Darnell - Ford interview

This Week in Ford Racing Erik Darnell, driver of the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150, has two top-ten finishes in two career starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Darnell talks about racing on the mile-track and compares it...

This Week in Ford Racing

Erik Darnell, driver of the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150, has two top-ten finishes in two career starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Darnell talks about racing on the mile-track and compares it to the Milwaukee Mile. Darnell is seventh in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings and seeks his second win of the season.

LOUDON LOOKS LIKE IT'S SHAPED LIKE MARTINSVILLE. DOES IT RACE LIKE MARTINSVILLE? "It's kind of similar to Milwaukee, but you can run a little bit different line. At Milwaukee, you try to stay on the bottom. At Loudon, you run in the middle to the top of the track, but it has a little bit of progressive banking. It's kind of a cool place to run. I like it because you can move around out there. If your truck is not handling somewhere you can go to where to it is handling pretty well. It's been pretty good to me over the years. I've only been there twice and I've had two top-10 finishes. We had a really good run last year. We ended up finishing second and we're looking to improve on that by one this time."

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT RACING AT LOUDON? "It's a typical flat mile oval, for the most part. But I like it because there is a little bit of banking and you can move around and go where your truck is running good. I grew up racing at Milwaukee and I've done pretty well there over the years, and I think that's why I run well at Loudon because it is similar to Milwaukee."

YOU HAD A GOOD TRUCK IN MILWAUKEE. ARE YOU TAKING THE SAME TRUCK TO LOUDON IF THE TRACKS ARE THAT SIMILAR? "Possibly. The truck that we ran in Milwaukee, we also ran at Gateway. If we don't bring the Milwaukee truck, we're going to bring the truck to Loudon that we had last year, which was obviously a good truck for us. We've run it a couple times this year and it's been pretty good. We've run it on the short tracks. Since the truck looked pretty good after Gateway, we might take the Gateway truck otherwise, we'll run with the one that we ran second with last year."

WHEN RACING ONE-MILE TRACKS, DO YOU USE SHORT-TRACK SET-UPS OR INTERMEDIATE? "More toward the short-track stuff. Loudon is a big short track just like Milwaukee. It is a mile but it has relatively sharp corners and you've got a lot of hard braking there, so you've got to kind of approach it like a short track deal instead of a mile-and-a-half track. That's why we bring our short-track trucks to places like that. Aero stuff is not nearly as important at those places. Whichever truck we bring, we've got a good one that's going to be coming up there. Both of those trucks have run well for us this year and either one is going to be good."

AS THE END OF THE SEASON APPROACHES, DO YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT? "Our focus this year has been to finish in the top-five in points and contend for the championship. As strong as Johnny [Benson] has been lately, it's been pretty tough. We'll finish second or third and he'll win the race and we'll still lose points. We've been steadily losing a little bit of ground there. As we saw in the beginning of the year, anything can happen. Johnny's had bad luck at the beginning of the year. Ron [Hornaday] had some, too, and that tightens the points right back up again. We're going out there with the focus to run in the top five and win races. If we can accomplish that, we'll let everything fall where it may. Hopefully, we'll end up in the top five in points. I believe we'll end up in the top five in points and that's our main focus right now."

COMPARED TO LAST YEAR, IS THE RACING DIFFERENT? "I don't think the racing is any different. I still think you seeing some of your typical guys up front. This year has actually been a little bit different with a couple of first-time winners. The racing has been good everywhere we've gone. I think with the reduced horsepower that we've got this year compared to last year it's kind of kept the field a little bit closer. It has made it harder to pass at some tracks, but I think it's made the racing a little bit better, too. And the points are definitely tight. It goes to show that everybody has had a little bit of bad luck this year no matter how many good runs you've had. And that little bit of bad luck has kept everybody really close. I think that's the cool think about the truck series. I don't think we need any kind of chase system like the Cup guys got. We've only got 25 races and everybody goes out and runs hard every week and it makes it exciting."

WILL WE SEE A LOT OF PASSING AT LOUDON? GENERALLY PASSING IS PRETTY HARD AT SHORTER TRACKS. "Loudon is a little bit different. You do see quite a bit of passing there just because there are multiple grooves with the progressive banking. It's not like Milwaukee. Milwaukee is pretty tough to pass, just because you generally try to keep your truck on the bottom. It's tough to come off the corner and get underneath a guy or get a real good run. Loudon is a little bit different just because you've got the freedom to move around a little bit. I know we made quite a few passes there on the high side. I don't think we qualified the greatest, but we were able to move right through the field and work our way up to toward the front. I think you're going to see a little more passing at Loudon than you would at a place like Milwaukee."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Erik Darnell