Dominant Darnell Wins ARCA RE/MAX Series "Buckle-Up Kentucky 150"
Roush-Fenway Racing prodigy Erik Darnell led 80 of 100 laps en route to guiding his No. 99 Ford to his first Kentucky Speedway and ARCA RE/MAX Series win by 3.206 seconds over Evernham Motorsports driver Erin Crocker in front of 16,221 fans tonight.
Bobby Santos, III (No. 02 Bill Davis Trucking Toyota) placed third, Scott Lagasse, Jr., (No. 4 Cunningham Motorsports Dodge) finished fourth and Chad Blount (No. 30 Jones Group Dodge) closed out the race top five.
"When a car's like that, it definitely makes my job a lot easier," Darnell said. "(Crew Chief) Jeff Campey and all the guys did a great job putting this car together. We were close (to) a (win) couple weeks ago at Kansas (Speedway) and couldn't pull it off, so we came here tonight with a little better car. I think it showed. The Simply Wow Cleaner & Degreaser Ford Fusion was just fast tonight."
Darnell started the race fifth and led 51 circuits from Lap 32 to 82 before surrendering the race lead to Crocker on Lap 83 in favor of a pit stop after Gabi DiCarlo brought out the sixth caution period of the race when her No. 90 Great Clips Ford made contact with the wall at the exit of Turn 3 on Lap 81.
The race restarted on Lap 89 with Darnell in ninth. He maintained pace with Crocker and passed her on the low line coming out of Turn 3 with four laps remaining in the race.
"That last restart was where I knew I was going to have to make up some spots," Darnell said. "Some of those guys in front of me didn't protect the outside line. I was able to get a good restart and make up some room before we even got to Turn 1.
"They stacked up a bit in the middle in one and two and I had to get on the brakes to avoid hitting some of those guys, but we got our momentum back and were able to drive on up there."
Crocker, who elected to keep her car on the racetrack during the final caution period to attempt to become the first female race winner in speedway and series history, earned her second second-place series finish at Kentucky Speedway through three starts.
"Our crew chief made the call to stay out and it was a good call," she said. "I thought we had some room at the end, then, he (Darnell) was a few cars back and coming.
"I knew he had very fresh tires compared to me, but I didn't know how much of a difference it would make. I just gave it all I had and hoped for the best."
Defending series champion and four-time Kentucky Speedway winner Frank Kimmel (No. 46 Tri-State Motorsports-Pork Ford) maintained his series points lead despite his 12th-place "Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" finish that marked the second time this season he placed outside a race Top 10 through seven starts.
"We made an error not putting on tires on the last pit stop (during the final caution period). When I looked up and saw everybody duck down behind me and saw that they took on tires, I knew I was in trouble," he said.
The series moves to Toledo Speedway for its next event May 20.
Kentucky Speedway will continue its season May 26 with the grassroots "Frank Kimmel Enduro Nationals" followed by the June 15-16 weekend featuring "ClearChannel Cincinnati Fanfest" and the "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" NASCAR Busch Series race.
Tickets for all speedway events are on sale now and can be reserved through online at http://www.kentuckyspeedway.com, by phone at 888-652-RACE (7223), through Tickets.com outlets including Meijer stores and at the Kentucky Speedway ticket offices located in the Sparta, Ky., Fan Center off of Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 North as well as the administrative office at 400 Buttermilk Pike, Suite 400, in Ft. Mitchell, Ky.
Story by Mike Schmaltz
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