DARNELL FINISHES THIRD, WINS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR HONORS IN SEASON FINALE AT HOMESTEAD HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 18, 2006) -- Erik Darnell and the No. 99 Woolrich team wanted to end the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season on a high note with...
DARNELL FINISHES THIRD, WINS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR HONORS IN SEASON FINALE AT HOMESTEAD
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 18, 2006) -- Erik Darnell and the No. 99 Woolrich team wanted to end the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season on a high note with another solid top-10 finish. Despite problems on pit road that cost the team several positions on two separate occasions, Darnell was able to race his way to a third-place finish in the Ford 200, and was officially declared the Raybestos Rookie of the Year for the 2006 season.
Darnell qualified the No. 99 Woolrich Ford in the fifth position for the 134-lap race, his best qualifying effort since Martinsville in October where he started in the same position. Darnell and crew felt confident about their truck and their chances to contend for the win, and showed their F-150 would be one to contend with in the early going of the race. Darnell reported in the early stages of the race that his truck was slightly loose through the corners, but he felt that the handling was coming to him as the laps clicked off. Darnell was running in the forth position when the caution flag came out at lap 44 for a two-truck wreck, allowing him to bring the No. 99 to pit road for tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. A slow stop resulted in Darnell getting back on the track in the 23rd position for the restart.
Darnell fought furiously to regain the positions lost when the field went back to green-flag racing. He made quick work of the trucks in front of him, working his way back inside the top 10 by the time the caution flag would come out again at lap 65 for an incident with the No. 22 truck. Darnell came to pit road again for tires, fuel and another track bar adjustment at lap 66. Problems on pit road again plagued the Woolrich crew, sending Darnell back on track in the 17th position for the restart at lap 68.
Darnell was able to work his way back inside the top 10 again when the field went back to racing, running as high as the sixth position before the caution flag would come out again at lap 94 for a spin by the No. 23 truck. Knowing they could not make it to the finish, the Woolrich crew called Darnell to pit road for one final time for tires and fuel. The crew was able to pull off a good stop, allowing Darnell to restart in the eighth position when the field went back to racing at lap 99. Darnell worked his way towards the front of the field in the closing laps, but ran out of laps before catching the leaders. He would settle for a third-place finish, his fourth top-five finish of the 2006 season.
"John Quinn (crew chief) and all of the guys on this Woolrich team did a great job tonight," Darnell said. "We got bit on pit road a couple of times there, but the guys really nailed the last stop and that gave us pretty good track position. I didn't quite have enough for Mark (Martin) at the end, but if I had about five more laps, I might have been able to race Brendan (Gaughan) for second. We clinched Rookie of the Year honors, and that was our ultimate goal at the beginning of the year. We'll be back in the truck series again next year and we fully expect to contend for the championship. I've got to thank Woolrich for coming on board with us this year, it's been great to represent them. Northern Tool + Equipment will be on board with us for next year and beyond, and we're looking forward to doing the same for them. It was a great 2006, but we're really looking forward to 2007."
Darnell finished the 2006 season 12th in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points, the highest finishing Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate. In 25 starts, Darnell finished the season with one pole, four top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. He will officially accept the Rookie of the Year honors on Tuesday, November 21 in a ceremony at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
Roush Racing is a subsidiary of Livonia, Mich., based Roush Enterprises which operates 14 motorsports teams; five in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series with drivers Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, six in the Busch Series with Martin, Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, Todd Kluever and Danny O'Quinn, and three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Martin, David Ragan, Erik Darnell and Michel Jourdain, Jr.
-credit: Roush Racing