Top-51 Picks from Short Track World by Panel of 15
He’s been a Roush Gong Show “final cut” the last two years and he deserves a hat-trick of opportunities based on his on-track performance and his off-track persona with fans and marketing folks. He won the All American 400 Super Late Model race last year and that speaks volumes. The 23-year-old has also been a title contender the last few years in NASCAR’s Southeast Series and is gunning for the crown again this season. His friendly personality would be a hit for any company. His downfalls include a Kyle Busch-like tendency to voice his displeasure to NASCAR too often and he needs to hit the gym and fine-tune his physique a bit. Don’t let those two items distract you too much though because the upsides of Jason Hogan completely outweigh any small negatives he might have.
2) Chuck Barnes Jr. (Super Late Models)
Jason Hogan is our experts #1 choice. (51 Photos)
Just like the NFL, it has become a tradition here at Speed51.com to assemble a panel of experts and hold a Short Track Draft each spring.
This year, we upped the list to the top-51 prospects from the Short Track Racing world. The draftees are comprised of all different Short Track Racing genres and were selected by a panel that included people from NASCAR, other racing series’, the media, talent scouts and portions of the staff at 51.
There were some guidelines to follow. Drivers who have competed in NASCAR’s “Big-Three” (Cup, Busch & Trucks) this year were excluded. That ruled out guys like Stephen Leicht and Matt McCall, who have driven with Robert Yates Racing in the Busch Series. It even disallowed a talented driver such as Chad McCumbee, who has competed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this year.
We also adopted the NASCAR policy of you must be 18-years-old. We feel that is the minimum age a driver should be given an elite opportunity to NASCAR’s “Big-Three.”
Lastly, certain drivers who appear on this list already have driver development contracts, but they are still competing in the Short Track Racing series’ levels.
On Tuesday we will release our “Underclassmen Draft,” comprised of some of the top talents in the country not 18-years-old just yet. And on Wednesday we will release another list of drivers who just missed the cut.
Remember, these selections were based on a mathematical equation of average rating based on 15-experts, number of number-one selections and last minute input from other racing experts not originally paneled.
So here it goes, with the number one selection in the 2006 Short Track Draft, the panel selects…
1) Jason Hogan (NASCAR Southeast Series & Super Late Models)
Here’s a guy who can parallel the NFL’s number-two draft pick Reggie Bush from USC. While Barnes is not from the West Coast, he is fast like Bush and he does have a small frame. The former CRA Super Series champ is skinny as a toothpick and could stand to gain a few pounds if he is going to make it to NASCAR’s “Big-Three” and take the punishment of 500-miles. Then again, he did win the All American 400 two years ago without power steering, so he does have some muscle. He’s a little shy at first, but is polite as can be. Seven-time ARCA champ Frank Kimmel is in his corner and that should mean a lot to anyone looking at him. Heck, Jack Roush even has Barnes on his latest Gong Show. Barnes is a “wheel-man” and this season he is wheeling his Super Late Model in the highest visibility races in the country.
Chuck Barnes Jr. is a fun loving guy.
3) Clay Rogers (Hooters Pro Cup Series)
Clay Rogers is no Vince Young (number-three pick in the NFL draft out of Texas), but he does put some nice moves of his own on the track in the Hooters Pro Cup Series. The Pro Cup point leader has already won two races this year, had two second-place finishes and a sixth to boot. He also had a podium finish in the inaugural PASS South show at Hickory Motor Speedway. So why isn’t he the number-one pick? Three reasons. While he did receive the most number-one selections by our panelists (three), he didn’t score well on a few lists. Why? At 25, he looks older than he actually is and Rogers still has a bit of stigma from his earlier years of racing when some people thought he was a spoiled brat. He was given one opportunity a few years back to drive Robbie Reiser’s Busch Series car, but he wasn’t ready then. He is now and his personality has improved a 100-fold. Rogers deserves another shot.
Clay Rogers has been around... and he wants to get back.
4) Travis Kittleson (Super Late Models)
Kittleson is a silent-killer in the Super Late Model world. He doesn’t create a huge buzz, but he’s one of the top Super Late Model drivers in the country right now. The 26-year-old won the SLM portion of Florida Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway even though he missed one night of racing due to an engine problem. Kittleson can do it if given the opportunity and he has been pounding the pavement in the NASCAR garages. He can be shy with new people at times and that shyness has been misconstrued as cockiness at times. Kittleson used to be concerned with what opportunities everybody else was getting, but now he has matured to worry about himself and his racing only. He has made a couple of NASCAR Busch Series races with his own family’s equipment, but he needs to be given a chance to prove what he can do in top-notch stuff.
Travis Kittleson could make some owner happy.
5) Tim McCreadie (DIRT Late Models & Whatever Else)
Try this one for size: 21-races, two wins, 11 top-fives, 18 top-10s and all 21-races in the top-15 – and that’s just in 2006. Not too shabby, eh? Now throw in the fact that one of the victories came in the famed Chili Bowl Midget event and the other finishes were in either Dirt Late Models or Dirt Modifieds. Now that’s a versatile driver. Timmy McCreadie has shown that he inherited the racing genes from his dad, the great New York DIRT Modified driver “Barefoot” Bob McCreadie. He’s got a great personality and even though his hair may be a little bit punk rockish from time to time, this kid could make it big. Ok, so he’s only driven on dirt; who cares? This kid is a multi-functional as Antwaan Randle El (QB / WR / RB) when he was selected in the NFL draft in ‘02, only Timmy is better.
Most people don't know his name, but Tim McCreadie should be a name to know. (Chad Beale Photo)
6) Levi Jones (USAC)
The 23-year-old is good enough to catch the eye of another pretty good racecar driver; Tony Stewart. Stewart tabbed Jones to race his USAC Sprint Car and Jones did nothing but go out and win the USAC National Championship in the Sprint Car Series. Now, he’s going to championship number two, still under the tutelage of Stewart. He might have a big future in stock cars, even though he hasn’t done much as of yet. And that could be his biggest downfall; his lack of full-bodied experience. But that could be coming, or so the talk is around the USAC ranks. His Tony Stewart Racing teammate Josh Wise his making his ARCA debut this year, could Jones be that far behind? His biggest downfall; he’s a Sprint Car driver, and these days, those are coming a dime a dozen.
Levi Jones is a top-10 pick.
7) Donny Lia (NASCAR Modifieds & ARCA)
Taking 25-year-old Donny Lia with the seventh overall pick is like choosing running back, full-back and defensive back all with one pick. In fact, he reminds us of the 21st pick in the NFL draft, by the New England Patriots, running back Laurence Moroney. Just like the big back out of Minnesota, Lia is fast, as evident by his nine poles in the past three-plus seasons, tough, with 14 top-fives in that same span, and he can intercept victories like a DB too (four WMT wins in the last three years). Donny’s only downfalls are a hot temper (hey, he’s from New York, cut him some slack) and he has only a handful of starts in a full-bodied stock car. He’s running ARCA with Hagans Racing this year, so that will certainly help. Lia has a knack for winning the big game too. Proof positive; his victories in the North-South Shootout at Concord Motorsport Park or the $10,000-to-win show a Seekonk Speedway last year.
Donny Lia is breaking into the full-bodied stock world.
8) Justin Diercks (NASCAR Midwest Series & ARCA)
Here’s the Matt Leinert (USC Quarterback & ’04 Heisman Award winner) of this year’s Short Track Draft. He may have stuck around the NASCAR Midwest wars a year too long. He’s won two-straight championships, unlike Leinart, but he was the hottest thing on wheels beating series legend Steve Carlson after the first title, like Leinart. And anybody that can beat Carlson is alright by us. The 26-year-old is running some ARCA races through Robert Yates Racing, but his stock has dropped a bit simply because there’s not been much buzz about him lately. Like Leinart, he could have been a number-one pick. He has no real downfalls. He’s got the look and the talent, now he just needs a forum to showcase it on a regular basis.
Justin Diercks is sometimes overlooked.
9) Peyton Sellers (NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series & AutoZone West Series)
A year ago we would have been as surprised to be making this pick as the football world was when Houston took NC State Defensive End Mario Williams over logical number-one selection Reggie Bush. Sellers was the NASCAR National Weekly Racing Series champ last year after kicking everybody’s tail-end at South Boston Speedway. Now he’s off running the AutoZone West Series under the guidance of a Richard Childress Racing driver development plan. He’s got two top-fives in the first three races and is third in the series standings. The only negative to his draft status is that the 22-year-old is now racing on West Coast (news travels slowly from the left side of the US) and he does have a good ol’ southern boy accent, which will disappear with time.
Peyton Sellers could make it huge out West.
10) Shane Huffman (Hooters Pro Cup Series)
This guy is a sleeper for this low in the draft. He’s got just as much talent as number-one pick Jason Hogan, if not more. His main problem - his age. Huffman is 32. But just listen to these credentials. He has a Hooters Pro Cup championship; he’s won 25 races in the last four years and he’s second in points with a pair of victories already this season. And he’s done all that with three different teams in the last three years. The only constant has been the driver himself. He’s a little bit of a country boy, but just as nice as can be. We are happy to see him get a shot at JR Motorsports (owned by NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr.) this year. He did receive two first-place selections by our panel, but others dropped him lower due to the age-thing.