May 11, 2011

2007 marked the first year that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series would visit Kansas Speedway in the spring, moving from its traditional Independence Day weekend. While the earlier date made for cooler temperatures, the racing remained red-hot.

Veteran racer and truck series legend, Mike Skinner had run well several times in the event and was eager to break into the win column.  The Californian’s chances improved tremendously when he grabbed his third consecutive pole of the season, posting an average lap of 170.729 mph.

The 2006 truck series rookie of the year, Erik Darnell, who nearly won the ARCA event the day before, was hoping that his double-duty would pay off. After qualifying a respectable 10th, the Roush-Fenway driver was forced to start from the tail of the field due to an unapproved adjustment.

When the green flag fell, Skinner would jump out to an early and sustained advantage, leading the first 58 laps. Darnell though, had been consistently working through the field and making positive changes to his truck. For Skinner, “a small adjustment” and one bad pit stop would ruin his day.

The second half of the race was all Darnell. The 24-year-old led a race high, 92 laps including the final 55. The margin of victory over Rick Crawford was 10.440-seconds – the fifth largest in series history.

Darnell’s trip to Gatorade Victory Lane was the first of his career in a NASCAR national touring division. The Illinois native also became the fourth different winner under the age of 25 at Kansas Speedway, not to mention the seventh series winner overall at the 1.5-mile tri-oval. 

“It feels awesome. 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,” said the first-time winner. “Today we were finally able to put all the pieces together and finish this thing.”

Jack Roush, Darnell’s team owner, collected his series leading 44th win and his third at Kansas Speedway. Roush had previously celebrated back-to-back wins at Kansas Speedway with Jon Wood (2003) and Carl Edwards (2004).

Darnell’s Kansas win would be his only one of the year. However, his three top five and eight top-10 finishes would be enough for him to secure a 12th-place points finish. Kevin Harvick Inc. driver, Ron Hornaday Jr. collected his third truck series title in 2007, his previous coming in 1996 and 1998. Willie Allen would receive rookie of the year honors.