The goal of Discovery Channel's Roush Racing: Driver X was to find one driver and reward them with the opportunity of a lifetime -- a full-time ride with Roush Racing for 2006 and beyond. Thanks to the success of the show, no less than six drivers are getting the opportunity to live their dream and compete for NASCAR championships. Roush was not the only beneficiary from the program, other teams such as Robert Yates Racing picked up some of the talented drivers as well.
Erik Darnell, the winner of Driver X, had a successful debut with the Roush organization Friday night at Daytona International Speedway, finishing sixth in his first Craftsman Truck Series race at the famed speedway. Driving the No. 99 Ford F-150, Darnell will compete full-time for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors. If his strong start to the season is any indication, Darnell will give one of the largest fields of rookie competitors in Truck Series history something to shoot for. Woolrich, the Original Outdoor Clothing Company, signed on to sponsor Darnell's Daytona debut, and is looking to continue their relationship with him for 2006. While a full-time sponsor has not signed on the No. 99, the strong start to the season will undoubtedly help the effort to find a marketing partner.
Following the urging of Mark Martin, Danny O'Quinn, Jr. was placed in the No. 50 World Financial Group Ford Fusion for the 2006 NASCAR Busch Series schedule. One of the final four Driver X competitors, O'Quinn has impressed the motorsports world since being placed under a developmental contract with Roush following the Race for the Ride in 2004. O'Quinn ran a limited ARCA and Hooters Pro Cup schedule, and was invited back to compete again for the opportunity to drive for Roush Racing in 2005. The fastest driver at Martinsville, O'Quinn proved he was deserving of the opportunity to compete full-time in NASCAR.
David Ragan was selected as the co-driver of the No. 6 Scotts Miracle-Gro Ford F-150 in the Craftsman Truck Series. David was selected to compete in Driver X on the strength of his ARCA resume. Scoring one win and several top-five and top-10 finishes, it was obvious that Ragan was a young driver deserving the opportunity to showcase his talents. With Martin running one more season as a full-time NEXTEL Cup competitor but not wanting to neglect his intention to compete in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2006, a co-driver would be needed for the No. 6 F-150. Ragan had a previous relationship with Martin, as his car owner in the Legends Pro division at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Peter Shepherd, one of two international drivers selected to compete, has been tabbed to run select ARCA Series races and in the USAC Silver Crown Series in a car co-owned by Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion in the Nextel Cup Series. Shepherd recently tested for Edwards at Miami-Homestead, his first run in an open wheel vehicle. Impressed by what he saw, Edwards was quick to appoint Shepherd as his wheelman for the 2006 campaign. Shepherd will also team with the Roulo Brothers team in the ARCA series, where he will gain additional seat time in NASCAR-style stock cars.
Sondi Eden has been selected by Roush Racing's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Owner Representative Sam Belnavis to field a limited late model program at select tracks across the Southeast. The first female USAC Champion, Eden will make the transition from open wheeled cars to full-bodied stock cars in an effort backed by the National Guard. Belnavis has run a late model program under the Belnavis Racing banner for the past several years, providing opportunities for several minority drivers to showcase their talents. Eden plans to enter as many races as possible, and to gain experience in the heavy stock cars.
Matt McCall, another of the final four competitors in Driver X was selected to drive limited Busch and ARCA Series schedules for Robert Yates Racing. McCall will share driving duties of the No. 90 Ford Fusion with Nextel Cup Series driver Elliott Sadler and newcomer Stephen Leight. McCall ran the Daytona ARCA 200, where he qualified and raced up front all day, finishing in the second position.
Roush Racing's "Gong Show" has long been heralded as one of the premier driver searches in the motorsports world. 2005's Driver X field helped to solidify that reputation and will have an impact in NASCAR for years to come with the plethora of young, able talent that graduated from the program.