Short Track Power - A Speed51.com Exclulsive
The Toughest-to-Beat Drivers in Short Track Racing So Far in 2007
1. Joey Logano (BES) – As was stated on the Speed51.com site here earlier this week after Logano’s latest win in the Busch East Series… the label “phenom” is well deserved. What Logano has done in Busch East and the NASCAR West Series this year has been amazing. Yes, he has great equipment under him, but damn…the little guy can wheel a racecar around. He’s won in half of his starts (four of eight), coming at big tracks (Phoenix, New Hampshire) and short tracks (Iowa, Greenville). Then, he went out and sat on the outside pole and had a legitimate shot to win in his first-ever road course race (at Infineon). He’s also representing the short tracks in the pages of Sport Illustrated this week. Now that’s power! Ranking: 1.5
2. Donny Lia (Mods) – When describing why he choose Donny Lia first in his power rankings, one pollster simply put “its obvious.” In fact, Lia and Logano held the top two spots on six different ballots in this Power Rankings, some with Logano first, some with Lia first. Not to mention other times where Lia was first and Logano was third, and vice versa. Lia has guided the Mystic Missile back on course to inflict some serious damage on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2007. So far, team and driver have won two-thirds of the Tour races this year – all at place where Lia had not won Tour races at before – Stafford, Thompson and NHIS. Lia is showing once again that he is one of the best in the entire short track world. The dominance speaks for itself… and that’s power. Ranking: 2.4
3. Nathan Haseleu (ASA MW, CRA, WSC) – Haseleu might have slowed down in the wins column as of late, but you can’t discount what this guy has done so far this year… and in a number of different cars. Sure, a Super Late Model is a Super Late Model and the series just have a few different rules, but he’s adapting to those rules, and even more importantly, those other competitors, and still winning races. He has one ASA Midwest win, a CRA win and two Wisconsin Challenge Series wins. And he’s leading the WCS points still. Even more, he recently beat Tony Stewart and nearly beat Matt Kenseth in a All Star race at Madison (WI). Ranking: 6.1
4. Russell Fleeman (GAS) – Russell is on the gas in GAS this year. There is no doubting that. And, maybe he’s got the luck on his side that has been hindering him in
the past. Point in case… his latest GAS win (mind you, his fourth of the season) came when the leaders spun and crashed each other on the last turn of the last lap, leaving the GAS points leader there to grab the victory. But don’t let that take anything away from him. The other wins have been from Fleeman simply outrunning the GAS field. And, don’t forget, he’s been strong when he’s run his Super Late Model this year as well. With a little more time and a few more races, Fleeman could be just as hard to beat there as he is in GAS. Ranking: 6.2
Joey Logano (top, 51 Photo) and Donny Lia (Bottom, Howie Hodge Photo) were on the top of almost all of our pollsters lists. Sometimes Logano was #1. Sometimes Lia was.
5. Travis Dassow (ASA LM) – It worked for Stephen Leicht. It worked for Kelly Bires. Now, it appears to be working for Travis. What is it? It is racing and winning on the ASA Late Model Series… and having a guy named Hoiwe Lettow as your crew chief. Travis’ ranking has slipped a little in recent weeks, but the bottom line is Dassow has come from virtually out of nowhere to winning races and leading the points in the ASA Challenge Series and having Cup teams look at him for a development program. He can thank Howie for that.
6. Josh Hamner (SLM, PLM) - People have tabbed him with potential for so long, but after two up-and-down seasons, the kid is finally starting to turn it around. And he is doing it in style. Over the last couple of weeks, Hamner has been on fire as much as anyone in the short track world. He’s won at Five Flags and Mobile. Even more impressive though was his win at Birmingham. He went to Mobile, but got rained out. So what did he do? He loaded up, made the trip to Birmingham on the same night, got to the track just before the start of the race, started at the back with no practice and drove through the field to win. Now that’s power. Ranking: 7.8
Travis Dassow has taken a lot of people by surprise this year in the ASA LM Series. And our polls have noted this.
7. Ryan Lawler (PASS South/ ASA LM) - It's been feast or famine overall for Lawler this year, but in the PASS South Series, he's been nearly indestructible. We'd like to see him having some success outside that realm, but there's no arguing that this kid's got talent. He’s got two wins and a second-place finish in three starts heading into today’s race at Peach State Speedway. Unfortunately, his ASA starts have been full of tough luck, with accidents and mechanical problems taking him out of the running. If he works through periods of inconsistency, and has a little luck, watch out for him. And he was fast in a recent ARCA test as well in the Hagans Racing machine. He’s one of the brightest stars out there. Ranking: 8
8. Tim Russell (Sunbelt SLM, ARCA) - He's gotta venture outside of the Florida Mafia, but you can't deny the success he's had down there this year. What kind of success is that? Check out these stats… in 20 starts, he has two wins and has finished on the podium (yes, in the top three) in 12 of those races. He’s got 13 top-five finishes, and a remarkable 18 top-10 finishes. In fact, the only two races he’s finished outside the top-10 are times he was involved in accidents. So he’s got the stats and performance, and he’ll look to continue it for sure. But like we said, he needs to get out of Florida and run this well… then we’ll really call him powerful. Ranking: 9.5
9. Gary St. Amant (Pro Cup North) – He is a fan favorite anywhere he goes… and he is a fan favorite here on our rankings too. But guess what, he’s also got the power. Anybody that can still wheel a car, win races (one win and four top-fives in five starts) and lead point standings at 44-years-old and beat all the kids in this sport is pretty good in our books. Plus, Gary St. Amant is one of the nicest guys in the biz. No matter who you are, St. Amant always has a friendly smile for you. He’s our sentimental pick for a Pro Cup Championship… and what a champion he would be. Ranking: 9.6
10. (tie) Michael Ritch (Pro Cup South) – Yeah, there are two of those pesky Pro Cupers in our power poll here… and for once, they are both savvy veterans. Ritch is one of those guys that isn’t going to be getting a Nextel Cup or Busch Series ride anytime soon, but he’s still got some talent. And after several years of trying to find his stride again, Ritch has his “mojo” back on the strength of one win and two second-place finishes. He’s used some serious consistency to find himself leading the point standings in the ultra-competitive Pro Cup Southern Division against some of tomorrow’s stars. And he’s winning races too. That is a sign of some power. Ranking: 9.8
10. (tie) *POWER ALERT* - Corey Williams (PASS South) – With his back-to-back PASS South victories after Tuesday night's Firecracker 125 win at Peachstate Speedway (GA), Corey Williams jumped up on the 51 Panelists' voting to a top-10 spot. Williams had been an "Honorable Mention" after winning his first PASS South race at Orange County Speedway (NC) last month, but he went out and proved that it wasn't luck or a fluke at Peachstate. He paced himself at one of the trickiest tracks in the South and built on the momentum gained at the OC to come on strong late in the going for win number two. With two PASS South wins on his time off from working on Jeffrey Earnhardt's Busch East team, Williams deserves the jump up to the top-10.
It's hard to vote against a nice guy that can still get it done like Gary St. Amant. (Kathy Bond photo)
Honorable Mentions (received votes from our panel, but not enough to top the list)
Jordan Anderson (Legends Pro) – He’s got eight wins and 20 top-three finishes in 2007 and is currently leading Pro National points.
Cassius Clark (PASS North) - He's come up with another way to get around some tough rules in PASS North and he's taking full advantage of it.
Mike David (West) - There's no East Coast bias here! This NASCAR West Series driver has been on a tear, with two wins and a commanding lead in the championship standings.
Chub Frank (WoO LM) – Yeah, maybe our panel is a little asphalt bias (considering we are the #1 asphalt short track website going), but there is no denying four wins in the WoO Dirt Late Model Series when nobody else has more than two, that's impressive.
Tim Fuller (DIRT Mods) - The Advance Auto Parts Super DirtCar Series is among the most challenging in the country and right now Fuller is on top of the charts. Fuller is also pulling double-duty this year as well by running a WoO Dirt Late Model.
Chris Gabehart (CRA) - He's got a win in the always unpredictable CRA Super Series and has a healthy lead in the series standings.
Kyle Hall (LM, Legends) – He’s got all top-10 finishes in first season of Late Model Stock racing. With seven top-five finishes and a victory, he is second in track points at Old Dominion.
Eddie MacDonald (BES) - What he did at Stafford was simply amazing – beating Cup-supported Busch East entries with a low-buck race team. What he did to celebrate was even cooler – going to Oxford with a pick-up truck and open trailer to compete in a Late Model race.
Kyle Mitchell (Pro Challenge) – He’s dominating in the Pro Challenge Georgia Region and giving Dean McIntyre a run for his money in the National points.
Burt Myers (SMT, Mods) – He’s got two wins in three races in ASA Mods and leading the points. Second in SMT points with four consecutive poles, a series record.
Woody Pitkat (WMT, Mods, LM) – Power is replacing a guy like Chuck Hossfeld in a Whelen Modified Tour ride. Real power is winning one race almost every weekend.
Robbie Pyle (ASA LM) - It was nice to see Pyle win again and damn powerful of him to best the Campbells at Berlin of all places
Casey Roderick (Legends) - Is there anything in Legends he hasn’t won? He’s won at the Shootout, he’s won at Lanier and he’s second in the points at the Shootout.
Donny Ruevers (LM, ASA MW) - He's won a bunch of races up in the Minnesota area at tracks like I-94 and Elko and now he's branching out with consistency in the redhot ASA Midwest Series with a win and the points lead.
Casey Smith (SLM) - Smith broke through after some tough times by winning in the Viper Series at South Alabama Speedway, but he cemented his resurgence with another win only a few short weeks later at Mobile.
John Stancill (Legends Semi-Pro) – A total of 13 wins and 21 top-three finishes in 2007 so far, along with the Semi-Pro National points lead.
Donald Theetge (ACT) - Maybe you haven’t heard of this Canadian hotshoe, but he has been powerful up North with victories in both the ACT Castrol Series and the ACT Late Model tour.
Brandon Ward (Pro Cup North) - This rookie is just steps away from his first Pro Cup win. He’s been fast everywhere he’s went and sits fifth in the overall standings.
Brian Weimer (Legends) - He is winning in Legends and Thunder Roadsters at three different tracks and running a Late Model at the same time.
Alex Yontz (UARA) – He was a dominating force last year and seems to have his season back on track with a win in the most recent UARA race.