SPARTA, Ky. (July 19, 2008) – Erik Darnell and the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment team came into the Built Ford Tough 225 hoping to continue their streak of top-five finishes over the past three races. Unfortunately, the streak came to an abrupt end as an extended stay on pit road followed by a busted radiator sent the No. 99 team home in 29th place.
Darnell and the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford started the Kentucky evening from the 25th position. Only three laps of racing were complete when the first caution came out and crew chief Matt Puccia was anxious to hear how the truck was handling. Darnell was quick to respond that his Ford F-150 was really tight in the corners, while also fighting the bumps on the track. The No. 99 restarted 18th on lap seven, but Puccia was concerned the problems would persist. When a second yellow flag came out just a few laps later, the call was made for Darnell to bring the truck in for some much-needed adjustments. While the leaders stayed out, Darnell came in for a track bar adjustment, four tires and fuel. The early stop cost the team several positions as the No.99 restarted 29th.
Just five laps later as the field was beginning to get comfortable on the track, a third yellow flag came out and Darnell was not pleased with the adjustments made just a couple of laps earlier. He made his way back down pit road for another track bar change along with fuel, and also a wedge adjustment.
Holding down the 17th spot following the restart, Darnell slowly began to creep up on the field and by lap 50 the NT+E Ford broke into the top 10. However, one lap later a fourth caution stopped green-flag racing and Darnell radioed in mentioning the truck was not only a little tight, but he was still struggling with the bumps on the mile-and-a-half track. Darnell would again bring the No. 99 in for yet another track bar adjustment along with fuel. The strategy to bring Darnell into the pits three times during the first four cautions paid off in a big way as the No.99 restarted second on lap 59.
“Our strategy was working out the way we needed it to. We got up front and we were able to stay there,” said Darnell.
After making a fourth track bar change during a quick yellow flag, Darnell came out this time in third with just 73 laps to go. By lap 93 as Johnny Benson was holding off Mike Skinner for the lead, Darnell and the No. 9 of Justin Marks were battling for the third spot.
A sixth caution with just 37 laps left would bring Darnell and the leaders down to pit road for what they hoped was for the final time. The No.99 team knew this was a make-or-break stop and one that had to be done without error. As Darnell came to his pit stall for yet another track bar adjustment, fuel and four tires, everything seemed to be on cue. But, while putting on the new right-front tire the old one was lost on the exchange and began rolling onto pit road. The spinning tire cost the team greatly and it showed as Darnell restarted 10th with just 32 laps to go.
Three and four-wide racing began soon after the restart. As Darnell went into turn three taking the high side of the track, a bump by the No.59 of Ted Musgrave into the back end of Kyle Busch forced Busch up the track and into the No.8 of Chad McCumbee. As McCumbee hit the wall, Darnell happened to be right behind him and had no where to go damaging the front end of the No. 99 NT+E Ford F-150. Darnell brought the truck down pit road, but it was soon determined the No. 99 had a busted radiator, forcing it to the garage. The team did a great job of replacing the radiator in such a short amount of time, however it was too late. The NT+E Ford would get back on the track with just a few laps to go, but at the end of the night all that could be salvaged was a 29th-place finish.
“Our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150 was pretty good in the race, just like I thought it would be. Obviously, we didn’t qualify where we needed to, but it didn’t really matter come race time. I don’t know what happened at the end. It seemed like we were four wide getting into the corner and I was on the top. The next thing I see, they’re kind of piling up underneath me and the 8 truck [Chad McCumbee] is going around and just didn’t know where to go. I haven’t seen a replay,” added Darnell.
The finish moves Darnell and the NT+E team back one spot to eighth in the overall Craftsman Truck Series standings; now 200 points behind point leader and tonight’s winner Johnny Benson. The No. 99 NT+E team will look to rebound from tonight’s finish next Friday, July 25 at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis for the Power Stroke Diesel 200 at 8 p.m.
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, John Wes Townley and Bobby East; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.