Matt Kobyluck (BES) - Another solid finish in the Busch East Series standings, backed-up by Toyota All-Star Showdown victory.
Junior Miller (SMT) - Things got more competitive in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour ranks this year, but Junior Miller still kept on winning… a lot (six wins in 13 races).
SHORT TRACK POWER – a Speed51.com Exclusive
The Final Rankings For 2006
1. Clay Rogers (Pro Cup) – There is no other way to say it. The USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series Champion and Snowball Derby Champion kicked some serious ass this year in having what had to be the best season ever for the 26-year-old racer. Rogers was the resounding number one choice by most of our panel, earning four first-place votes, more than any other driver. Rogers dominated Hooters Pro Cup this year to the tune of seven wins, 15 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes in 21 starts. After that, he moonlighted in a Super Late Model and won the Snowball Derby, albeit by default when the original winner was DQ’ed. A win is a win however. And Clay is #1 in our final rankings.
2. Kelly Bires (ASA LM Challenge) – Bires was a virtual unknown coming into the 2006 season. Not any more however. Now, he’s signed to a Development Driver contract with Wood Brothers Racing. Remember that his predecessor Stephen Leicht is now with Robert Yates Racing, and you’ll see that it’s two-for-two in ASA Late Model Series Champions getting signed for the big leagues. And, both drivers drove for the same team; WalTom Racing. You can argue that it was more team than Kelly, and that may partially be true because WalTom with Howie Lettow leading the way is by far the best in ASA, but the fact of the matter was Kelly was the man wheeling the machine to all those ASA wins and a dominating championship run.
3. Casey Roderick (Legends) – If Legends Racing were on a little more of a national front, then it might be hard not to vote this 14-year-old even higher on the list. If there was a Legends Pro Division race somewhere in the country, this kid was probably winning it. And if it was a high-profile race, he was definitely winning it. Roderick won the Summer Shootout Championship at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, which is considered by many one of the holy grails of the Legends Car world. Then, he followed that up by winning the Legends Nationals at Lanier National Speedway, the Mason-Dixon Meltdown at South Boston Speedway and the PRI Invitational race at Orlando SpeedWorld just a few weeks ago. Remember the name Roderick. You’ll be hearing more of it.
Clay Rogers (top, Kathy Bond photo) and Kelly Bires (bottom, Bob Milner photo) were the top two drivers in 2006 according to our power rankings panel.
4. Tim McCreadie (Dirt LM) - Yeah, he didn’t win as much as he normally does, but he did pull off the World of Outlaws Dirt Late Model championship and win the illustrious Chili Bowl crown in one year. In addition, he was named as the Eastern Motorsport Press Association’s prestigious Al Holbert Memorial National Driver of the Year Award winner after earning two wins and 23 top-10 finishes. That is pretty impressive. And now, Richard Childress is looking at Timmy to run some West and Busch East races. He might make more noise in 2007.
5. Eric Holmes (West/SWS) - He had some muscle, especially at the end of the season and he almost pulled off a double-dip of title out west in NASCAR. Holmes
Tim McCreadie won a lot of races in 2006, but couldn't win our voters hearts to be #1 in the final power rankings of 2006.
won the West Series championship and fell just one point short of winning the Southwest Series title in the same season. He then went out to the NASCAR Toyota All Star Showdown and nearly won not once, but twice. He was the guy to beat in the Grand National Division. Now, Holmes just needs a shot at the big time. He’s got the looks. He’s got the attitude. He’s got the skill. He just needs the opportunity.
6 (tie). Matt Hirschman (Mods) – Being the son of a multi-time NASCAR Modified Tour Champion isn’t easy. Those are some hard shoes to fill, but Matt Hirschman is on his way to doing just that. Hirschman began breaking out of the shadows of his father Tony late in the year in 2006, winning two of the biggest independent Modified races in the country. He won the $10,000-to-win North-South Shootout at Concord Motorsport Park and then followed that up just two weeks later by winning the Mason-Dixon Meltdown at South Boston Speedway and the $12,500 paycheck that went with it. Hirschman wanted to see the season continue, but it was all done after SoBo. Can his 2007 be even bigger? Only time will tell.
(tie). Mike Stefanik (WMT) – Want to know power? Look at Mr. Mike Stefanik. Stefanik made history in 2006 by tying Richie Evans with the most-career NASCAR titles. Nine. Yep, NINE titles. Stefanik won his seventh Modified Series title in 2006 (and has two NASCAR Busch East Series championships). That earned him two first-place votes with our panel – the only other driver besides Clay Rogers to earn more than one first-place vote in the final rankings. Stefanik won the title quietly, like he has his whole career, winning just once
on the tour, but finishing outside of the top-10 in all but one race. That’s impressive. Stefanik is a living legend and a deserving fan favorite.
8 (tie). Cassius Clark (PASS North) - He started and ended on the right foot in 2007. He dominated early in PASS North and had a total of five wins in the ultra-competitive series last year. And then he capped the season off with a big win, in the $12,500 top prize Mason Dixon Meltdown down south (South Boston Speedway). And then he led laps in his first appearance at the Snowball Derby one week later. Cassius likes to throw caution to the win. He didn’t care much about points – it’s checkers or wreckers for this young lion.
(tie). Sean Caisse (BES) - Before the 2006 season started, Sean Caisse was simply a former NASCAR Busch East Series Rookie of the Year (2005) that still had yet to win a Busch East race. By the time 2006 was over, he was a three-time winner and probably the most feared driver on the circuit. Just like the #2 driver in the Power Rankings, Kelly Bires, many wonder if it was more about the driver or team with Caisse, considering that he drives for four-time Busch East Series champion and all around good guy Andy Santerre.
Modified drivers Matt Hirschman (top, Hodge photo) and Mike Stefanik (bottom) tied for sixth.
10. Tim Schendel (MWS) - His stock had fallen in 2004 and 2005. So entering the 2006 campaign, he had all the makings of just another Wisconsin hopeful that never materialized. But something clicked and many saw a fire in his eyes they had never seen in him before. He went out and won the final NASCAR Midwest Series Championship, competitively competed with a family-owned team in the ARAC RE/MAX (he finished second to Phil Bozell at Milwaukee) and, most importantly, the NASCAR Toyota All Star Showdown. It was a huge year for this Midwest driver. Now, what does he do to follow it up?
Charlie Bradberry (SLM) – Unfortunately we lost Charlie in 2006. And he will be missed more than anyone will ever know. But when he was around, Charlie was still as good as ever, winning multiple races and the Mobile Speedway Super Late Model Track Championship. We’ll miss the #78 in 2007 and beyond.
Landon Cassill (ASA LM/SLM) – Landon won many races this year, including being the only driver to win features in all three ASA Late Model Series (Challenge, North and South).
Nathan Haseleu (WCS) - Two consecutive Wisconsin Challenge Series championships is no small feat…especially when car counts average near 50 competitive cars per event.
Matt Hawkins (GAS/PLM) – Hawkins had a strong year, winning two GAS races, but ended the year on a huge note, winning the Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL.
Alan Johnson (Dirt Mods) - The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series champ, the Race of Champions Dirt Trail Champ, two track championships and more than 25 wins in a season. Hurt only by a lack of attention.
JR Norris (SES) – Winner of the final NASCAR Southeast Series title and the final ever Elite Division event (at Phoenix in November) is the definition of power.
Ben Rowe (PASS North) - No, he didn’t win a championship this year, but Rowe did end the season with three consecutive PASS North victories, a very strong run in the Mason-Dixon Meltdown and four wins (in only seven starts) in ACT.
Mike Rowe (PASS) – Mike won the first even PASS South Championship in style, in addition to finishing second to Johnny Clark in the PASS North standings.