St. Louis: Erik Darnell race notes

Strong Run Ended Early for Darnell CONCORD, N.C.-What started as a strong weekend for Erik Darnell and the No. 99 Simply Wow Ford F-150 came to a quick end at Gateway International Raceway on Saturday night after contact from another truck sent...

Strong Run Ended Early for Darnell

CONCORD, N.C.-What started as a strong weekend for Erik Darnell and the No. 99 Simply Wow Ford F-150 came to a quick end at Gateway International Raceway on Saturday night after contact from another truck sent Darnell spinning to an early exit.

Darnell went into the weekend with a sense of confidence, going to the racetrack for the first time in 2006 having previous experience to fall back on. Having competed at Gateway in the '05 ARCA race, Darnell felt the No. 99 team would be able to improve on its already strong start in the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season.

The weather played a factor all day Saturday, limiting on-track activity to a single one-hour practice before lining the starting field up by '06 owners point standings. The No. 99 team worked feverishly in practice to get a solid setup under the Simply Wow Ford, one they hoped would be able to capitalize on their sixth place starting position.

Darnell showed at the drop of the green flag that he would be a contender, improving to the third position on lap two. Positions jockeyed early, but the No. 99 firmly held its place inside the top-10. Darnell reported to the crew that the truck was sliding the nose, and they would have to attempt to help the front end grip better.

Darnell and crew chief John Quinn agreed to leave the No. 99 Simply Wow Ford on the track through the first few caution periods, wanting to get an understanding of what the truck was doing, and what changes would be needed to help it make a run to the front. The decision was made to pit the truck during the third caution period on lap 29 for tires, fuel and a spring rubber added to the right front. Darnell would restart the race at lap 35 in the 28th position.

"The truck is much better now, that helped it a bunch," radioed Darnell on lap 42 as he moved to the 23rd spot. The No. 99 would stay on track for the next cycle of pit stops, and would show third on lap 48 when most of the field came in for additional service on their trucks.

Darnell moved to a race-high second position on lap 57, and maintained his position over the next 30 laps. The No. 99 Simply Wow Ford F-150 appeared to be establishing itself as a contender for the race win, when on lap 105 the No. 22 of Bill Lester got into the back of Darnell and sent him careening to the outside wall. The damage to the No. 99 was too severe to return to the track, relegating the Simply Wow Ford to a 31st-place finish.

"I felt like I got turned around by the 22 getting into the corner," said Darnell. "That's about all I can say. I just got hit square from behind entering turn one. Unfortunately, it turned us around and put us up in the wall. We weren't that great in practice this morning, but the crew threw some stuff at it before the race. We ran up front there for a while, we pitted early and came back through and we were running up front again. I just hate it for all of the guys, they worked really hard today. I've got to thank Simply Wow for coming on board with us tonight. Our Ford F-150 was strong, we just didn't make it to the end."

Darnell and the No. 99 team will head to Lowes Motor Speedway on May 19th for the Quaker Steak and Lube 200. Darnell enters the event 12th in points, 230 points behind the leader. Darnell currently leads the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings by 22 points over Kyle Krisiloff.

Roush Racing is a subsidiary of Livonia, Mich., based Roush Enterprises which operates 14 motorsports teams; five in NASCAR Nextel Cup 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, Jr., and two in the Craftsman Truck Series with Martin, David Ragan and Erik Darnell.

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Greg Biffle , Jamie McMurray , Kyle Krisiloff , Bill Lester , Carl Edwards , Todd Kluever , Erik Darnell , Danny O'Quinn , Mark Martin