Darnell's win ends Skinner's streak at three

Associated Press • Apr 28, 2007 at 11:09 AM

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Erik Darnell passed a milestone and kept Mike Skinner from reaching one of his own.

Darnell picked up his first career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory Saturday at Kansas Speedway, dominating the race and snapping Skinner's string of wins at three.

"It feels awesome," said Darnell, whose best previous finish was a second at Memphis on July 15, 2006. "We've been trying so hard and we've been so close so many times, and I haven't been able to pull it off. Today, we were finally able to put all of the pieces together and then finish this thing."

A victory in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 would have given Skinner - who also won three straight truck races in 1996 - the series record. Instead, the points leader finished fifth. Ron Hornaday Jr. (1997), Greg Biffle (2000) and Todd Bodine (2005) also have won three straight races.

"You say, ‘It don't matter,' but it does - but it don't," Skinner said.

He started on the pole but fell back after taking on what he called "a horrible set of tires" during a pit stop on the 59th lap. He got as high as third late in the race before falling to fifth.

"Coming in here, we would have been tickled to death with a top-five finish - or a top-10 finish, for that matter - and to lead a lap," he said. "After practice, we felt like we had the truck to beat."

Darnell, the series' top rookie in 2006, won in his 31st career start. His win put a Ford in victory lane for the first time this year after Toyotas took the first four races.

He started 10th, led 92 of 167 laps on the 1.5-mile tri-oval and beat Rick Crawford by 10.44 seconds - the fifth-largest margin of victory in series history.

"I wasn't consistent, and he was running consistent for what he needed to run," said Crawford, who started 19th. "I ran a few laps faster than he was, but I couldn't catch him because he had too big of a lead." Darnell finished second in Friday's ARCA race - an experience that both frustrated and helped him, he said Saturday. "Had we been set up a little better, we could have won that race," he said. "I absolutely believe we should have won that race, if we would have worked on that car a little bit. So I did go out there today with the mind-set that I wanted to run well. "But I think all the laps yesterday helped me a lot," he said. "It helped me figure out the line around the track and what the changes were going to be like throughout the evening." Jack Sprague was third, followed by Johnny Benson, Skinner, Hornaday, Bodine, Aaron Fike, Terry Cook and Matt Crafton.

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