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Rookie Erik Darnell gets a shot at Cup, taking Bobby Labonte's ride for Atlanta and six more runs this fall

   Erik Darnell: Jack Roush gives him a big break, at Atlanta this weekend (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Looks like a changing of the guard over at Doug Yates' racing operation, with Monday's decision to put rookie Erik Darnell at the wheel of the Ford Bobby Labonte has been driving this season.
   Max Jones, Yates' partner in the two-car team, made the announcement, that Darnell, currently running the Nationwide series, will get a step up to Sprint Cup for seven of the season's final 12 events, beginning this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
   Darnell, the 26-year-old grandson of former racer Bay Darnell, will also run Yates' car at Loudon, NH., Kansas City, Talladega, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead.
   Labonte will run the car at Richmond, Dover, Fontana, Charlotte and Martinsville.
   Sponsorship issues appear part of the deal.
   "Racing in the Cup series is every driver's goal," Darnell says.
   Darnell, the Truck series' rookie of the year in 2005, has been running Nationwide this season, with five top-10s in his 11 starts.
   Labonte acknowledged the sponsorship issues: "This is a move that will be beneficial to Yates Racing surviving this difficult economic time.
   "Of course I'm disappointed 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."
   Jones pointed out that when Labonte was signed earlier this season, the one-year deal only included events where Ask.com and DLP were primary sponsors, and that there were unsponsored races. "We were left with a handful of races that have gone unsponsored to this point," Jones said. 
   "Northern Tool has been Erik's primary sponsor in both the Nationwide and Truck  series, and they were willing to help Erik 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.  We are looking forward to seeing Erik progress as a driver and hopefully become a full-time driver in the Cup Series."

  Bobby Labonte (Photo: Autostock)

      Elsewhere on the Cup tour, car owner Richard Childress and Kevin Harvick said Monday they've agreed to team again in 2010, despite reports that Harvick has been unhappy about the team's performance this season.
   "While the 2009 season has not been what any of us have wanted, Richard and I are both committed to improving the performance for the remainder of this year and the 2010 season," Harvick  said.
    "RCR continues to work on the overall performance of the team, like we are with all of our teams, and the plan is to end the season on a high note," Childress said. "Kevin and the team are also preparing for next season, with the goal of making a run at the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup series championship."
   Harvick's last win with Childress was in 2007, and the team is 24th in the standings.

  Kevin Harvick: struggling through his worst season ever in NASCAR, but sticking it out with Richard Childress in 2010 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

It's interesting that you

It's interesting that you chose a picture of Erik Darnell being introduced at The Milwaukee Mile for this story. This week we'll likely find out that NASCAR will not return to the Mile next year ... or any forseeable year after that. We already lost our Indy car date.

The previous and the current management teams of the Mile have very little knowledge of racing and too few financial resources to withstand this economy. The Wisconsin government officials who grant promotion rights have very little interest in keeping the track alive.

Sad, sad times for race fans in Milwaukee...

As hot as racing is in

As hot as racing is in Wisconsin (and I still remember those Dave Marcis snowmobile winter romps during the offseason), I cannot believe that there isn't enough pressure on the Milwaukee powers to get things straightened out.....
of course there is always the possiblity that something else is at play here: it's only two hours down to Chicagoland in Joliet....

There's been pressure, but

There's been pressure, but the pols just aren't intereted in spending any resources is saving the track. Very, very frustrating.

Well, kinda sad to see Bobby

Well, kinda sad to see Bobby Labonte out at Atlanta, where he's won several races and has consistently been strong. Plus, the consecutive start streak ending. Almost like a kick in the gut to him. Seem like of all the places, sponsorship wise or not, this is a track that would be a win/win for Yates (if they can put a decent car underneath him) vs a rookie that may not even be able to qualify the car.

Maybe Casey Mears days are numbered at RCR.
Jack Daniels' savoring to have Clint Bowyer back.
Bobby Labonte back to General Mills, a sponsor favorite while he was with the Pettys.


Tony Stewart could be luring Bobby Labonte to his camp with those championship provisionals and a former Chevy man too.

I agree. And I have found

I agree.
And I have found it quite odd that Doug Yates hasn't been able to get a solid footing as team owner. If Rick Hendrick can get Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman running so strong so quickly....
Bobby can still do the job; he's a Mark Martin type. And Bobby is a money driver: he doesn't tear up equipment....something that appeals to car owners.
Still, this is a performance driven sport, and Bobby hasn't won in several years. You've got to make headlines every now and then. Of course even David Gilliland's strong run last summer at Sonoma wasn't enough to save his ride.
It's just a hard time for sponsorship -- the rich are getting richer, and the rest of the guys, well, times are tough.

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