As we approach the final stretch run of the 2010 Nationwide Series schedule, expect there to be more driver shuffling within Roush Fenway Racing’s NNS program. We’re hearing that both Matt Kenseth and Erik Darnell will get starts in the team’s #16 Fords in the upcoming races. Kenseth ran two NNS races for this team early in the season, and Darnell hasn’t made any starts in 2010.
We’ve talked quite a bit about the RFR Nationwide teams this season (here and here), because of the team’s commitment to developing drivers and because of the team’s turmoil. What were supposed to be full seasons for both Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Colin Braun, have since turned into partial seasons. A rash of bad luck, torn up equipment, and opportunities to run other drivers were the reasons why. We’ve seen no less then five drivers make starts in the #6 and #16 (Stenhouse, Braun, Kenseth, Brian Ickler, and Billy Johnson), and Darnell will make it six.
If you’ll remember, Erik Darnell has been with the Roush organization since the 2004 season. He was the winner of Roush’s famous “Gong Show” in 2005, which was televised that year and put on the Discovery Channel as “Driver X.” Darnell then ran full seasons in the Truck Series for Roush from 2006 to 2008. For the 2009 season he moved up to the Nationwide Series and split the #6 ride with driver David Ragan. In 16 starts he earned two top five and five top ten finishes and had one pole. He was also given the opportunity to run seven Cup Series races for Yates/Hall of Fame Racing in the #96 in place of Bobby Labonte, getting a best finish of 29th at Kansas. A lack of sponsorship dollars has forced him to sit out much of the 2010 season.
Going forward, many questions still plague the RFR Nationwide program for the 2011 season. We’ve heard that as of right now, the team may only run two cars next season, with Carl Edwards comitting to another full schedule. The team will suffer with the loss of Paul Menard and his money to RCR/KHI for next season, and the struggles for both Braun and Stenhouse will probably mean the second car may be driven by a round robin of Cup and development drivers.