Daytona Preseason Thunder - Darnell, Lagasse media visit

Ford Racing Preseason Thunder Daytona International Speedway January 13, 2008 Erik Darnell, driver of the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150, and Scott Lagasse, Jr., driver of the No. 20 JTG Motorsports Ford F-150, were part of a Q&A ...

Ford Racing
Preseason Thunder
Daytona International Speedway
January 13, 2008

Erik Darnell, driver of the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150, and Scott Lagasse, Jr., driver of the No. 20 JTG Motorsports Ford F-150, were part of a Q&A session Sunday morning in the Daytona International Speedway infield media center. Testing was delayed for approximately 90 minutes at the beginning of the day due to wet grounds.

YOU'VE BEEN ON TOP OF THE SPEED CHART THE FIRST TWO DAYS. YOUR THOUGHTS GOING INTO THIS SEASON?

ERIK DARNELL -- No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150: "I'm looking forward to putting last year behind us. We struggled quite a bit last year. We didn't really end the season on the note that we wanted to. It was nice to go out and get our first career win, but, on the other hand, we struggled at quite a few tracks. We had some things happen that kind of took us out of contention for a top 10 in the points, which is frustrating because I think we slid from seventh or eighth back to 12th in the last six races, so I'm looking forward to putting that behind us and getting off to a good start here at Daytona. If the first two days are any indication, we've got a really good truck, not only in single-truck runs, but in the draft it's really strong as well. I've been able to work my way from the back up to the front a few times and it feels really good out front. I can lead up there. I can get back in traffic and the truck handles very well. I've been really pleased with it so far. Roush has had a pretty strong truck program on the superspeedways. Mark Martin won both races in 2006 and Travis Kvapil and myself both had strong trucks in this race last year, and I definitely would like to get the season started off on the right foot and, hopefully, pick up a victory in our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford."

WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF YOUR NEW TEAM?

SCOTT LAGASSE, JR. -- No. 20 JTG Racing Ford F-150: "I'm real excited. I was really excited before we ever even came here. I've been in the shop for the last month with those guys kind of working side-by-side and just getting to know them and it's a great group. They're really hard workers and as an organization I think it's at a turning point where you'll see it start to win races pretty soon. I'm very happy with that and the way things operate there. Gary (Cogswell, crew chief) is very good for me. He's got a lot of experience and him and I work really, really well together. He's very open-minded and we're just really having a lot of fun with these guys. You can't say enough about Tad and Jodi Geschickter, who are hands down the best when it comes to sponsors and showing a return on investment in that regard. It's just a great organization and a great place to be, and being in a full-time schedule this year is gonna be exactly what I've needed to kind of learn these bigger and heavier cars and kind of get on with my career."

WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE NEW STRUCTURE OF WOOD BROTHERS AND JTG RACING?

SCOTT LAGASSE, JR: "I wasn't around it much last year and I've been through kind of the change I guess you'd call it, and I haven't seen a whole lot different. I think it's more on just a level of what you kind of see within other organizations is each team is accountable for what they're doing and what they're spending -- those kind of things. I think it's a great idea and I think it's a great way to go. I don't think it's any different than probably what Erik sees at Roush between the trucks, the Nationwide cars, the Cup cars and even individually. Each team has their own budget per se, so I don't know if really it's a whole lot different than that. We do work together -- the 21 and the 20 -- not a whole lot probably right now, but I think that's probably more due to new people than anything. I wouldn't be able to comment much more than that on how things are versus last year because I haven't seen a whole lot of it."

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO ACCOMPLISH THIS YEAR TO MOVE UP A LEVEL OR TWO?

ERIK DARNELL: "For me, this is my third year in the trucks and I'd definitely be lying if I didn't say I felt some pressure to go out there and win races and run for the championship. This is the same truck that Carl got out of a couple years ago and, as you all know very well, Carl ran great in this truck. I think last year didn't quite live up to our expectations. Our teammate, Travis Kvapil, was winning on a consistent basis. He won quite a few races last year and he was contending for the championship and I honestly believe that we should be in that same position this year. Jack is kind of looking for that and I think everybody at the organization is looking for it and I am as well. We've got the equipment and we've got the team in place to do so. We had some strong runs last year, we just weren't able to put everything together to get the points we should have been contending for, but I think we should be running for the championship this year. We're gonna start off strong here at Daytona and I honestly believe that we will be there at the end."

WHAT IS YOUR GOAL FOR THE SEASON?

SCOTT LAGASSE, JR: "For me, we're not gonna put any kind of expectations on ourselves as a team. The simple fact of running every week with the same group of people, I've found that's gonna help a lot, so I think the results will be there by themselves. It's more difficult than I ever thought it to be to just jump in and work with a crew chief and a group of guys one week and then a different group the following week. I think Erik and I had a great battle at Kansas and had a lot of fun. I learned a lot there in one week, and then you leave there and you go work with a whole different group of people. So that's what I'm really looking forward to is just the stability, knowing what you're doing every week and results-wise, I think, will come with that."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE OPEN-WHEEL GUYS COMING INTO THE CUP SERIES?

ERIK DARNELL: "For those guys, they're very good racers in their respective series and they wouldn't be getting those opportunities if they weren't. I think it's just easier for a Cup team to market those guys to a sponsor. I think it's easier to attract a sponsor when you can say we have a former F1 champion coming in here as opposed to a younger guy like one of us three sitting up here. I think that's a big part of it nowadays just because the sponsorship is the big thing. It takes money to make this sport go and there's gonna be a lot of good Cup cars starting out this year at Daytona that aren't even gonna have a sponsor on them, so I think that's one of the big selling points for those guys as well."

HOW MUCH HAVE YOU LEARNED IN TESTING SO FAR?

SCOTT LAGASSE, JR: "For us, we came here not really worried one bit about speed and haven't yet. We haven't drafted, haven't tried to suck up, haven't done any of those things. You lay back 10 or 15 truck lengths and run a lap and you're at the pack and put up a big number and we haven't done that. In fact, we've sat on pit road extra time to make sure we were a half-a-lap behind people just because with these trucks you can kind of confuse yourself. That being said, the Roush trucks down here have been outstanding, so I'm sure they're as strong as they look to be. We haven't worried about that. We've been worried about handling and, for some reason here this year you're hearing a lot more comments than you ever have been about the handling characteristics of the trucks in the draft, so that's been our goal the whole time down here, and I think we've done a good job as a team to do that."

HOW MUCH HAVE YOU LEARNED IN TESTING SO FAR?

ERIK DARNELL: "I feel fortunate to be with an organization like Roush Fenway Racing. Our truck program is great, especially on the bigger tracks like this one. I had a pretty good idea in the back of my mind that when we unloaded we were gonna be pretty good, and all three of our trucks were really good in the single-truck runs. But we're more concerned with getting the thing to run well in the draft. Just like they were saying, the trucks are moving around it seems like a little bit more this year than what they have in years past in the draft. Our primary focus has been on getting the thing to handle well, getting the thing to go through the pack and get up front and lead, and so far I've been very pleased with it. We struggled a little bit in the draft at first, but we made quite a few changes to the truck and gotten it to where it's driving very comfortably, and I think we'll probably be a threat come race day."

WHAT CHANGES HAVE HAPPENED TO MAKE THE TRUCKS MOVE MORE ON THE TRACK?

SCOTT LAGASSE, JR: "I don't know. We talked about that a little bit because I guess across the board everyone is having a little bit of the same issues. I don't know if it's possibly just that the tires are a year older, the track is a year older. There have been some small rule changes, but I don't know. This is the first time for me in a truck."

WHAT CHANGES HAVE HAPPENED TO MAKE THE TRUCKS MOVE MORE ON THE TRACK?

ERIK DARNELL: "To be honest with you, I don't really know. I don't think any of the rule changes that they made would really affect the handling of these things out here, but I talked to Travis Kvapil. He was down here testing a Cup car last week and he said that he thought the track was a little bit rougher than he's felt in years past and that may have a little bit to do with it, but, honestly, I don't really know. I wouldn't be able to tell you."

YOU ARE THE VETERAN DRIVER AMONG THE THREE TRUCK TEAMS IN YOUR SHOP. WILL THAT HINDER YOU IN THAT THERE'S NO VETERAN TO LEAN ON?

ERIK DARNELL: "Yeah, that's kind of strange to say. I believe I'll probably have Colin (Braun) coming to me for a little bit of help just because I have been around and have been in this series for three years now. It's gonna be tough. I was fortunate the past two years to be able to have Mark Martin and Travis Kvapil to pull from. On the other hand, they didn't really have a real experienced driver in the truck as well to pull from either, but those guys have been around for a while in their own right and they know what they're doing, but, for me, as a whole and as an organization -- not only the truck team but the Nationwide and the Cup teams as well, they've all worked together well as a team. If the 6 truck does something that they hit on and it works well, our crew chiefs and the engineers will get together and talk about it and we'll figure it out as to why it made the truck better. I think I'm gonna kind of be in a helping role to Colin this year because he's never really been in a stock car before, so I really won't be able to pull any information from him, but I still am able to go to the veterans of the Truck Series, like Ron Hornaday and Mike Skinner. Those guys have helped me out a lot over the years as well and should I need anything, I think they'll still help me out with that. Our main goal this year is to focus on running for that championship. We've got the resources and we've got everything in place to do it, it's just kind of up to me to get the job done."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Mike Skinner , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Scott Lagasse Jr. , Erik Darnell , Mark Martin , Travis Kvapil
Teams HART