Late-Race Charge Earns Darnell Top Honors at Kentucky
Frank Kimmel Leads Championship Standings by 30 Points after Kentucky
Erik Darnell in victory lane. (ARCA Photos)
Erin Crocker was less than six laps from being the first female winner in ARCA RE/MAX Series history. But it was not to be, compliments of a hard-charging Erik Darnell, who passed Crocker on the 95th circuit of the 100-lap race to win the Buckle-Up Kentucky 150 Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.
Darnell, in the Roush Racing Simply Wow Ford, pitted for fuel and tires with twelve laps remaining and then made some bold maneuvers to work his way from ninth to first in very short order.
"We knew we were going to be close on fuel inside 20 to go so when we saw that last caution we decided to come in for fuel and tires," said Darnell. "When Erin got the green with twelve to go she got a very good start and I wasn't sure whether or not I would be able to catch her. Jeff Campey, my crew chief, and Shane the car chief, did an excellent job. The Simply Wow Ford Fusion was fast from the start. I kind of kicked myself that we didn't do better in qualifying. We came here and tested and I knew from that point on that we were going to have a pretty good car in the race."
Darnell's victory marked the seventh different winner in seven events so far in 2007. The series record was set in 2006 with 17 different winners in 23 races.
Crocker, in the Mac Tools-Mac Card Dodge, finished second about five lengths away from the winner. "I feel good," said Crocker. "Obviously I'm a little bit disappointed but I know it was close and I thank the guys; I thank Mac Tools and the whole team. It's a great opportunity and we're so close to a win. It can happen. Darnell was fast all day. Fast in practice, fast in qualifying, but
yeah, he pitted on that last stop. He came from ninth. He made his way through traffic real fast and I was hoping that he wouldn't have enough time to catch up to me but it didn't work out that way."
Crocker's runner-up run tied her career-best giving the Wilbraham, Massachusetts driver her third career ARCA RE/MAX Series second place finish.
Bobby Santos III finished third in the Bill Davis Trucking Toyota, marking the highest finish by the Toyota nameplate in ARCA RE/MAX Series history.
I'm pretty happy," said Santos. "It's the first time we finished a race so we have something to work with now. We're just looking forward to the next couple of races. The pit strategy changed a bunch along the way. I felt like we had a fifth place car but awesome pit strategy by the crew chief got us a third place finish."
Scott Lagasse finished fourth in the Juicy Fruit Dodge after leading four laps. Chad Blount, in the Jones Group Dodge, finished fifth.
Michael McDowell, who earned his third career SIM Factory Pole Award, led the first four laps before Darnell took control. Darnell then dominated with 80 laps-led over Crocker, who led 12.
Erin Crocker just missed becoming the first female winner in the ARCA RE/MAX Series.
The 100-lap race was slowed by six cautions for 45 laps. ARCA RE/MAX Series regular Gabi DiCarlo was transported to a local hospital following an on-track incident on lap 77. DiCarlo, of Phoenix, Arizona, was able to exit her No. 90 Great Clips Ford under her own power following the incident. After being examined at the infield care center, she was transported via ambulance for further evaluation.
Jesus Hernandez, making his career-first series start, finished sixth in the Waste Management Chevrolet ahead of Matt Hagans, who finished seventh in his own Eagle Creek Aviation Dodge. Phillip McGilton, in the Midwest Equipment Ford, finished eighth, earning the Highest Finishing Rookie of the Race honors. Patrick Sheltra, in the FloraGanics-Brady Ranch Chevrolet, charged from 23rd to ninth, earning the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger of the Race award. Justin Allgaier, in the AG Tech-Hoosier Midwest-Trashman-USAF Chevrolet, finished tenth.
From Kentucky, the ARCA RE/MAX Series heads to hometown turf for the Hantz Group 200 presented by Federated Car Care at Toledo Speedway. The short track thriller is LIVE on SPEED beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 20, 2007. Tickets are available by calling (419) 727-1100.