WHO IS ERIK DARNELL?

Wrestling and NASCAR have a lot in common. Made-up drama for the sake of ratings. Questionable finishes. Random people coming out of nowhere to the surprise of fans. So in honor of The Rock, I must ask the following question: Who in the blue hell is Erik Darnell?



As you read earlier this week, Darnell will take over Bobby Labonte’s ride for seven races this season. Labonte owns a Sprint Cup title, so the person who replaces him must be chopped liver, right? Consider this:

NASCAR.com does not list Darnell as a driver in the Nationwide Series, where he has run 10 races this season with four top-10 finishes and one pole. Darnell’s own Web site fails to list his next race at his Sprint Cup debut in Atlanta. It also fails to mention any of his races with the Truck Series where he finished fourth in points in 2008. Maybe not chopped liver, but certainly not chopped bologna or pickled ham.

Donning my news fedora, I uncovered that Darnell started three full seasons in the (insert sponsorship here) Truck Series, earning two wins, 16 top-5 finishes and the 2006 Rookie of the Year award. His bio touts his love of racing from infancy, literally.

"At only eight weeks old, Erik was given his first exposure to the racing world when he was brought to the Mecca of stock car racing, Daytona International Speedway. While most children were left to the care of their mothers while their fathers worked on the cars, Erik’s story was a little different. ‘I was right there with everyone,’ he said. ‘They had me propped up in a box, in the back of the truck so I could see what was going on.’"

Darnell competed with 24 other drivers in Roush Fenway Racing’s "Race for the Ride." While he didn’t win, he did earn a development deal. RFR has a partnership with Hall of Fame Racing and Robert Yates Racing. The experience created relationships that will yield the whippersnapper his first Sprint Cup start this weekend.