51’s SHORT TRACK DRAFT – 2005 - PICKS 11-25, HONORABLE MENTIONS & MORE
ARCA, ASALM, CRA SS, NASCAR Elite, GN & Mods, PASS, Pro Cup & More Represented
12. David Gilliland (WEST) – David Gilliland is another “oldie but goodie” in our draft. At 29-years-old, Gilliland has proven that he is quite the versatile racer. 2004 was really his break out year. He won the NASCAR Grand National Division West Series Rookie of the Year title while also competing full-time in the NASCAR Elite Southwest Series. He won races in both series in 2004 as well. In 2003, he won five SWS races. This year he’s already won in the West Series. He is coming into his own late in his career, which is good, but will he get the chance to make it to the big time?
Bobby Santos is young and can drive about anything. He just missed being in the top-10 in our draft, but he leads the second group of draftees.
11. Bobby Santos III (USAC) - He’s one of those guys that no one really knows about, but at the combine, was very impressive. He's already caught the eye of some talent scouts, including Jack Roush, but nobody has signed 19-year-old Bobby Santos to a big league contract yet. He is our third-straight teenager in the draft and with a few more years of experience, he’ll be vying for the number one draft spot. His versatility is what gets him noticed too. He is the young version of the Northeast’s Ted Christopher. He came up through Supermodifieds and NEMA Midgets, but last season, Santos split his time between the USAC ranks and the NASCAR Modifieds. Santos is learning to focus on one craft this season as he concentrates on USAC Midgets.
13. Johnny Clark (PASS) – He's not flashy like some wide receivers, doesn't wear gold jewelry like other running backs or do goofy dances on the field when he wins, but when the clock is running down, Maine's Johnny Clark is a valuable player to have make some big plays. He won his first PASS championship in 2004 along with a $25,000 victory in the DNK 250. If not for a lapped car, he probably would have won Oxford's Banknorth 250 as well. The 25-year-old has also gone head-to-head with a few big names outside of the Northeast as well. He finished second to Freddie Query in the World Asphalt Championship at Concord last fall.
14. Casey Smith (ASA, SLM) – Young and plenty talented. That is the best way to describe Casey
Johnny Clark is one of the Northeast powerhouse, putting him 13th in our draft. (51 Photo)
Smith. However, talent and youth doesn’t carry you everywhere. And because of that, Smith’s stock in the draft has dropped somewhat. But it hasn’t dropped enough to put him out of our top-25. That right there shows you what kind of talent that this kid has. Since ASA disappeared after 2004, Smith has been left without a place to race. Racing with a family-owned team and with a very limited budget, the former Legends car National Champion made the best out of it and showed what kind of talent he had. But in 2005, he hasn’t really seen a racetrack and that is tough when looking for future draftees.
17. Steve Wallace (PRO CUP) – A big name might get you a ride in racing, but it doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to being a draft choice. Steve Wallace has earned his spot in this draft from his efforts on the field… uh, on the track. At age 18, he has already won the Snowball Derby in only his second start. He’s also visited victory lane at Bristol in the UARA race there and was the 2004 UARA Rookie of the Year. This year, he is tackling the USAR Pro Cup Series. He used to be known as “Rusty’s Son,” now he’s carving out his own piece of the racing world.
18. Robert Richardson (SES) – They grow their stars big in Texas and Robert Richardson might very well turn out to be another good example of that. The 22-year-old is still looking for his first Southeast Series victory, but he
15. Bobby Stremme (ASA LM) – The 25-year-old younger brother to NASCAR Busch Series star David Stremme is suddenly coming into his own and his family is littered with driving talent, from his Mom to his brother. Does this remind you of the Mannings of last year’s draft? David owns the car that Bobby drove to the ASA Late Model Series Rookie of the Year and National Championship in 2004. Bobby was winning a ton of races and should probably win a ton more this year. And when he makes it to the big leagues, much like Eli Manning, he’ll hope to follow right along in David’s footsteps.
16. Brad Rogers (PRO CUP) – This is the second Rogers to make our list of the top-25 draft picks. That is impressive. Our research shows it is a first for two brothers to be selected in this high in the draft. Younger brother Brad has raced older brother Clay for many years and has seemed to follow in Clay’s footsteps in racing. But now, they are both in the Pro Cup Series and both are winning races. At age 20, Brad has father time on his side more than his older sibling, but he also has a lot more races to win to catch up to Clay. He’s got the talent and the looks to do it and he’s building his credentials, which includes the Southern Division Rookie of the Year in 2004 and a race win.
Bobby Stremme is looking like another great addition to the Stremme name. We took note and took him 15th in the draft. (Bob Milner Photo)
Steve Wallace likes to joke around off the track, but on the track, he's becoming a heavy hitter, putting him in the top-20 in our draft. (51 Photo)
was a rookie last year so that is excusable. He knows how to win big, having visited victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway for a 2003 ROMCO race. He’s also getting plenty of time on the field with a full schedule of SES competition, a limited ARCA deal and plenty of short track starts sandwiched between all of that.
21. Stephen Leicht (ASA LM) - Stephen had to transfer schools in 2005 after The U of ASA closed their doors. That dropped him in the draft just a little bit. However, he should do just fine in the ASA Late Models College this season. He scouted out the ASA Late Models a little bit last season and won in only his first start. And just last week he won the series opener. Leicht turned 18 this off-season and the question isn't if he'll make it to the pros, but when.
22. Chuck Barnes Jr. (CRA SS, SLM) – At age 22, Barnes is already pretty well known by fans in the Midwest. He was the CRA Super Series Rookie of the Year in 2003 and put together a dream season last year by winning the championship, the Speed51.com Most Popular Driver Award and the All American 400 at Nashville (TN). He’s also looking to make a name for himself down south as well by entering both Big 10 events at Concord Motorsport Park (NC) so far in 2005.
Stephen Leicht. (Bob Milner Photo)
19. Joey Miller (ARCA) – This 20-year-old has grace under fire, which is important when a game or race is on the line. After winning his first ARCA race last year at Nashville, he could be called the “Comeback Kid”. Miller went two laps down with a flat tire and still came back to win. Did we mention he learns quickly too? That race at Nashville was also his first ARCA start. He was a little erratic in his ASA days, but with racing veterans Matt Hagans and Kevin Cywinski coaching him along, he is maturing at a rapid rate. He still has a bunch to learn, but he’s doing that with a full-time ARCA schedule this year.
20. Andrew Rogers (PRO CUP) – Rogers is a perfect example of how the Humpy Wheeler farm system is supposed to work. The 19-year-old USAR Pro Cup Rookie started out in Legends cars and Thunder Roadsters. He finished as the runner-up in points for both divisions after the 2004 Summer Shootout Series at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. His second-place finish at South Georgia earlier this year is the best effort so far by a Pro Cup rookie in 2005. He’s clean-cut and has plenty of raw talent; next year we expect him to move up on the draft charts, if he’s still available.
Joey Miller is sitting second to Frank Kimmel in the ARCA points, and that is impressive... for anyone. (51 Photo)
23. Burt Myers (MODS) – Switching conferences for 2005 has already been a good thing for Burt Myers. Last year he raced on the ASA SMART Modified Tour, but this season that has morphed into the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Having the power of the NASCAR’s name has brought some spotlight to this underrated 28-year-old driver. Myers has already visited victory lane on the Tour this year at Caraway. The third generation driver (his Grandfather and Great Uncle were the legendary Billy and Bobby Myers and his father Gary has made his way to more than a few Southern Mod victory lanes himself) is no stranger to winning as the ’02 SMART Champ and two-time Bowman-Gray track titlist. He’s also no stranger to putting his bumper into a situation to get up front. The nose of his car says “Dirty South”, so draw your own conclusions. Outside of the car, you couldn’t find a nicer guy. He’s got plenty of charisma and is always a great interview.
Southern Mod driver Burt Myers will be a surprising pick to many, but good enough to make the top-25 cut. (51 Photo)
24. Andrew Morrisey (MWS) – He’s just 20 years old and making a name for himself on Wisconsin’s short tracks. Ron Wolf, the former Green Bay Packers GM, made a career out of finding gems in the mid to late rounds of the draft. If we're Ron Wolf, Morrissey is our draft day sleeper who’ll become a future all-pro. Morrisey may need some PR polishing, but we can do that. He has pure and natural speed and that is something that you just can’t teach
25. (tie) Jay Middleton (SLM) – This Florida driver knows where the gas pedal is. Middleton is a quiet and polite 20-year-old who has put together quite a reputation for himself already in his career. He was the 2003 Florida Pro Champ while also finishing second in Sunbelt points that same season. Middleton got burned slightly in 2004 when ASA closed up shop after his rookie season which included a pole position at Kentucky, but that’s OK. He came back to finish off the season with an outside pole for the Snowball Derby and so far in 2005, he’s been running Super Late Model races all over the south. He won at Mobile earlier this season and finished fourth in last weekend’s ASL opener at I-70 Speedway (MO).
25. (tie) Billy Venturini (ARCA) – Most of the drivers in this draft are looking to move up, but Billy would be happy to spend his career just kicking ARCA ass. The 29-year-old is looking for his first ARCA victory, but don’t let that fool you. He has been one of the guys to beat on the big tracks, and short ones for that matter, for the past few seasons. A rough wreck at Daytona started out his season and left him sidelined in a halo around his head and four bolts going into his skull, but he’ll be back sooner than later and we don’t think that he’ll slow down one bit.
Super Late Model driver Jay Middleton (top) and ARCA driver Billy Venturini (bottom) tied for our final pick. (51 Photos)
Of course, not everyone can be a part of the draft for various reasons set forth before the draft took place. Here is a list of those drivers who were deemed ineligible for various reason and those who just missed making the cut for the top-25.
Ineligible (Been to the Pros before or have a ride in a top series):
Ineligible (Driver Development Deals already in place): Aric Almirola (Joe Gibbs Racing)
Chase Austin (Hendrick Motorsports)
Erin Crocker (Evernham Motorsports)
Erik Darnell (Roush Racing)
Bobby East (Ford)
Kraig Kinser (MB Motorsports)
Mark McFarland (Chance2 – DEI)
Ryan Moore (DEI)
Timothy Peters (Bobby Hamilton Racing – CTS)
Danny O’Quinn (Roush Racing).
Honorable Mentions (Two or more votes from our panel):
Matt Carter (PRO CUP)
Cassius Clark (PASS)
Doug Coby (MODS)
A.J. Frank (PRO CUP)
Kevin Hamlin (ARCA)
Matt Hirschman (MODS)
Jeff Jefferson (NWS)
Levi Jones (USAC)
Joel Kauffman (PRO CUP)
Travis Kittleson (SLM)
Louis Mechalides (SLM and TVMRS)
Tim McCredie (DIRT LM)
Eddie MacDonald (BGNN)
Chase Miller (ARCA)
Zach Niessner (SES)
Chase Pistone (PRO CUP)
Ben Rowe (PASS)
Auggie Vidovich (SWS)
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