Off-week news of note 2007-05-01

Darnell A First-Time Winner In Kansas * Kansas Wasn't Lucky For Skinner This Time * Roush-Fenway Adds Ninth Driver Victory Rolls * Fike Boosts Raybestos Lead With Top-10 Finish Erik Darnell Proves 'Can't Miss' Pronouncements Accurate DAYTONA...

Darnell A First-Time Winner In Kansas
* Kansas Wasn't Lucky For Skinner This Time
* Roush-Fenway Adds Ninth Driver Victory Rolls
* Fike Boosts Raybestos Lead With Top-10 Finish

Erik Darnell Proves 'Can't Miss' Pronouncements Accurate

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 1, 2007) -- Three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota) predicted we'd hear a lot from 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool+Equipment Ford).

Sprague's pronouncement proved accurate April 28 as Darnell raced to his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway.

Indeed, Sprague was not only correct, but he proved to be Darnell's final obstacle as the winner led three times for a race-high 92 laps.

"I couldn't run with him," said Sprague, who gave up the lead to Darnell on the 112th of 167 laps. "I think the fastest truck won."

Darnell won in his 31st series start (see chart below) and became the fourth driver under the age of 25 to win a series race at Kansas Speedway.

The Illinois native is 24 -- the same age as Roush-Fenway stable mate Carl Edwards when Edwards won the race in 2004. Ricky Hendrick and Jon Wood were 21 when they captured the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250.

"For me, it was just holding the steering wheel," he said of the winning truck. "That's about all I had to do (because) the thing was so fast."

Darnell is the 57th driver to win a series race.

Skinner's Win Streak Finished

Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) won for the third-consecutive time in June 1996 at Heartland Park Topeka. Kansas, however, wasn't good for the 1995 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion on April 28.

Despite winning his 35th Budweiser Pole and leading 58 laps, Skinner finished fifth ending his quest for a record, fourth-consecutive victory.

"I really don't know what happened," Skinner said. "At the start our truck was awesome. We made a little adjustment and we were 50 degrees loose after that and we made a bad pit stop and never recovered.

"I thought we had the truck to beat."

Skinner, however, added 12 points to his standings lead of 108. "We came here to run in the top 10 and we got a top five," he said.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Wins After Rookie of Year Season

Erik Darnell became the earliest non-winning Raybestos Rookie of the Year to break into the victory column. His Kansas win ousted Roush Fenway Racing's Greg Biffle from the record book.

Nine of 11 top rookies have NASCAR Craftsman Truck wins. The remaining non-winners are Mike Stefanik (1999) and Todd Kluever (2005).

News & Notes: Part 2

Season's Final Test Takes Place Next Week ... May heralds the beginning of the heart of the 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck season, and with it, a significant number of races on mile-and-a-half racetracks. That's why the May 10-11 test at Lowe's Motor Speedway may be critical in the battle for the championship. The track will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days with Saturday, May 12 reserved in case of inclement weather.

Dover International Speedway Hosts Series' 300th Race. ... The June 1 AAA Insurance 200 will mark the 300th time the field has taken the green flag. Winners of the 100th race -- Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 AES HR Solutions Chevrolet) -- and 200th (Ted Musgrave, No. 9 Team ASE/Germain Toyota) will be in the field. Race No. 100 took place at Evergreen (Wash.) Speedway on April 3, 1999. Race No. 200 was held at Memphis Motorsports Park on June 21, 2003. The top two from 1999 -- Hornaday and Jack Sprague -- will compete in the 300th race as will 2003's top three: Musgrave, Travis Kvapil (No. 6 K&N Filters Ford) and Dennis Setzer (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Co. Chevrolet). American Commercial Lines Backs Wyler Racing ... The sponsor of March's series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway will appear as an associate backer on Jack Sprague's No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota beginning with the June 8 Sam's Town 400 at Texas Motor Speedway. American Commercial Lines is one of the largest and most diversified marine transportation and manufacturing companies in the United States.

Crawford Cracks $4 Million ... Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford) has become the fifth $4 million career winner. His total winnings following the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 are $4,022,282. Battle For Top-30 Ranking Continues

With a "home" race on the horizon for most NASCAR Craftsman Truck teams looming, a ranking among the top 30 in owner points appears doubly important.

Lowe's Motor Speedway, host to the May 18 Quaker Steak and Lube presented by Circle K, can be a challenge to the best of teams.

Thus, having a guaranteed starting position certainly is pressure relief.

At Kansas Speedway, veteran owner David Dollar and sophomore driver Kraig Kinser (No. 47 VFW/Ginn Resorts Chevrolet) moved from 32nd to 30th.

The previously 30th-ranked No. 7 Hooters Energy Drink Chevrolet of J.L. Pennington, now 31st, will have to qualify on speed at Lowe's.

Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings

Aaron Fike (No. 1 RFMS/Red Horse Racing Toyota) finished eighth at Kansas Speedway to become the first Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate to post back-to-back top 10s in 2007.

Roush Fenway Racing Rules At Kansas Speedway; Adds To Series Win Record

No doubt about it, Jack Roush knows how to pick them.

And if there are so-called "horses for courses," Roush Fenway drivers definitely have Kansas Speedway's number.

Erik Darnell is the third from the team to win the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250. No other team has won more than once.

Roush has spread around the wealth during his 13 seasons as a NASCAR Craftsman Truck owner. Darnell is his ninth different winner as the team's victory total rises to 44.

Among active teams, Bobby Hamilton Racing is Roush Fenway's closest rival. BHR has won 19 times, but not since 2005.

Crew chief John Quinn counts victories with drivers from both ends of the learning curve: Darnell at Kansas and veteran Ricky Craven in 2005.

First-Time Winner Shines With High Driver Rating

The eye was not deceived. Erik Darnell, zero wins on his resume, was dominating like a seasoned veteran. Darnell turned Kansas Speedway into his personal playground last Saturday night and registered the fifth-widest margin of victory in Craftsman Truck Series history -- 10.440 seconds.

Surpassing the statistics he amassed were likewise unheard of for a first-time winner. Darnell earned a race-best Driver Rating of 135.6 (150.0 is the maximum rating) and his Average Running Position of 6.677 was third-best.

He turned the fastest laps 50 times, was easily the most and 29 more than second place Mike Skinner. Darnell also had the fastest Green Flag Speed.

Darnell's 140 Laps in the Top 15 is one stat that is particularly impressive considering that he had to start at the back of the field because of unapproved adjustments to his No. 99 Northern Tool+Equipment Ford.

As far as the season-to-date Loop Data goes, standings leader Skinner is the class of the field. He has a Driver Rating of 132.3, by far the best in the series (Jack Sprague is second with 107.5), and an Average Running position of 3.443. Skinner's 156 Fastest Laps Run are nearly three times more than the second-place driver in that category (Darnell is in second with 53 Fastest Laps Run).

Quotable

"It was perserverance. That's our motto -- never give up." -- defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Todd Bodine, who brought his No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota from 23rd to finish fifth at Kansas Speedway.

"The tailgate looked really good. That's all I saw was the tailgate." -- Rick Crawford, the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250's runnerup finisher for the second consecutive year on the winning truck.

"Great recovery; man, that was way more than I expected." -- Brendan Gaughan, No. 77 South Point Hotel Chevrolet, who spun out during qualifying, started at the rear of the field and finished 11th -- the final driver on the lead lap.

Ford Scores First One-Two Finish Since Kansas '06

When Erik Darnell and Rick Crawford crossed the line at Kansas Speedway it marked Ford's first one-two finish since July 1, 2006 -- at Kansas Speedway.

Darnell's victory snapped Toyota's four-race winning streak leaving the latter truck maker with a 42 to 29 point Manufacturers' Championship lead over Ford.

Chevrolet and Dodge remain winless entering the next event at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

FAST FACTS

Next Race: Quaker Steak and Lube 200 presented by Circle K

The Place: Lowe's Motor Speedway
The Date: May 18

The Time: 9 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED, 8:30 p.m. (ET)

Track Layout: 1.5-mile paved oval
Race Purse: $544,474

2006 Winner: Kyle Busch
2006 Pole: Mike Skinner

Schedule: Friday -- Practice 10 a.m. -- 11:15 a.m.; 11:20 a.m.. -- 11:40 a.m. (rookies) and 11:50 a.m. -- 12:50 p.m. Saturday -- Qualifying 4:35 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Greg Biffle , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Ricky Hendrick , Ricky Craven , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Rick Crawford , Jon Wood , Brendan Gaughan , Aaron Fike , Jack Roush , Todd Kluever , Erik Darnell , Kyle Busch , Travis Kvapil
Teams Roush Fenway Racing , Red Horse Racing