one and two along with the truck now being somewhat loose. The No. 99 marched its way down pit road with the rest of the field taking right-side tires and fuel. Darnell got in and out with no troubles and restarted fifth on lap 28.
By lap 63 Darnell jockeyed between the fifth and seventh-place positions, and radioed in saying the front end of his Ford F-150 had gone from being loose to now just a touch tight. One lap later, the fourth caution stopped green-flag racing which brought the leaders down pit road. Darnell now in fifth, rolled down to the No. 99 pit stall taking four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment to the right-front tire. The tremendous work by the NT+E crew allowed Darnell to pick up two more spots on the restart, beginning lap 70 from the third spot.
Darnell quickly made good use of the air pressure adjustment as he was now in second place on lap 81 in between race leader Mike Skinner and third-place driver, and Roush Fenway teammate, Colin Braun. Just three laps later, the No. 99 caught up to the bumper of Skinner and eventually passed him for the lead going into turn three. With just under 60 laps to go, Darnell had now put himself five truck lengths ahead of second place.
The No. 99 would hold the lead until lap 96 when the yellow flag brought out the sixth caution of the race. Darnell led the rest of the field down pit road mentioning to Puccia that the truck was again just a touch tight. The call was made for another two-tire change on the right side, an air pressure adjustment to the right-front tire and topping off with fuel. Skinner was able to beat Darnell off pit road, with the No. 99 settling for fourth on the restart on lap 101. The restart placed Skinner in third with the first two spots held by the No. 15 of Shane Sieg and the No. 22 of Scott Speed who elected to stay out. Darnell was able to get a fantastic jump on the restart and two laps later took back the lead from Skinner.
Darnell knew if he was to pull out the win over Skinner, green-flag racing had to continue to the end. The No. 99 without a doubt had the more dominant truck of the two, but several cautions towards the end of the race ended up costing Darnell the lead and eventually the win.
The 12th and final caution of the night meant the race would come down to a green-white checkered finish. On the final lap, Darnell was overtaken by Skinner, but caught back up to the No. 5 coming down the front stretch. The neck and neck battle to the finish ended with Skinner taking the checkered flag with about five feet to spare. The heartbreaking finish now gives Darnell seven top-five finishes in the last 10 races.
“Skinner got a run and I tried to hold him off. I ran those last two laps wide open and I’m sure he did too. His truck was just a little bit better than ours on a restart. And I got a little bit loose getting down there and he got to the outside of me and that was about it. If it was green-flag racing, we would have run away with the race. Our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford was really good. Just the way the draft works on these superspeedways, the guys behind can stay with you for a little while. Once we got about four, or five green- flag laps on our tires we could just drive away from them. It’s frustrating. I’m disappointed, but it was a good points day for us. It’s good to see Mike [Skinner] get his first win of the year, but I wish it would have been us in victory lane,” explained Darnell.
The second-place finish moves the No. 99 NT+ E team up two spots to fourth in the overall standings. Darnell is now only 60 points away from the third position, currently held by Matt Crafton. The Craftsman Truck Series will take next weekend off, but will return to the track at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, October 4th for the Mountain Dew 250 beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET.
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 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, John Wes Townley and Bobby East; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. For more information on any of the Roush Fenway Racing teams, log onto www.RoushFenway.com.