Erik Darnell will replace Bobby Labonte next weekend at Atlanta and at other six Sprint Cup Series events, Yates Racing has announced.
Darnell, a former Truck Series Rookie of the Year with Roush Fenway Racing, will drive Yates Racing's # 96 Ford at Atlanta, Loudon, Kansas, Talladega, Texas, Phoenix and the season-finale at Homestead.
Yates, which operates the car for Hall of Fame Racing, didn't have the whole season funded and Roush Fenway Racing, with whom they have technical and other operational links, was able to find sponsorship for those events and put their driver behind the wheel.
The 26-year-old, who will make his Sprint Cup Series debut next weekend at Atlanta, has two wins in the Truck Series and finished fourth in the championship last season. This year he has competed in ten Nationwide Series races, scoring top-5 finishes at Darlington and Milwaukee.
"Racing in the Cup series is every driver's goal," Darnell said. "The Cup series is where the best of the best compete and I am looking forward to racing against those guys. I'm excited that Northern Tool and Equipment will be able to make the jump with me and that Academy Sports and Outdoors has agreed to sponsor me as well."
Labonte, a former Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Champion, will continue to race the car at Richmond, Dover, Fontana, Charlotte and Martinsville. He said he understands the circumstances that force him to sit out those seven races, bringing a string of uninterrupted participations since his first full season in 1993 to an abrupt end.
"This is a move that will be beneficial to Yates Racing surviving this difficult economic time," said Labonte. "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's Cup debut comes at a critical time of the season as a number of drivers are trying to secure their place in the Chase for the championship.