BUSCH: Darnell, Ragan - Roush Racing spotlight

ROUSH'S NEWEST STARS SHINING BRIGHT Concord, N.C. (November 7, 2006) - Since participating in the "Roush Racing: Driver X" show, Roush Racing's newest stars have nearly one full-season under their belts. Over the past 12 months Danny...

ROUSH'S NEWEST STARS SHINING BRIGHT

Concord, N.C. (November 7, 2006) - Since participating in the "Roush Racing: Driver X" show, Roush Racing's newest stars have nearly one full-season under their belts. Over the past 12 months Danny O'Quinn Jr., Erik Darnell and David Ragan have had their share of ups and downs but overall they are wrapping up the 2006 season on a positive note.

O'Quinn, a native of Coeburn, Va., has made tremendous strides in the No. 50 World Financial Group Ford Fusion throughout the year. In just 31 career Busch Series starts, O'Quinn has accrued one top five and five top 10 finishes while finishing 93 percent of total laps run this season. Not bad considering that on average O'Quinn competes against roughly 14 full-time NEXTEL Cup drivers each Busch race.

O'Quinn has finished all but two of his races running at the checkered flag; the two races being Talladega and the second Daytona race where everyone is susceptible to being caught in the "big one" at any time. O'Quinn currently sits 18th in the overall point standing and is tied with veteran NEXTEL Cup driver John Andretti in the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year standings. O'Quinn, a fan and media favorite, is looking forward to the remaining two races and realizes he still has a lot of hard work ahead of him.

"The second half of the year has definitely gone well for the World Financial Group team," said O'Quinn. "We are really working well together and going to some of these tracks for the second time is a big plus. I had a major learning curve at the beginning of the season and that hurt us at first but we are pulling out of that. We have begun to meet the goals we set out at the beginning of the season and are in the hunt for the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year honors. So all in all I've had a decent year but just like any driver I want to do better, so the team and I will work hard to win the Rookie-of-the-Year and propel the team upward in the points."

Owner Jack Roush placed two rookies in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this year. Behind the wheel of the No. 99 Northern Tools + Equipment F-150 is Darnell while Ragan splits time between the No. 6 Scotts F-150 and the No. 50 Purpose Money F-150.

Darnell, the overall winner of "Driver X", has demonstrated that he can run with the best of the best in his first season of competition. In 23 starts Darnell's patience and persistence have garnered him three top five and ten top 10 finishes while winning his first pole at Nashville Superspeedway in August. Currently 13th in the overall points, Darnell leads the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year point standings for the Truck Series and looks to be a runaway winner.

"Our main goal was to win Rookie-of-the-Year and it looks like we're going to accomplish that." Darnell continued, "We've not run as well as I think we could have at a few of the tracks, but overall we've had a pretty good 2006. We've experienced some rookie struggles but I think we're well on our way to running more consistent. With Northern Tool + Equipment, we're looking to end this year on a high note and head into next year and contend for the championship."

Also in the Truck Series is rookie Ragan. In 18 starts Ragan has chalked up one pole, one top five and eight top 10 finishes on his way to being announced as the replacement for Mark Martin in the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion beginning in 2007. A daunting task for the 20 year old Unadilla, Ga. native who was wondering just one year ago what his future would hold.

"A lot has changed since this time last year," said Ragan. "I think that so far in 2006, we've struggled some, but we've also run really well. Obviously being chosen as the driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion for 2007 has been a huge honor and something that I never would have expected one year ago. I've been given a tremendous opportunity here at Roush Racing and I'm very fortunate to be in the situation I'm in today."

As for expectations set forth for these three drivers, Ragan said it best, "Jack and his people expect the best out of you and will settle for nothing less. The expectations I feel that are placed on me are to show progress and become a better driver."

Look for Ragan, O'Quinn and Darnell to do just that; become better drivers. It won't be long before these three stand-outs are adding to the winning tradition of one of NASCAR's most successful teams, Roush Racing.

-credit: rr

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Series NASCAR-NS , NASCAR-TRUCK