Sparta, Ky. (June 13, 2009) – This year’s Meijer 300 presented by Ritz at Kentucky Speedway was one in which many drivers including Erik Darnell were shaking their heads following the race because of what happened not on the track, but on pit road. On a handful occasions throughout the race drivers were penalized for what NASCAR deemed speeding when exiting pit road. Darnell was penalized on two separate occasions turning what looked to be a great run for the Northern Tool + Equipment Ford Fusion into a night of frustration.
Earlier Saturday afternoon Darnell put up the fifth fastest qualifying time (31.038 seconds) placing the No. 6 NT+E Ford Fusion on the inside of row three to begin the race. Darnell quickly made his way up to third-place by lap three trying to keep up with the No. 20 of Joey Logano and No. 18 of Kyle Busch. As Logano and Busch pulled away, Darnell was beginning to feel the affects of a loose race car. When the second caution came out on lap 22, Crew Chief Mike Kelley made the call to bring the No. 6 in for adjustments. Darnell’s car received two tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. The two tire stop allowed the NT+E car to grab the second spot on the restart, but NASCAR radioed in saying Darnell was going too fast when exiting the pits and would have to come back down pit road to serve his penalty. With the caution still out, Kelley decided if his driver was going to be heading down pit road again, he might as well put two more tires on the car to complete the four tire change. Instead of coming out second, the No. 6 NT+E Ford was now having to restart 23rd on lap 27.
Darnell’s discouragement over the penalty didn’t show on the track as he maneuvered his way up through the field taking over 20th by lap 40 and up five more spots by lap 60. Even with his gains, Darnell was still fighting a loose car telling Kelley that the track bar adjustment made earlier did little to help his machine. A third caution on lap 69 gave Kelley and his crew the opportunity to hopefully get the problem taken care of by making another track bar adjustment. The No. 6 NT+E Ford also received four tires and fuel during the stop. Darnell was to have restarted from the 12th spot, but more speeding penalties on pit road allowed the No. 6 to now restart in the eighth position when racing resumed on lap 74.
After only 15 laps since the last adjustments were made, Darnell radioed to Kelley saying he was having no shot at all of racing on the top half of the track adding that he almost lost it into the wall the previous three laps. Now in 11th-place Darnell brought the car down to pit road under caution on lap 138 getting another track bar adjustment, four tires and fuel. And for a second time tonight Darnell was penalized again for exiting pit road too fast. This time though the No. 6 had to serve its penalty during green flag racing putting it one lap down.
Now in the 21st position with sixty laps to go, Darnell was obviously beside himself with the events that transpired on pit road, but he kept his cool picking up 10 more spots over the remaining laps. Darnell’s Kentucky night of frustration ended with the No. 6 NT+E Ford Fusion just missing out on the top-10.
“Our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford Fusion was really good tonight. It’s a shame that we never got to see what it could do up front. It’s just so frustrating when you see half the field get penalized on pit road for the exact same thing. The second time really hurt us because we had to come back in under green which put us down a lap. I thought we had a good shot tonight of getting a top-five. The car was loose for a good part of the night and actually too loose at times. Mike Kelley and crew did a great job this weekend getting the car ready,” said Darnell.
Next stop for the Darnell and the No.6 NT+E team is a date under the lights at The Milwaukee Mile for the NorthernTool.com 250 on Saturday, June 20th beginning at 8:30 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 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. For more information on any of the Roush Fenway Racing teams, log onto www.RoushFenway.com. For sponsorship inquiries please contact Robin Johnson at 704.720.4645.