Erik Darnell, No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 15, 2008) – Erik Darnell started first for Friday night’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway, and for much of the night it looked as if he would finish there as well. A tire problem compounded with a hit from behind as he attempted to come to pit road put an early end to a dominating performance.
Darnell took the green flag first for the 100-lap race, and would hold the lead for the opening laps of the event. As he reported that his No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford was loose in the center of the turns, the No. 29 truck crashed on the backstretch, bringing out the first caution of the event at lap 12. Crew chief Matt Puccia elected to bring Darnell to pit road for right-side tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Service was quickly completed, but Darnell was forced to work around the No. 22 truck pitted in front of him, costing him additional time on pit road. Darnell rejoined the field for the lap 15 restart in the eighth position.
Darnell quickly worked his way back to the front of the field, advancing to the second position at lap 18. A major wreck on the backstretch involving numerous trucks brought out the red flag, stopping the field in turn two. Darnell and Puccia took advantage of the delay to discuss strategy for the eventual restart at lap 23. Fearing that no one would go with him if he attempted to pull out of line, Darnell settled in and rode in line behind the No. 30 truck of Todd Bodine. He stuck to his plan until Bodine drifted out of line, allowing Darnell to reassume the lead at lap 52.
When the caution flag flew at lap 54 for an incident involving the No. 20 truck, Puccia called Darnell to pit road for tires and fuel. Happy with the performance of his Northern Tool + Equipment F-150, Darnell made the call to not make any changes to the chassis. The No. 99 crew performed their routine stop flawlessly, sending Darnell back on track with the lead.
Darnell would continue to lead as the field settled in behind him. As the laps clicked of, Darnell and crew remained virtually silent on the radio, allowing the third-year driver to concentrate on his task at hand. Knowing their fuel window was rapidly closing, Puccia called Darnell to pit road at lap 85 for a splash of fuel and right-side tires to get him to the finish. The rest of the leaders followed him down pit road, with the No. 30 truck of Bodine electing for a fuel-only stop. The move allowed Bodine to overtake Darnell for the lead on pit road. Shortly after Darnell left pit road, he reported to his crew that he felt a vibration and would be coming back to the pits. As he attempted to enter the pits, the No. 9 truck hit Darnell from behind, sending him hard into the outside retaining wall. The damage done to the Northern Tool + Equipment Ford was enough to end their night early.
“We came down for our final pit stop there and took right side tires and had a vibration in the lap up to speed,” said Darnell. “I was trying to wave the No. 9 truck off. I waved him off the backstretch and came off high in the middle of turns three and four and he just got into the back of me and turned us around. It was pretty unfortunate. Our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford was awesome tonight. I can’t thank Matt Puccia and all the guys on the crew tonight enough for giving me a great F-150. They did a really good job getting this thing fast. We were there and I think we had a real good shot at the win. I think that it was our race to lose tonight. It was going to come down to the last couple of laps and unfortunately we didn’t make it there.”
As a result of the 21st-place finish, Darnell and the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment team leave Daytona in the 20th position in the Craftsman Truck Series point standings. The Craftsman Truck Series races next at California Speedway on Saturday, February 23, 2008.
About Northern Tool + Equipment
Northern Tool + Equipment has been a supplier of high-quality tools and equipment for more than 25 years, selling products through direct mail, the Internet and at nearly 60 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 http://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 and Joey Clanton; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.