* ERIK DARNELL will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway behind the wheel of the No. 96 Academy Sports+ Outdoors Ford Fusion. * DARNELL AT ATLANTA... Darnell has only six starts at Atlanta...
* ERIK DARNELL will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway behind the wheel of the No. 96 Academy Sports+ Outdoors Ford Fusion.
* DARNELL AT ATLANTA... Darnell has only six starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, all in the NASCAR Camping World Series, but has earned one top-five and three top-10 finishes.
* LAPS... In his six NCWTS races at Atlanta, Darnell completed 776 of 785 (99.9%) of the laps he attempted. He has led nine laps at the 1.5-mile track.
* ON THE TRACK...The No. 96 will sport the colors of Academy Sports + Outdoors for the Pep Boys Auto 500. Academy will also be the primary sponsor of the No. 96 at Talladega and Texas later this season.
* SEVEN RACES IN 2009... Darnell will be behind the wheel of the No. 96 entry for seven races this season. Besides this weekend at Atlanta, he also is slated to pilot the No. 96 at Loudon, Kansas, Talladega, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. Darnell will carry the familiar colors of Northern Tool + Equipment for the Loudon and Kansas races. Academy Sports + Outdoors will be Darnell's primary sponsor at Atlanta, Talladega and Texas.
* IMPRESSIVE IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES... In the Nationwide Series, Darnell has just 11 starts, but so far has achieved one pole, two top-five and five top-10 finishes -- he has led 20 laps.
Erik Darnell on his Cup Series debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
"Racing in the Cup Series is every driver's goal. The Cup Series is where the best of the best compete and I am looking forward to racing against those guys. Physically I know I can go the distance and manage 500 miles at Atlanta. But, I'm not kidding myself, the competition is going to be a lot more intense and staying focused will the biggest challenge. Yeah, I'm a "rookie" in the Cup Series, but I've raced most of my life. I've raced against some of the most competitive racers in the Truck Series and even some in the Nationwide Series -- so, even though Sunday will be a new experience for me, I feel like I've earned this opportunity and I'm ready to go race.
"I'm happy to be making my start at Atlanta. I really like that place a lot. The track is old and worn, so if you're racing one line and it doesn't suit you, you can move to another line since there is more than one groove there. But, whether you run high or low, the track is fast and that makes it a cool place."
Crew chief Ben Leslie on racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
"I believe Erik is an extremely talented driver, ready for a shot at racing in the Cup Series. I've watched him come through the ranks and feel like he has the ability to go out there and be competitive. Obviously, with a rookie, we aren't expecting a win or even a top five out of the box, but a good solid run would be ideal. I think if we can manage that this weekend and build some confidence in Erik, as well as the team, things should be good for the rest of the season."