Erik Darnell, driver of the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150, was the fastest truck in Friday's Happy Hour practice at Memphis Motorsports Park. Darnell and crew chief Matt Puccia talk about practice and strategy for tomorrow night's...
Erik Darnell, driver of the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150, was the fastest truck in Friday's Happy Hour practice at Memphis Motorsports Park. Darnell and crew chief Matt Puccia talk about practice and strategy for tomorrow night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
ERIK DARNELL -- No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150
"I think our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150 is pretty good in race trim. Obviously, were not qualifying at night, so the conditions are going to be a little bit different, but we needed to get an idea of what it was going to do in qualifying trim. In the nighttime, it's pretty fast. I don't know what it is going to do tomorrow at 5:30pm. I'm more worried about how it's going to race but at the same time, you have to have a good starting spot here because track position is pretty important. It's hard to pass here. Hopefully, we'll get a good starting spot and keep it there."
IN TWO STARTS AT MEMPHIS, YOU HAVE TWO TOP-10 FINISHES. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO HAVE A SOLID RUN HERE? "Just a good handling truck and good pit stops. That really bit us last year. I think the first stop we came in fourth and went out 13th and it's hard to make that up on the track. The trucks are so close and this year having less horsepower than what we had, it makes it even harder to pass on the short tracks. We've got to have a good starting spot and have good, solid pit stops all night and I think we can be in contention for the win at the end."
DO YOU LIKE RACING SHORT TRACKS? "I do. I like Memphis. I actually raced here a couple times in a NASCAR Touring Car and I always liked racing here in those race cars. Then the first time I was here in the trucks, I finished second and had a top-10 finish last year. It's a fun track to race on. The top groove comes in a little bit during the race but if you can keep your truck rolling good on the bottom and be able to get back to the gas hard, you can usually pass guys and that's what it will take to win."
SO THIS IS A TWO-GROOVE TRACK? "During the race, the upper groove comes in a little bit, but it's still hard to make a pass out there. To really run good, you've got to be able to keep your truck right down on the bottom and get underneath guys. You can run up there a little bit during the race, but usually it gets covered with rubber and stuff and sometimes you slide up a little too high and you'll really start sliding around."
THE RADAR SHOWS THERE MIGHT BE RAIN IN THE MORNING, HOW DO YOU PREPARE AFTER HAVING A SOLID RUN TONIGHT? "Well, we hope it doesn't rain. I hope we get qualifying in, so we can get a good starting spot. I think we're eighth or ninth in owner points, but I'd rather start up a little farther than that if we can. Hopefully, the rain won't come until Sunday."
MATT PUCCIA -- No. 99 Crew chief
"I think our qualifying run is going to be good. Racing at Memphis it's all about track position because it is so hard to pass here. You've got to be able to roll center real good. We just need to start up front and keep it there. You can't fall back in the pack. You can be three- or four-tenths faster but if you're back there in 15th, you're not going to be able to do anything because it is so hard to pass. As far as our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150, we're pretty good. We can roll through the center pretty good. Hopefully we'll get a good starting spot and stay up there."
CAN YOU WIN THIS RACE ON TRACK POSITION, PIT STRATEGY OR BOTH? "I think it's really both. A lot of guys are going to play the pit strategy game and try to get that track position to get them up front. I saw that play out here last year and that was the key. If you can take rights [tires] or fuel only and get some track position, I think it's going to pay off."
WILL YOU PLAY THROUGH ALL THE SCENARIOS TONIGHT TO PREPARE FOR TOMORROW? "Oh, yeah. I'm sure I'll be up most of the night going through our strategies."
ERIK SAID HE LIKED THIS TRACK. DO YOU LIKE RACING AT MEMPHIS? "It's a good track. It kind of reminds me a little bit of Richmond. It will be a pretty exciting race tomorrow night."
-credit; ford racing