What you are considering definitely is a valid use of Virtualization; whether that's the right way to go or not is entirely up to you and your needs.
As to the question of managing the drivers, Ghost (which for this discussion is genuine Ghost, sold in Ghost Solution Suite, not the unrelated product which assumed its place under the consumer "Norton Ghost" brand name a few years back) contains a tool called DeployAnywhere for retargeting systems to get the right drivers available after you deploy an image.
DeployAnywhere takes a little more work to use when you deploy manually, as you generally do with servers, mainly just to ensure that the drivers it needs to install into the newly-deployed system are available to it (such as on a boot disk or network share) at the time. For workstations, deployment through the Ghost management console takes more care of that for you, it's just another part of the process along with renaming the machine and reconfiguring it.
That driver retargeting generally isn't so important for migrations to VMWare since the emulated hardware is deliberately of a type that is widely supported and doesn't need specialized drivers, but it's definitely more useful for migrating from a VM to a physical machine.
For most editions of VMWare (ESX has limitations), Ghost can actually image both from a physical disk directly to a VMDK and back again as well as use the normal (non-runnable) .GHO image format, so virtualization isn't one-way. If you need to go physical->virtual for a while, that's fine, and you can generally go virtual->physical as well if you change your mind. Even if you do prefer to use VMware's tools to do the physical->virtual migration (and as a poster above mentions, those are excellent and mature), ours can still help you not only go the other way, but make life easier in a few awkward corner cases if you get stuck with a non-runnable physical machine (for instance after a motherboard failure, Ghost can P2V the physical hard disk for you).
The above will also apply fully to ESX at some point, but ESX is a little unusual in the VMWare family, and the internals of their virtual disk format are subtly different than the other products - not greatly, but enough to cause Ghost problems. Right this second getting ESX support fully to the same level as we have for VMWare Workstation is something we're still working on.
Full disclosure: I work for Symantec on Ghost.