Phoenix II: Darnell - Ford Saturday interview

Erik Darnell, driver of the No. 96 Valvoline Ford Fusion, will make the sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series of his career on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. It will be Darnell's first career Cup start at PIR; he has two top-10 finishes in...

Erik Darnell, driver of the No. 96 Valvoline Ford Fusion, will make the sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series of his career on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. It will be Darnell's first career Cup start at PIR; he has two top-10 finishes in three career Nationwide Truck Series starts at the one-mile track. Darnell was 24th fastest during Saturday's lone practice -- weather cancelled the other one, and he says, as a young driver, he would've liked the extra track time.

THIS IS YOUR SIXTH CUP RACE, AND YOU WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TIME SHEET TODAY. IS THIS A GOOD SATURDAY FOR YOU? " Better than I've been, I guess, in the past couple of races. [Crew chief] Ben Leslie and all of the guys did a real good job with our Valvoline Fusion today. We didn't really do any race runs yesterday in practice, it was all qualifying runs to get ready for qualifying, and I think having an early draw yesterday really hurt us, didn't really put up a good lap, and it got us in the back, so we've really got to work on our race package to get it to work and run around guys and kind of move our way to the front. I think we made some good changes today. The sun came out and the track got hot and slick, I think like the race conditions are going to be tomorrow, and I think we did a pretty decent job of adjusting the car. I don't think we're quite up there with the 48 and the 5 yet -- those guys are flying around here -- but we're making improvements. We'll sit down and talk about it tonight and try to come up with a couple of more changes to help us tomorrow, and hopefully we should be good for the race."

YOU DO HAVE SOME EXPERIENCE AT THIS TRACK IN THE TRUCK SERIES, BUT AS A YOUNG DRIVER, HOW MUCH DID HAVING ONE OF TODAY'S PRACTICE SESSIONS GET RAINED OUT AFFECT YOU? WOULD LIKE TO HAVE THAT PRACTICE BACK? "I definitely would like to have it back. Not having run here in a Cup car before, this has been one of my greatest tracks -- even though we do have a couple of top-10s here in the trucks, the Truck Series is so much different than the Cup Series. It's so much more competitive over here. If you're off by a little bit, you're off by a lot, so any track time that I can get where it's going to help me out, so it is a little frustrating to lose that practice session. But, like I said, the guys did a really good job making changes to the car and getting me comfortable in it, and hopefully it will pay off tomorrow."

ARE YOU STARTING TO GET USED TO THE ROUTINE? IS THIS GETTING TO BE SECOND NATURE NOW OR IS IT STILL PRETTY NEW? "I guess it's second nature, but even though I've been to all of these tracks before in a truck, this is my first time coming to these tracks in a Cup car. And this thing drive so much differently than a truck does that it's a completely new ballgame. It takes a lot of getting used to to go out there and run one of these cars around here, so it's kind of like I'm learning everything all over again. It is, I guess, second nature coming in here and doing this. I'm getting more used to being on the Cup side, but at the same time it's like going to these tracks for the first time all over again, so I've got to learn every time we go out there. More practice probably would've been beneficial to us, but we'll take what we can get and hopefully have a good race tomorrow."

-credit: ford racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Erik Darnell