At the start of the 2005 season, Mark Martin announced his intention to leave Nextel Cup at the end of the season. He wants to spend more time with his family and wanted to run the lighter schedule of the Craftsman Truck series. Jack Roush convinced Martin to stay in the #6 for the full 2006 season. The plan is to put Busch Series driver Todd Kleuver in the #6 in 2007. As the 2006 season progressed, it became obvious that Martin didn't really want to leave Nextel Cup. He just doesn't want to run the full schedule. Because there are now restrictions in how many teams can be owned by a Nextel Cup owner, Roush was unable to accomodate Martin. They tried to work something out with the #60 No Fear Racing team but weren't able to get sponsorship. So Martin started talking to other teams and signed with MB2.
So who will drive the #6 in 2007? The original plan was Todd Kleuver but Roush has been looking at David Ragan, Danny O'Quinn & Erik Darnell and doesn't seem satisfied with any of them. He announced today that Darnell will run the complete 2007 Craftsman Truck series. Roush has been very fortunate that young drivers like Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch & Carl Edwards have been successful in Nextel Cup. But all those guys won races before coming to Nextel Cup. None of the current crop of drivers have won races yet. So he could try and find a veteran driver like Ricky Rudd, Ward Burton or Bill Elliott to run a partial schedule with a younger driver. So why didn't he do that with Martin? Maybe sponsor AAA doesn't want that. The other possibility is it was reported this week that Roush has been talking to former Formula One champ Jacques Villeneuve. Nothing has been signed and Roush Racing president Geoff Smith said Villeneuve wants a Nextel Cup ride a la Juan Pablo Montoya. But his lack of stock car experience means Roush is reluctant to give him that. But he's a talented driver and that can't be overlooked. It's an interesting alternative and Roush has to make a decision in the next couple of weeks. It may depend on who sponsor AAA wants to drive.