ARCA driver Steve Arpin will make his NASCAR debut next weekend at Talladega when he drives the No. 7 car for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series, JRM co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. told SBNation.com on Friday.
Arpin, a 26-year-old Canadian, will also run the Richmond race in JRM’s 7 car the following week. Landon Cassill was originally scheduled to drive the Talladega and Richmond races but will return at Dover.
The move follows a tumultuous week at JRM, which saw No. 88 driver Kelly Bires released from his ride due to chemistry issues.
Jamie McMurray will drive nine races in JRM’s No. 88 as the team tests new drivers in the No. 7 during Danica Patrick’s absence.
Arpin will be given an opportunity to prove himself, along with Cassill and perhaps some others.
“With the way the Bires deal went down, we’re sitting there going, ‘Look, man, we don’t want people to just think we’re going to plug Jamie in and coast to the end of the season,’” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We want to find the next talented driver that can work for our program.”
Arpin was interviewed by JRM to be the No. 88’s driver in the offseason, but ultimately the team chose Bires. Now he’ll get his first chance at Talladega, which Earnhardt Jr. said is “probably baptism by fire.” But it won’t be his only opportunity.
Cassill will still get a shot, too. Earnhardt Jr. said he looks forward to seeing more of Cassill in the future.
“If (Cassill) can do these kind of top-15, top-10 things, it buys him more of these opportunities,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “A lot of people love Landon because of how nice he is, how easygoing he is.”
Earnhardt Jr. said Cassill had sponsorship from GoDaddy.com at Phoenix and Dover, and the team was going to let him drive the unsponsored races in between (the No. 7's driver at Darlington has not yet been determined).
“But you’ve got Steve Arpin out there, who Carl Edwards said is incredible and who Mark (Martin) told me he’d put up against anybody on dirt in America, so you want to get that guy in there, too,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Maybe he’s the guy who can get in there and drive that 88 for Tony (Eury) Sr.”
Cassill said he understood he needed to simply make the most of every opportunity he had.
“I wish I was in the race car, but I just need to take advantages of the chances that I’ve got right now to drive,” Cassill said.