Not Old Enough To Drink or Vote – But Certainly Good Enough to Drive
4) Trevor Bayne (Pro Cup South) – In any other series, this kid would stand out as a superstar 15-year-old boy racing among men. But in the Pro Cup Southern Division, he lives in the shadow of another 15-year-old (and the #1 Underclassmen Draft pick); Joey Logano. If Logano isn't in Pro Cup, this kid would be a standout. As it is, he’s impressing many in and out of the Pro Cup community. While his finishes might not show it, he’s running in the top 10 every week and is a clear cut favorite for the Rookie of the Year. He’s also got the help of Wade Day in his corner as Crew Chief, and that can’t hurt one bit.
5) Will Kimmel (Late Model, Salem Speedway) – He’s the son of ARCA Crew Chief Bill Kimmel and the nephew of seven-time and defending ARCA RE/MAX
Series champion Frank Kimmel, so this kid has some lineage. Last year he sprung on the scene by running strong at the ultra-tough, high-banked Salem Speedway. This year, he finally found Victory Lane at the track. It’s a place where his uncle reigns as king in the ARCA world, but the word on the street is that Will has the same smoothness about him. And he’s beat Chuck Barnes Jr. in those races on a regular basis. Barnes is another Kimmel protégé who was drafted second in this year’s Short Track Draft.
6) Landon Cassill (Super Late Models & ASA LM) – Talk about a super friendly kid – Landon Cassill is so outgoing, he could work as a greeter as any Disney World theme park or even Wal-Mart. He’s well-spoken, pretty funny once you get to know him and he doesn’t shy away from shaking hands or having a discussion with anybody at the track. With all that talent, you’d think the high-schooler couldn’t drive a lick. Not the case. He won during the ultra-tough Florida Speedweeks Super Late Model competition at New Smyrna Speedway and almost stole the week-long championship from Travis Kittleson. The kid has been fast no matter where he has been. If he starts winning more, people will take notice.
Trevor Bayne is not the only great 15-year-old in the Pro Cup Series.
In the NFL, we see underclassmen forgo their formative years in college to declare themselves eligible for big bucks of pro football. It’s the lure of the almighty dollar. You can’t do that in big league NASCAR racing, where you have to be 18 to play with the boys in the “Big Three” (Cup, Busch and Truck).
It’s a good rule and one that we’ve adopted with our annual Short Track Draft. Yet, we still compiled a short list of some of the best underclassmen on the American racing scene. It’s the 17-and-under group and we have a top-20 breakdown of what we consider the best in class.
7) Chase Austin (Late Models) – This whiz kid has had plenty of hype, but he needs to start backing it up. The 15-year-old was pretty good wheeling a Late Model on dirt, but he hasn’t done much on the pavement. Hendrick loved him enough to bring him in under a Driver Development deal through the Indianapolis-based SS Racing. That team didn’t give him what he needed and he left with a sour taste in his mouth. Then, Hendrick left Austin. He’s competed in Pro Cup and the Late Model ranks without a lot of success this year. Our experts, they still think the kid has what it takes, but with his up-and-down early career, the verdict is still out.
8) Zach Stroupe (Pro Challenge Series & Legends Cars) – He’s the youngest kid on the underclassman top-10 list and has plenty of potential. He’s already won two
Chase Austin is high on the list... but is he worth the hype?
Legends car events this year and is second in the Aaron’s Pro Challenge Series (3/4-scale Cup cars) National Tour. In 15-combined races this season, he has seven top-three finishes and only two finishes out of the top-10. He’s a good kid and like Cassill he has sense of humor. He gets a little shy when you put the microphone in front of him, but most importantly, his on-track presence is mature beyond his years. Keep an eye on this kid; he’s just 13-years-old.
9) Hunter Robbins (ASA Late Models) - He’s on the WalTom Racing driver development program and that will do wonders for him. The kid has talent, as evident by his victory in last year’s Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Penscola, Florida during the Snowball Derby weekend. And like some others on our list, he holds several records for being the youngest to win races in several different divisions. He does need a little PR-work and needs someone to take him out for a complete make-over. He’s a little shy, but with a little effort, Hunter Robbins could be a good one.
10) Matt Martin (Limited Late Models) – When your dad is one of the best Cup drivers of all-time (Mark Martin), a lot of people expect a lot of things from you. Matt’s progression will be closely watched, but he has shown plenty of maturity on the racetrack. He has made a mistake or two, but so has everybody else on this underclassman list. What we like is that Matt is doing this because he wants to, not because Mark is pushing him. And he’s extremely mature and well-spoken for his age. He’s won in Bandoleros, FASCAR Trucks and is close to winning in Late Models. There is a tentative plan is to get him in an ASA Late Model this year and we think that is the perfect step.
11) Brandon McReynolds (Allison Legacy Cars) – He’s the son of former Cup crew chief turned FOX commentator Larry McReynolds. And boy has this kid turned the corner in the last two years. When he began in Bandoleros, he couldn’t figure out how to keep the car in a straight line, but now he’s matured to a patient and calculated racer. He won the Summer Shootout & Winter Heat Bandolero Young Gun championships at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Now the 14-year-old has moved on to the Allison Legacy Series. Just like his dad, he’s got a great personality and together with what he’s learned on the track, it could be a tough combination to beat.
12) Darrell Wallace Jr. (Legends Cars & Pro Challenge Series) – The word on the street is that the kid signed with Roush Racing, but nothing was ever announced. The 13-year-old was pretty darn impressive in a Bandolero Car last year and he’s already winning in the Legends ranks this season. He’s also dabbling in the Pro Challenge Series, but has not shown his potential there just yet. The only thing he needs to improve on is his character at the racetrack. He’s a nice kid, but sometimes he acts like the second-coming of Jeff Gordon.
13) Marc Davis (Limited Late Models) – Like Wallace, 15-year-old Marc Davis is an African-American making his name in the racing ranks around the country. His family moved to North Carolina from Maryland during the winter and it paid off by becoming the first NASCAR Drive for Diversity winner at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina. He then followed it up by winning another feature just a couple of weeks ago to match a second-place finish in his only other start at the track this season. In 2003, as a driver in the Legend series, Marc Davis became the first Legends Car driver to win two national championships in the same season.
Darrell Wallace can win in Bandoleros... can he keep on winning?
14) Trey Robb (Sprint Cars) – In just a couple of weeks, this youngster will turn 14, but by looking at his stats, you’d think he was much, much older. In Sprint Car Racing, there are a lot of young “prodigies,” but Robb is something special. At just 13 years of age, he jumped into a winged 360 at two very tough tracks (State Fair Speedway in Oklahoma City, OK and Devil's Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, TX) and proceeded to win races and Rookie of the Year titles at the tracks. He also became the youngest driver to ever win a feature at the Chili Bowl when he won the D Feature this year. This kid just plain has it.
15) Patrick Molesworth (Legends Cars) – We don’t know a bunch about this kid, but looking at his stats, I betcha we’re about to. The 14-year-old won the Semi-Pro National Championship for Legends Cars by winning 26 times in 33 races. Wow! Patrick needed to win the final race of the year to capture the National Championship and he didn’t crack under pressure. Now that says a lot for a 14-year-old. We want to know more.
16) Coleman Pressley (Late Models) – He seems like a typical 16-year-old high school sophomore, until you look a little closer. He races Late Models at the legendary Hickory Motor Speedway and just recently won a 100-lap race there. He’s been driving go-karts since he was five and he’s the son of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series winner Robert Pressley. We’re going to keep watchful eye on this kid, how ‘bout you?
17) Jordan Lee Webb (Bandoleros) – Here’s another kid, from stats alone, we want to know more about. In 2005, the 12-year-old competed in 40-races and won 35 of them. Again, wow! Now, being that we’ve seen some poor fields of Legends and Bandolero cars at Texas races, we can’t accurately say what type of competition he was up against, but bottom line is that his stats are impressive.
2) Bryan Clauson (USAC) – Simple enough…he’s another Ryan Newman. There’s no other way to describe this kid. See how he whips a sprint car around the high-banks of Winchester Speedway and you’ll know what we’re talking about. He’s only 16 and he’s whipping the tails of some of the best open-wheelers in the country on a regular basis on both dirt and asphalt tracks. And when you hold the record as the youngest ever to win a National Midget Series race and the youngest to win a National Sprint Car feature in all of the years of USAC competition, it is pretty hard to doubt the kid’s talents.
3) Kyle Grissom (UARA Late Models) – He certainly inherited the racing genes. In fact, he looks a lot like his dad, former NASCAR Busch Series champion Steve Grissom. Yet, with some seasoning, he may be even better than his famous father. Grissom competed in the UARA Late Model Series last year, won a race and finished third in points. This year, the 17-year-old opened the season with a victory and is one of the favorites for the title, already leading the point standings early in the season. Like his dad, he’s a big country boy, but he’ll be able get everything his dad did wrong right from the horses mouth. Next year he’ll enter the real Short Track Draft and will see where he stacks up against the best in the country.
1) Joey Logano (Hooters Pro Cup Series) – He’s got it all. As Mark Martin told us, “He’s the man. No, he’s the king (of the young kids coming up).” He’s won in everything he’s raced (Bandolero, Legends, Allison Legacy Cars & Late Models) and last year he became the youngest driver, at the age of 15, to win a Hooters Pro Cup Series. And he did it in only his second start. He’s already won again this year and it doesn’t hurt to have one of the smartest short track racers in the biz on your side (Andy Santerre, four-time NASCAR Busch North Series champ) as a consultant. Plus he’s already flying the Joe Gibbs Racing flag. If there was ever a sure bet, Logano is it, and he’s still only 15.
Joey Logano is already a Pro Cup winner and number one in our Underclassmen draft..
18) Chrissy Wallace (Legends Cars & Pro Challenge Series) – The first-female on the list. She gets a lot of hype because she is the daughter of NASCAR driver Mike Wallace and her uncles are former Cup champ Rusty Wallace and Busch Series winner Kenny Wallace. She can go fast, no doubt about it, but we are always wondering where all those victory stickers come from on her car? According to our records, she only won on race last year and that was a tie at the Summer Shootout. She has a reputation of being a little rough on the track, but to her credit that is a good thing when you are up against a male-dominated sport.
19) Jordan Anderson (Legends Cars & Limited-Late Models) – Nice polite Southern kid. His stats speak volumes. He’s the 2005 Legend Car Semi-Pro Nationals race champion and earned 21 wins at 10 different tracks in 2005, including two during the ultra-tough Summer Shootout at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. He’s also very polite off of the track, but he can sometimes be a little rough in it. He’s moved up to the Limited Late Models and that will tell us a lot about this kid’s future. Stay tuned.
20) Corey LaJoie (Pro Challenge Series & Legends Cars) – Like many on this list, you might recognize the last name. Corey is the son of two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion Randy LaJoie. A couple years ago he was one of the top-prospects to
Chrissy Wallace was popular with the fans at Lowe's Motor Speedway, but can she do it on the track?
come out of the Bandoleros at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Now he is dabbling in the Legends Car Semi-Pro division and the Pro Challenge Series Carolina Region. He’s got a lot of talent and the looks that will attract corporate America. All this 14-year-old needs is a little more seasoning.