When the entry lists for the inaugural Short Track U.S. Nationals were released, many spent a long time looking at the long list of names. If one took a close look they’d see Erik Darnell and Danny O’Quinn’s names. At this point in time, many would probably just breeze by both drivers. But at one point, both gentlemen were considered to be the top NASCAR prospects after competing against each other on a driver development reality show called Roush Racing: Driver X.
It’s hard to believe that Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s win at Talladega Superspeedway a couple of weeks ago was the first win for Roush Fenway Racing in a few years. At one point, Roush Fenway was a powerhouse in NASCAR in every level, and was leading the charge on the driver development side as well. That led to the development of Driver X, a show that aired on the Discovery Channel and saw Darnell win in 2005, and O’Quinn finish as the runner-up.
Both drivers raced frequently in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series for a few seasons before slowly fading from the spotlight. Darnell’s last XFINITY race was in 2012, while O’Quinn’s came in 2011.
“I’m completely out of the NASCAR side of things,” Darnell told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Not to say that if given an opportunity I wouldn’t try to jump back in it, but that’s not something I’m pursuing right now. Everybody you talk to wants sponsorship money and I’m not at the point of my life, I mean I’m 34 years old right now. I had the chance to do it and it was fun and now I’m out of it.”
The Illinois driver may not be racing in NASCAR anymore, but he still lives in the hub of stock car racing in Huntersville, North Carolina. As a result, Darnell still is kept up to date on his racing news. When he heard about the Short Track U.S. Nationals, Darnell “put it on my list as one of the few races” he had to race this year.
“It’s Bristol. Just having the opportunity to race there on the NASCAR side, it was one of my favorite tracks to race at. I fell in love with the place. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
Darnell has run a few Super Late Model races with his family-owned car since stepping away of NASCAR, while O’Quinn has gotten back into the Late Model Stock Car world that helped propel him into the NASCAR limelight.
“I had a really great time getting to race at high level in NASCAR,” O’Quinn said in a press release. “I’ll never forget my first experiences in pulling out onto the tracks at places like Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Darlington Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and really all tracks. Here I was just a down-home country boy from Southwest Virginia getting to live out a dream.”
Now O’Quinn just races when he has the chance to and wants to. The Short Track U.S. Nationals was a race that he said he definitely wanted to race. He’ll be running this weekend for Highland Motorsports.
“When I first heard about the Short Track U.S. Nationals going to be held at Bristol Motor Speedway, it goes without saying that I was very excited,” said O’Quinn. “I was going to do whatever it took to be able get a car ready to race at BMS, because no way was I going to miss out on running this show. I knew this would in all likelihood turn out to be a ‘big deal,’ and I’m telling you it’s really going to be something special. This is not going to be just your normal Friday or Saturday night race at a local short-track, because this isn’t just any normal short-track – it’s the legendary Bristol Motor Speedway.”
The inaugural Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway takes place May 19-21. Speed51 TV, the live broadcasting arm of Speed51.com, will broadcast the event live via pay-per-view on May 20 and May 21. A special “Early-bird” rate of $44.99 is available until May 19 by clicking here.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com