SBD/Issue 240/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Erik Darnell Replaces Bobby Labonte Due To Lack Of Sponsorship

Darnell Will Race In Seven
Of Remaining 12 Cup Races
A "sponsorship shortfall" is forcing Yates Racing to replace Bobby Labonte with Erik Darnell in the No. 96 Sprint Cup entry for "seven of the final 12 ... races this season," according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. Darnell will make his Cup series debut at Sunday's Pep Boys 500 and "will be sponsored by Academy Sports & Outdoors." The company also will sponsor Darnell at the November 1 and November 8 Cup races. Northern Tool & Equipment, which sponsored Darnell in nine Nationwide Series races this year, will be the primary sponsor for the September 20 and October 4 Cup events. Yates Racing co-Owner & GM Max Jones said the move away from Labonte "wasn't based on performance." Jones: "We were left with a handful of races that have gone unsponsored. Northern Tool has been Erik's primary sponsor in the Nationwide and truck series, and they were willing to help" (USA TODAY, 9/1). Ask.com signed a deal before the season to sponsor at least 18 races with Labonte in the No. 96 car (THE DAILY). Jones said that Yates Racing is "working hard" on getting sponsorships for next season. He added that Paul Menard "will be back in the No. 98 Ford, and that Yates wants to run two cars." Jones noted that Yates would prefer to have three Cup entries, but the "main issue is dollars to fund" a third car. Jones: "We're still looking for money. This is an opportunity to shake things up, and get some new sponsors on our cars and a different driver in them" (ESPN.com, 8/31).

OTHER DRIVER NEWS: In Charlotte, Jim Utter reports Penske Racing has officially signed driver Brad Keselowski to drive the No. 12 Sprint Cup entry beginning next season. Keselowski will "also compete next season fulltime in Nationwide for Penske" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 9/1). Meanwhile, Richard Childress Racing announced that driver Kevin Harvick "will return next year" to the No. 29 Sprint Cup car. NASCAR SCENE's Bob Pockrass noted Harvick, who currently sits 24th in the standings, last month indicated he "would neither confirm nor deny reports he has asked out of his contract, which runs through next season." Shell's sponsorship contract with RCR also expires after next season (SCENEDAILY.com, 8/31).

A FITTING TRIBUTE: On Long Island, Michael Frazier reports a NASCAR race car "custom-painted in tribute of the 2001 terror attack victims was unveiled Monday in Manhattan near Ground Zero." The car, which bears the inscription "Always Remember" and a "9/11 logo for the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum," will be driven by Benny Gordon at the Nationwide Series race at Richmond Int'l Raceway on September 11. National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum President Joe Daniels: "This car presents a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness about the national 9/11 memorial" (NEWSDAY, 9/1).

RIDING THE WAVE: Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) and driver Patrick Carpentier have signed sponsorship with Wave Energy Drink for six Sprint Cup races this season for TBR's No. 36 car. The agreement begins with Sunday's Pep Boys 500 and continues for the next five races (SCENEDAILY.com, 8/31).

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