51’s SHORT TRACK DRAFT – THE ORIGINAL
Our Panel Of 20-Plus Picks The Top-51 Short Track Racing Prospects
11) James Civali (Mods) - This kid came out with a lot of hype and it was warranted with a fast car and many victories early on in the weekly Modified ranks in Connecticut. But for every win the kid got, it seemed like his name was in the papers more for his wild side on the track that got him fined, suspended and flat out booted from weekly tracks and the Busch North Series a few years back. Similarly, Brandon Merriweather may be known more for swinging his helmet at a Florida International University player during a brawl last year, but with his selection to the Patriots in this year’s draft, certainly he will have to calm down under the tutilege of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the rest of the team. While Merriweather’s conduct is still up in the air, Civali has already backed it down quite a bit. Now he is just the winner, not the punk kid of yesterday. (2006 Draft Position: Not Listed)
12) Clay Rogers (Pro Cup) – Clay Rogers is a lot like The Ohio State University quarterback Troy Smith. Smith was the best in his craft last year, winning the Heisman Trophy and falling just short of a National Championship. Rogers won the Pro Cup title for the second time in three years, and followed that up with the Snowball Derby victory. But for some reason, people just didn’t seem to want to draft either one. Smith went in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, while Rogers still hasn’t been picked up by anyone. He’s got the credentials and the talent, but he isn’t young. He’s 26, and that hurts these days in the draft. And, like everyone knows, he already had one shot in a top-notch ride in the Busch Series, but it didn’t work out. He needs to do it this year, or he’ll be another Gary St. Amant; making a living in the short track world. (2006 Draft Position: #3)
13) Colt James (ASA Challenge) – Football players have had some great names over the years, Mike Quick, “Mean Joe” Greene, Teddy Bruschi, but racecar drivers have gone toe-to-toe with the pigskinners in this category. Colt James is just another one of those in a long-line of classic names. Colt, like his name portrays, is strong and fast. He’s been an undiscovered talent in Texas for the last couple of years, but his big triumph at the ASA Challenge race his homestate of Texas earlier this year put him on the map. Many people don’t know he has turned pro once before, but not on the playing field. He was an engineer for Chip Ganassi Racing a couple years ago. The tall, lanky kid is a season-away from being prime for the big time. (2006 Draft Position: Not Listed)
James Civali's win at the Icebreaker last month boosted his draft value, but not enough to break into the top 10. (Jim DuPont photo)
17) JR Norris (SLM) - Picture an undersized, but plenty tough and talented running back. Picture him having a Heisman Trophy-esque season for a University, but just when the player hit his stride, his college goes defunct. That’s JR Norris’s story in a nutshell now that he no longer has a home in the NASCAR Southeast Series after it disappeared following the 2006 season. Norris won the title, but he no longer has a field to play on. Since losing the SES, Norris has tried his best to find a ride, but he needs to be in something full-time, not just the occasional ARCA start or Busch Series test. (2006 Draft Position: #13)
18) Nathan Haseleu (WCS, CRA) - He’s big, tough and bred in Wisconsin, which makes him a no-brainer as a draft pick. He’s go the wins and titles in the Wisconsin Challenge Series and in other SLM events like the CRA race in Nashville earlier this spring. Just like Joe Thomas (#3 overall pick to the Browns from Wisconsin), there’s unlimited upside to this guy. It was noticed by Roush years back when he ran in the Truck Series, but he may have had his one and only shot. He’s still young, so hopefully he’ll get the shot he deserves. (2006 Draft Position: Not Listed)
19) Tim McCreadie (Dirt LM, West) - Remember the movie “Necessary Roughness,” where an older guy comes back to to quarterback a lousy college team back to mediocrity? McCreadie is like that, but he’s got a much better team behind him, Richard Childress Racing. As the oldest guy in our draft (33), McCreadie made a name for himself on dirt thanks to a good bloodline (his dad “Barefoot” Bob is a dirt legend in the Northeast), but now he’s out to conquer asphalt with the backing of RCR. He showed skill in his one NASCAR West start at Phoenix and as long as he can be smooth in heavier cars on the pavement, he’ll be fine. (2006 Draft Position: #5)
20) Jason Hogan (Super Late Model) – How the mighty have fallen in the eyes of our panelists. Jason Hogan was the number-one selection in last year’s short track draft, now he’s slipped to number-21 on the depth chart. He reminds us of David Carr, a former number-one pick for the Houston Texans who is now the back-up for the Carolina Panthers. Hogan still has plenty of talent, but the 24-year-old is not getting any younger. Plus he hasn’t been racing much lately. Money is tough to come by these days, sometimes number-one picks don’t spend their dollars wisely, but unless you stay on the playing field, you’re not going to get noticed. Hogan is a two-time participant of the Roush “Gong-Show,” maybe a third time (with someone) would be a charm. (2006 Draft Position: #1)
21) Woody Howard (Pro Cup) – Woody Howard was a Joe Gibbs Racing driver, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside. But Howard’s talents haven’t. In fact, like many drivers in our list, he is doing all he can to get known and “scouted” by the big guns. He has moved from Pro Cup North to Pro Cup South this year and is currently leading the point standings. Woody was 24th in out draft last year, so he didn’t move up much, but he did move up some in the eyes of our panelists. Howard needs to develop a little bit more personality to have a real shot at the big time, but we know that his talent is already there. He’s good, just not great yet. (2006 Draft Position: #24)
Jason Hogan's stock may have fallen since last year, but that doesn't mean he's any less talented.
22) Donny Lia (Mods) – Like a couple of others in our draft, Lia’s stock fell from last year’s draft to this year’s draft. That happens in the draft sometimes, when a player has a good year and stays in school, and the next year doesn’t go all that well. Lia’s 2006 season was still good, with a couple of wins, but it wasn’t anything like his 2005 season. And his ARCA deal with Hagans Racing never really materialized. There were high hopes with Lia, but it just never happened. But he’s still a talented wheelman. With a little more fine tunening and a few more wins, Lia could be back on the fast track to a big-time career. But that needs to happen and it needs to happen soon. (2006 Draft Position: #7)
23) Tim Schendel (Busch East) – Wisconsin offensive lineman Joe Thomas spent this year’s NFL Draft day fishing and hunting with his father, rather than being in New York City with the rest of the early draft picks. That fits Tim Schendel to a tee. Schendel is just the typical, quiet Midwestern driver who knows how to get it done on the track. And, he loves hunting and has a long time hunting sponsor to go along with it. If he was getting drafted, he’d probably be out hunting or fishing himself when the call comes for him to be drafted. And if he never is, that would be ok with him, because he can still race, hunt and fish and be rather happy. (2006 Draft Position: #35)
24) Kody Swanson (Open Wheel) – Who? That is what a lot of people might be saying about the guy that was drafted in front of the likes of Ryan Crane, Josh Hamner, Travis Kittleson and others. But because Swanson is a lesser-known California kid in the open wheel ranks, people say “who?” Its like Central Michigan’s Joe Staley, who was a first-round draft selection in this year’s NFL draft. Most people just said “who?” Swanson has been coming on strong in USAC competition, winning the PRI show in December and leading the Western State points. (2006 Draft Position: Not Listed)
Here is a list of the remainder of picks 11-25 in this year's Short Track Draft
14) Cassius Clark (PASS North) – Clark has blazing speed, but he’s another one of those flashy wide receiver types with a ‘tude. He won more races than anyone in PASS North last year (five victories), but didn’t come close to winning the title. He can make the big plays (as evident by his victory in the Mason-Dixon Meltdown), but he needs to be more consistent. Everyone knows he is talented, but he would have been taken earlier in the draft had it not been for his demeanor. He never seems to be happy, unless he’s winning, and he complains a lot. This year he says he’s changing his style. He claims he’s now racing for fun and hopefully the championship will follow. If he can accomplish both, the 25-year-old could be a great pick-up for any team needing some speed, but he’s running out of eligibility because he’s not getting any younger. (2006 Draft Position: #15)
15) Andrew Myers (West Series) - This kid is the Alex Smith of short track racing – the epitome of a East Coast bias. Smith played his college ball at Utah, but playing for a smaller school out West, he went underappreciated. Once he got a Heisman nomination and turned it into a starting gig for the San Francisco 49ers, people only now
Andrew Myers has been impressive out West, but is he a victim of East Coast bias? (51 Photos)
believe in him. Myers has been a frontrunner in the NASCAR West Series for a few years, even winning a couple races, but because he does it all out West, people sleep on his real talent. He’s started branching out to the East Coast a little more and he’ll have to keep doing it if he’s going to have a shot. (2006 Draft Position: Not Listed)
16) Alex Yontz (UARA) - There’s really nothing about this 20-year-old that wouldn’t make him a top draft pick. He went from off our radar screens last year to a top-tier prospect, thanks in large part to his Bailey’s 300 win at Martinsville and his wins in the UARA ranks. He’s got the Hollywood looks and marketability of a guy like Matt Leinart a couple years back. All Yontz needs to do now is avoid situations like missing a UARA race (Tri-County last month). He should also look at stepping up now that he’s been running LMSC’s since 2003 without doing it all on his own like he did in the Truck Series a few years ago. (2006 Draft Position: Near Misses)
Nathan Haseleu can drive, play guitar, and is a hit with the ladies. Is that enough to impress the scouts?
Tim Schendel has taken his show from the Midwest to the East Coast in the Busch East Series.
25) Ben Rowe (PASS SLMs) – Ben might be that guy that gets drafted in the NFL that doesn’t even know about it. He’s not really looking to move up to the big leagues, but like all racers, he probably wouldn’t turn a shot down. At age 32, Rowe is getting up there and is really focusing on short track life, and he is enjoying it. This year, racing for Richard Moody Racing, Rowe plans to run as much of everything as he possibly can. If he wins a lot, he could still open up some eyes, but Rowe might be this year’s Shane Huffman or Jeff Fultz. They could still make an impact, but their draft to the bigs is rather unlikely. (2006 Draft Position: #25)