Max Jones, co-owner of Yates Racing, has revealed that former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie-of–the-year and current Nationwide Series driver Erik Darnell will be behind the wheel of the #96 entry in the Sprint Cup for seven races of the remaining races this season.
Darnell will make his senior series debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway over the Labour Day weekend, driving the Academy Sports & Outdoors-backed Ford Fusion. He is also slated to pilot the #96 at Loudon, Kansas, Talladega, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead before the end of the year. He will carry the colours of Northern Tool + Equipment for the Loudon and Kansas races, while Academy Sports & Outdoors will be onboard at Atlanta, Talladega and Texas.
“Racing in the Cup Series is every driver's goal," Darnell admitted, "It is where the best of the best compete and I am looking forward to racing against those guys. I'm excited that Northern Tool + Equipment will be able to make the jump with me, and that Academy Sports & Outdoors has agreed to sponsor me as well. I am confident that this team can give both of these great sponsors good runs in these upcoming races.”
Regular pilot Bobby Labonte will continue to race the #96 Ford Fusion under the Hall of Fame Racing banner with Ask.com and DLP as his primary sponsors at Richmond, Dover, Fontana, Charlotte and Martinsville.
“This is a move that will be beneficial to Yates Racing surviving this difficult economic time,” the veteran revealed, “Of course, I'm disappointed that the sponsorship environment is so challenging right now, but I intend to make the most out of the remaining races that I'm behind the wheel for Ask.com, DLP and Hall of Fame Racing.”
Darnell has run three full Camping World Series seasons and scored three poles and two wins, winning rookie-of-the-year honours in 2005. He has just eleven starts in the Nationwide Series, but has so far achieved one pole, two top-five and five top-ten finishes.
“Yates Racing and Hall of Fame have a one-year agreement that committed the team to field Bobby Labonte in the races where Ask.com and DLP were the primary sponsors," Jones revealed, "Not all the Sprint Cup races were sponsored and Yates Racing took the sole risk for finding sponsors for those races.
“We were left with a handful of races that have gone unsponsored to this point, but Northern Tool has been Erik's primary sponsor in both the Nationwide and Truck Series, and they were willing to help him and Yates Racing this year. We believe Erik is an extremely talented driver, ready for a shot at racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and we are looking forward to seeing him progress as a driver and hopefully become a full-time driver in the Cup Series.”