In 2005, 25 young short track drivers got a chance of a lifetime thanks to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner Jack Roush. It was an open opportunity to battle head-to-head against each other in a quest for a full time ride in the NASCAR Truck Series. What made the competition more appealing to America was the presence of media at the event. The Discovery Channel filmed the entire events and made it into a documentary reality series called Driver X: The Race For The Ride. click here to see a Discovery Channel video of Driver X
Some fans may have forgotten who were the key players in the show and what have they done since? Speed51.com spent some time researching the drivers and took a look at what they are up too and how there racing career has progressed.
Since his days on Roush Racing’s Gong Show, Justin Allgaier has continued to climb the ladder through the ranks of racing. Allgaier was running a limited ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule with his family-owned team in 2005 when he took part in the Driver X competition and was awarded the American Spirit Award by his sponsor at the time, the United States Air Force, for exhibiting continued support and service to the country that very same season.
In the years following his appearance on the Discovery Channel series, Allgaier earned the 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series championship after winning six of the 21 races in the season and it wasn’t long before he was signed to Penske Racing to pilot the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2009. In that role, he won the 2009 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year award.
Tim Andrews, son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Crew Chief Paul Andrews, has added racing in several competitive series like the Camping World East Series, the ARCA RE/MAX Series, Camping World Trucks, and most recently the NASCAR Nationwide Series to his resume since his stint on the Gong Show.
After finding success in the beginner ranks of NASCAR competition, Andrews signed on with Rick Ware Racing to run four races of the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series season. Unfortunately, he was able to compete in all four shows where he had an average finish of 23rd.
Chuck Barnes Jr.
Before making his television debut in the Discovery Channel special “Driver X,” Chuck Barnes Jr. was named the 2003 CRA Super Series rookie of the year. The, he won the series points championship the following year.
Since the conclusion of the 2005 Roush Racing Gong Show, Barnes has continued in the Super Late Model ranks. The Louisville, Kentucky native also won in his first ever ARCA RE/MAX Series event at the Toledo Speedway in September of 2006.
Recently though, Barnes' starts have been few and far between. With money running low for his family's racing operation, Barnes has taken a few rides in the Justin Drawdy-owned #12 Super Late Model. He's also expressed a willingness to try and mentor young drivers in the sport.
Since his time on the Gong Show, Sam Beam has found himself in a different type of motorsports. Beam has taken part in stunt driving for several commercials including one for Marathon Gas where he was a stunt driving double for The King - Richard Petty.
Beam’s driving has also been featured in movies such as: 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story and Talladega Nights. He currently runs his family business, the Memory Lane Motorsports and Historical Automotive Museum in Concord, North Carolina.
Two-time World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Champion, Jason Boyd, made a name for himself in the Florida Limited Late Model world. Boyd was a semi-finalist on the Roush Racing Gong Show and has since stepped out of the spotlight as a driver and his a driving coach/crew chief for Florida Limited Late Model up-and-comer Austin Pickens.
Another Florida native with several World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing victories is Jeff Choquette. Choquette found success before and after his stint on the Gong Show with his family-owned team in almost every Super Late Model event in the southeastern region of the United States.
Choquette has a trophy from almost several major events including Speedfest and the Florida Governor’s Cup. In 2009, Choquette signed on to drive with the Fountain Motorsports Driver Development, team which proved to be a good fit for him as they raced their way to numerous top-five finishes.
Johnny Clark is a name synonymous with success in the PASS North Super Late Model Series. The Farmingdale, Maine native had a single series title under his belt when he took part in the Roush Racing driver search and has since amassed three more championships to add to his trophy case. Although Clark has found much of his success in the northern region, it is not out of character for the Maine driver to be found at a PASS South event or two and even some major show throughout the southeast like the Snowball Derby.
In his second appearance in the Roush Racing Gong Show, Beach Park, Illinois’ Erik Darnell was crowned the winner and awarded a NASCAR Camping World Truck ride. After three years of experience combined with several poles and wins in the Truck Series, Darnell has continued to compete in a limited number of Camping World Truck and Nationwide races for Roush Racing. He also made his NASCAR Sprint CUp debut for the Roush Racing satelite team of Hall of Fame Motorsports in late 2009.
Sondi Eden was one of two female drivers selected out of 1,700 driver candidates to participate in the 2005 edition of the “Race for the Ride.” Eden’s experience came from behind the wheel of a winged sprint car where she was the only female driver to ever win a USAC Championship. Since the show she has found a home in that very familiar place and the Crawfordsville, Indiana, driver has continued to race the winged machines on a regular basis as well as making a run in the CRA Super Series in 2006 where she finished seventh in points. Eden also now coaches a middle school basketball team in her spare time.
Nevin George hasn’t been seen around the racetrack much in recent years. He’s run a few NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as a teammate to Anthony Sesely, but those outings never came close to ending like the pair of Tour events that he won on the Tour for the #0 Ralph Solhem team in 2002 and 2004. George operated a successful landscaping business at the time of his Gong Show appearance and apparently he has gone back and focused on running that business after dropping off the racing team.
New Haven, Connecticut, native James Gue was born into road racing heritage as his parents are the owners of the Essex Racing Team. Gue was recognized for his outstanding driving ability after he was offered the opportunity to race go karts in Italy during his junior high school years. Since the show, Gue attended the University of Georgia, while racing in the American LeMans Series, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. Gue is currently working as a driving coach at several driving schools including the Porsche Sport Driving School in Birmingham, Alabama.
Since his days on the “Race for the Ride,” Jason Hogan has continued to find success in the Late Model racing circuits of the south. Hogan has major wins under his belt at the All American 400 as well as the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway. Not only has Hogan continued his winning tradition as a driver, but he’s taken on a coaching job as well. In 2009, Hogan was a driving coach for Pro Late Model rookie Dalton Grindle while winning himself the 2009 ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour title as a driver.
Matthew Jaskol, of Las Vegas, Nevada, was awarded the Skip Barber National Racing Scholarship in 2002 and went on to catch the eye of many racing big wig’s including those of the Roush Racing Gong Show. In the years following his competition on the “Race for the Ride,” Jaskol has competed in several Indy Lights Series events as well as many Late Model Stock events where he has found successes such as coming from a 43rd starting position to finish 9th in the 2008 Bailey’s 300 at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia.
Brandon “Bud” Kaeding
Campbell, California’s Brandon “Bud” Kaeding has made the most of his years since the Roush Racing driver search by refining his skills in a division he knows very well. The Golden State driver who was the winner of three silver crown races in 2006 as well as the Knoxville Midget Nationals, found himself in victory lane three times in 2009 in the USAC Winged Sprints Series.
Although born in Wisconsin, Travis Kittleson moved to Florida at a young age and considers himself a Florida native. The cheese and orange states don’t sound like they would make a tasty combination, they certainly struck gold when they produced a talented racecar driver in Kittleson. After running in the now defunct ASA National Tour, some Super Late Model shows, and a select amount of Nationwide races in 2004, Kittleson caught the eye of Roush Racing for their driver search and since his participation in the event, he has found even more success as the 2006 World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Champion. Kittleson has also competed in several more NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series events since and in the USARacing Pro Cup events as well.
Speed51.com recently caught up with Kittleson at the Snowball Derby, where along with fellow Gong Show alum Chuck Barnes, Jr., he was working on the #12 Super Late Model of Justin Drawdy. Kittleson told us that he was working on trying to put together a racing deal for 2010 and beyond but that sponsorship dollars and opportunities were few and far between.
Since his days competing in the Roush Racing driver search, Michael Lewis has found himself behind the wheels of a variety of vehicles including Formula BMW cars and Ford Focus Midgets. The high-schooler commuted back and forth to Italy for several events in 2008 of his European Tour until he was out for summer break. Lewis focused mainly on the Ford Focus Midgets and Formula BMW Series’ in 2009 where he found three wins and numerous top-10 finishes.
NASCAR Camping World West Series driver, Scott Lynch, caught the eye of Gong Show executives in 2005 and has continued to keep his name in their ears since then. The Burley, Idaho, native who had nine wins in the West Series, has since made 23 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series including a 16th-place finish in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in 2008.
Matt McCall who was one of the final four contestants on the Roush Racing Gong Show, has been busy in his time since the show’s conclusion. McCall made a few starts with Robert Yates Racing near the end of their run in NASCAR where he earned valuable experience. McCall also found success in a few starts in the ARCA RE/MAX Series but the Denver, North Carolina, driver has really kept his name in the news in the Late Model Stock scene. McCall was crowned the 2009 UARA-Stars Champion after utilizing two different vehicles all season en route to the title.
Danny O'Quinn Jr.
Danny O’Quinn Jr., who was also a finalist on the Gong Show, has continued to enjoy the support of Roush Racing who has been providing support to O'Quinn's USARacing and ARCA RE/MAX Series rides. Following that, he was offered opportunities in Camping World Trucks and Nationwide cars for the organization since his time competing in the driver search. O’Quinn was named the 2006 NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year and has since continued to compete for Roush Racing in two of NASCAR’s “Big Three” Series on occasion.
Oklahoma driver Christi Passmore has been hard to locate after her stint on the Gong Show. Passmore ran some races in 2005 and 2006, but since then hasn't really turned up much in the racing world.
New Zealand driver Michael Pickens, made a name for himself in the open wheel realm in his home country and has continued with that success in the time following his elimination from the Roush Racing driver search. Pickens ran a few asphalt Late Model races after the Gong Show wrapped up, including making a start in the APSS 300 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) as a teammate to Johnny Clark. Pickens also became the youngest driver ever to win the New Zealand Midget Grand Prix and is currently New Zealand’s leading open wheel driver.
Senoia, Georgia’s, Bubba Pollard, who was eliminated in the first round of the driver search, has since found himself in victory lane in several racetracks throughout the southeastern region. Pollard stepped up to the plate in 2009 running a full schedule of both Pro and Super Late Model events including the Five Flags Speedway Blizzard Series and the South Alabama Speedway Viper Series. Pollard was crowned the 2009 champion of the Viper Series, the shortened CRA South Series, and the Miller Lite Series at Mobile International Speedway.
Despite not winning the driver competition, David Ragan has gone further with Roush Racing than any of the other contestants. Ragan made his way through all three of NASCAR’s “Big Three” Series and is now competing in the organization’s #6 entry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series where he amassed 19 top-10 finishes.
Canadian racer, Peter Shepherd, was signed to a Roush Racing Development contract following his appearance on the Driver X special. Roush then funded Shepherd’s runs in the ARCA RE/MAX Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series throughout the following seasons. Unfortunately, Shepherd was eventually released from his contractual duties due to lack of sponsorship.
2003 NASCAR Elite Division Champion, Auggie Vidovich, all but demanded the attention of the Roush Racing executives with his extensive resume of wins and has continued that tradition of success in the years since by gaining experience and climbing the ladder through the ranks of racing. Vidovich has made several starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as well as the NASCAR Camping World West Series. In 2009, Vidovich found success in the SRL Spears Southwest Tour Series posting a win in May at Madera Speedway.
1999 : Kurt Busch
2000 : Chuck Hossfeld, Nathan Hasaleu
2002 : Carl Edwards
2004 : Todd Kluever
- 25 chosen out of 1700 applicants