Darnell Dominates Kansas truck race
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Erik Darnell started at the back Saturday in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 Craftsman Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway. He didn't stay there long.
Darnell was impressive from the drop of the green flag, driving through the field to his first truck series victory in 31 starts. The Roush Fenway Racing driver led 92 of 167 laps on the 1.5-mile track and finished 10.440 seconds in front of runner-up Rick Crawford.
Darnell qualified in 10th position, but his No. 99 Ford was forced to start at the back of the 36-truck field for making unapproved adjustments.
"From the start, I was able to drive through the field," Darnell said. "We stalled out at about eighth or ninth place. We made our first pit stop and (crew chief) John Quinn made the right call on a change. I was able to drive past Jack Sprague for the lead. The truck was unbelievable. Anybody could have driven it."
Darnell took advantage of an early caution to pit out-of-sequence from the leaders on Lap 8. It allowed him to take the lead from Laps 60-66 during a round of green-flag stops. Darnell then pitted and was up to second behind Sprague's Toyota when another caution began on Lap 73.
Four laps after the restart, Darnell went around Sprague on the outside in Turn 4 and then led 85 of the final 86 laps. The one he didn't, 111, happened from Darnell's pit box being before the timing line at start/finish and Sprague's being beyond it when both made their final stops under yellow.
Darnell's ability to use the outside line and his truck's handling in traffic were critical to his victory.
"The second groove came in, and for me coming from the back, I had to go to the high side in the beginning," Darnell said. "I was able to get around trucks pretty easily. I was three-wide a couple of times trying to make my way up through there. The thing (truck) was so fast."
Darnell also provided Ford with its first victory of the season. Toyota had won the initial four, including the last three by Mike Skinner.
Crawford, also in a Ford, steadily advanced from 19th on the grid up to second with 33 laps remaining.
Sprague passed Skinner with seven laps to go to take third. Johnny Benson also passed Skinner in the closing stages, with 1 1/2 laps remaining, to take fourth in his Toyota.
Skinner started on the pole and led the opening 58 laps, but fell back during a round of green-flag stops and never regained the lead.