Four-for-Four: Darnell Top Rookie Again at Martinsville CONCORD, NC -- For the fourth time in as many races, Erik Darnell took home top-rookie honors at Martinsville Speedway. With a strong 11th place finish in his first attempt at the famous ...
Four-for-Four: Darnell Top Rookie Again at Martinsville
CONCORD, NC -- For the fourth time in as many races, Erik Darnell took home top-rookie honors at Martinsville Speedway. With a strong 11th place finish in his first attempt at the famous half-mile speedway, Darnell now sits sixth in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points, 168 points behind points leader and teammate, Mark Martin.
Darnell and his No. 99 Simply Wow Roush Racing team were able to overcome brake problems that plagued the team in practice for a 13th place starting spot for the 250-lap event. Driving the same truck that went to Victory Lane at Martinsville last fall, Darnell felt he had the team and equipment to help overcome his lack of experience at the tough half-mile.
Darnell settled in for the first green flag run, getting a feel for how the truck handled in traffic. When the first caution flew at lap 17, Darnell told his crew that the Simply Wow Ford was tight in and loose off the corners. He was able to make the Ford F-150 work for him, but wanted to make slight adjustments at the first pit stop.
When the caution flag fell at lap 63, Darnell brought his No. 99 Ford to the attention of his Simply Wow crew for tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment to help get through the corners better. Darnell restarted the event at lap 72 in the 22nd position.
The caution would fly another four times over the next 30 laps, putting a premium on track position. Crew Chief John Quinn called Darnell to the pit when the caution came out again at lap 104, giving the Simply Wow Ford fresh tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Darnell restarted at lap 107 in the 23rd position. "The truck is decent," Darnell radioed to the crew. "I'm just trying to stay out of the wrecks and get some track position."
Different strategies would play out over the next several caution periods, allowing Darnell to pick up positions as other teams adjusted on their trucks. At lap 152, Darnell showed 18th, ready to settle in for the run to the finish.
With seemingly more caution laps than green flag racing, Darnell picked up positions when he could, and benefited from wrecks and pitting trucks to pick up positions. The No. 99 Simply Wow Ford showed 14th at lap 222, and although his F-150 was not handling ideally, Darnell made the most of it and continued to advance positions where he could. He brought the No. 99 Simply Wow Ford F-150 home in the 11th position, narrowly missing his third top-10 finish of the year.
"It was a tough weekend," said Darnell. I've never been to this track before and it's hard out there. It's a tough little race track. I'll tell you right now, even though it's 250 laps, I still don't have the hang of it yet. I have to thank my guys, because we didn't have a good truck all day and they never gave up on me and kept adjusting on the thing. To come out of here where we did, I can't complain about that. It's a really good way to start the year for me being a rookie with the team out here. We ended up with the truck in one piece, so I'm pretty happy about that. I think it was a decent points day and we'll go to Gateway from here. I've got to thank Simply Wow cleaner and degreaser for coming on board for the weekend, and we're looking forward to having them with us again at Gateway."