Erik Darnell Off and Running in NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Action DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (April 29, 2004)--For the past several seasons, NASCAR has been striving towards putting its late model, tour-type cars, on the race track, under the same...
Erik Darnell Off and Running in NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Action
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (April 29, 2004)--For the past several seasons, NASCAR has been striving towards putting its late model, tour-type cars, on the race track, under the same rules, on the same tire and run under the same procedures and same sponsor. And as the 2004 campaign gets under way, the pieces have successfully come together in the form of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division.
The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division has brought late model racing to common ground, and a common sponsor, to the Northwest, Southwest, Midwest and Southeast. And no driver has taken advantage of the new structure like 21-year-old Erik Darnell (AMI Trailer Leasing Chevrolet).
Darnell was at Phoenix International Raceway in January when the Southwest Series got its 2004 season underway. On April 4, Darnell had a 10th place run at the Midwest Series opener at Rockford (Ill) Speedway. And two weeks later he drove off with a fifth place run at Nashville's Music City Motorplex in the Southeast Series lid lifter. Even more impressive was the runner up finish Darnell posted in the second race of the season for the Southeast Series, April 24 at Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway.
The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division was designed as a proving ground to give drivers an opportunity to travel to other regions of the country, with the same car, and broaden their racing resume. Midwest Series drivers Brian Hoppe (Gildan Activewear Chevrolet), Eddie Hoffman (Lisa Thomas Salon
Chevrolet) and Tim Schendel (Mathews Archery Chevrolet) have taken advantage of the Elite Division format and traveled to other regions of the country, but no one has taken it to the level that Darnell has.
"We're really starting to get our program together," said Darnell. "When we started this three years ago, the only place we ran well was the big tracks.
But now we're really starting to get our short-track program together. And I think that is a direct result of running a bunch of different tracks, getting a bunch of laps and just learning."
Darnell's 2004 racing plans call for him to compete in the full Midwest Series and as much of the Southeast Series as possible.
"We definitely plan on running the whole Midwest Schedule and we'll see where the Southeast Series takes us," said Darnell. "We went to Nashville and ran decent. We said if we ran good there, we'd go to Hickory. And if we run good there, we'll go on from there and see where it takes us in the Southeast Series points."
Based on the fact that Darnell currently sits second in the Southeast Series standings, look for him to be at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, in Greenville, S.C. May 1 and Houston (Tex.) Motorsports Park on May 8 before heading back north and turning his attention to the Midwest Series, May 31 at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna..