51’s SHORT TRACK DRAFT – THE ORIGINAL
Our Panel Of 20-Plus Picks The Top-51 Short Track Racing Prospects
1. Ryan Lawler (ASA & PASS)
He may not have the build, but he’s got the height and the stature to be a number-one pick. Like JaMarcus Russell (number-one pick in the NFL Draft), he’s got the ability to lead any team. But surround this 19-year-old with a strong team, like he has with Robert Hamke in the Southeast Pro and Super Late Model wars, and the victories will pour in. He’s won two-in-a-row in PASS South at Hickory Motor Speedway and added an ASA win to boot last year. Heck, he finished fifth in his first-ever Super Late Model race. He’s struggled a tad with finishes this year in ASA, but he has run quick in any test he’s been in. He’s a top-notch quarterback and with a little work, can be sculpted into a championship contender. JaMarcus still has a lot of questions surrounding him about whether he can make it, especially with the Raiders; our panel doesn’t question whether Lawler can. (2006 Draft Position: Not Listed)
The #1 Draft Pick... Ryan Lawler
Just like in the NFL, it has become a tradition here at Speed51.com to assemble a panel of experts and hold a Short Track Draft, going right along with the annual NFL Draft held in New York City. Since then, a few other people have tried to even copy what Speed51.com has done. But, as always, we have here the original.
Like last year, Speed51.com enlisted the help of all kinds of observers of the short track world. Our panel included people from NASCAR, other racing series, the media, talent scouts, parts manufacturers, industry leaders and portions of the staff at 51. They anonymously voted for their top prospects.
Again, there were some guidelines to follow. Drivers who have plans to compete in NASCAR’s “Big-Three” (Cup, Busch & Trucks) this year on a regular basis (one-race deals didn't matter) were excluded. Again, this draft also encompasses drivers over the age of 18, much like the NASCAR policy. We feel that is the minimum age a driver should be given an elite opportunity to NASCAR’s “Big-Three.” Lastly, we know there are certain drivers who appear on this list that already have driver development contracts, but they are still competing in the Short Track Racing series’ levels on a regular basis.
On Wednesday, we will release our “Underclassmen Draft,” comprised of some of the top talents in the country not 18-years-old just yet. We will also release another list of drivers who just missed the top-51 cut, but still recieved votes from our panelists.
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 2007 Short Track Draft, the panel selects…
2. Matt Hawkins (Pro Cup, Late Models)
Most years in the NFL draft, there are one, two or three players that most see as being a possible to number one draft pick. The same can be said for this year’s Short Track Draft. Ryan Lawler got that honor when the draft was announced and he was the #1 pick, but Matt Hawkins wasn’t far behind. In fact, Hawkins actually got more first place votes than anyone, but his average wasn’t as good as Lawler’s, putting him back to second. But Hawkins will still be a fresh face for anyone. He’s got the ability to win, especially under pressure in tough situations, like he did in last year’s Snowflake 100 and this year’s opening Pro Cup event. And he’s got the look. He also has the ability to learn and become a better driver with the right coaching, like Mike Garvey has done. He might still be a little bit quiet, but the success will open him up. He’s a catch for anyone out there. (2006 Draft Position: Not Listed)
Matt Hawkins is the #2 pick, according to our panel.
3. Chuck Barnes (Super Late Models, ARCA)
Like some college football players heading to the pros, Barnes now has a family to support, so he wants to go high in the draft. Barnes had a kid during the off season, which might effect his time on the track, but it doesn’t effect his talent at all. Barnes is still one of the most pure racers out there. That is evident because he dropped just one spot from last year’s draft to this year. Our panel is a big fan of Barnes. He’s not overly polished on the PR side of things, but what he misses there he makes up for in driving ability. That was evident when he took a normal “also ran” ARCA team to Victory Lane last year. Whenever Barnes gets in a car, he gets the job done. He might not race much, but he’s still got what it takes to make it to the next level. After all, he’s got another mouth to feed anyway. (2006 Draft Position: #3)
Chuck Barnes has good reasons to be a racing superstar.
4. Matt Hirchman (Modifieds)
The “Racing Hirschmans” are a lot like the Mannings of the NFL – good blood lines. Archie Manning started it all with the New Orleans Saints in the ‘70’s; now Peyton led his Colts to a Super Bowl triumph and Eli is on-the-verge with the New York football Giants. Well, Tony Hirschman is a giant in the tough Northeast Modified wars. He’s a five-time NASCAR Modified Tour champ. Like with the Mannings, the dad taught the kids well. Tony Jr. is a spotter for Roush Racing in the NEXTEL Cup Series and Matt is coming into his own, without the help of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Lil’ Hirschy won two of the biggest games of them all last year; the North vs South Shootout and the Mason-Dixon Meltdown; all that’s left is the Super Bowl, a Whelen Mod Tour win. Sounds like what they wondered about that Colts QB for years. Peyton got it done and so will Matt. (2006 Draft Position: #18)
Matt Hirschman's stock is rising
5. Andy Seuss (Modifieds)
Like running back Adrian Petersen (selected 7th in the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings), this kid could be the steal of the draft. Petersen, out of Oklahoma is tough between the tackles and has the speed to break out once he gets free. That’s Seuss to a tee. He doesn’t have the razzle and dazzle of some other draft picks, but he gets the most our of his underfunded family owned team in the Modifieds. He won at the Nashville Fairgrounds recently and was the Mod champ at the ’06 Florida Speedweeks champ at New Smyrna Speedway. He’s got a down to earth personality – all that’s needed is a little polish and he could be a real sleeper. (2006 Draft Position: #20)
Andy Seuss in v-lane at Nashville.
6. Eric Holmes (Busch East, West)
When football players get drafted, they want to win championships. Most of the time, they move from team to team until they win that elusive title. However, coaches often stay with teams until they win titles, then move on to take on bigger tasks. Such was the case for Eric Holmes. He won all he could in the West, including the 2006 series title. So with nothing left to prove out West, he decided to move on to the East and try to do it all again. Holmes is a kid with the talent, the looks and the personality, but he just hasn’t gotten any chances. He needs to get it done soon though, or he’ll be just an assistant coach for the rest of his life, not a head coach. (2006 Draft Position: Not Listed)
Eric Holmes is sixth on our draft board.
7. Derek Thorn (ASA Late Models)
If prep stars could jump into the NFL, that is what you could compare Derek Thorn to. He pretty much came from nowhere to make it into the top-10 of our draft. Moving from the sunshine state of California, Thorn came on like gang busters in late 2006, nearly winning at Nashville’s Music City Motorplex. Then, he came back after the offseason and finally won at Nashville. Now, the speedster is one of the men to beat in the ASA Late Model Challenge Series. He's got the talent and he's got the personality, but can he use all of that in the ASA Late Model world to move up and on to other, better things? Only time will tell. As with some prep stars.. they sometimes make it and they sometimes break it. (2006 Draft Position: Not Listed)
Derek Thorn at Nashville.
8. Tim Russell (Super Late Models, ARCA)
Russell is like the high school quarterback that dominates in his state. During his tenure, he can’t be beat (For Russell, right now in Super Late Models in Florida). Then he goes to college and is pretty damn good too, but still looking for that magical touch (For Russell, right now in ARCA). So, how will he be when he gets to the pros? It could go either way, but our panel likes what Tim Russell has. He’s got the looks, the personality and appears to have plenty of skill. Put him with the right people and he could be a dream for what a lot of big-time racing owners are looking for. His biggest downfall right now is his lack of travel. Unless he’s in the #9 Hagans Racing ride, he doesn’t really race outside of Florida. It takes money to run in ARCA, he could also take some to race all over the Southeast. Do that, and he’ll have all kinds of scouts looking over him. (2006 Draft Position: #23)
Tim Russell might go higher in some lists.
9. Sean Caisse (BES)
He’s the flashy wide receiver with the attitude problem. (We know we stole that line from the draft commercial for ESPN.) Sean is good and he knows it too. Last year Caisse got into a bunch of trouble with his driving and his mouth, but since his run-in with Matt Kobyluck at NHIS he’s been a lot more humble. It’s like the New England Patriots picking up Randy Moss; will he be the new Randy Moss or the flashy wide receiver with the attitude problem? He could be a headache for any owner, but he’s worth the risk because he is speedy. He won three races in the NASCAR Busch East Series last year, but blew his shot at a ride with Kevin Harvick’s Busch Series team. And don’t get us wrong, he’s a good kid, but he does have a big ego. A big plus in his corner, Andy Santerre is his coach. (2006 Draft Position: #30)
Sean Caisse went number nine in the 2007 draft.
10. Bobby Santos III (ARCA, Open Wheel)
Every year, there is one or two guys that come out in the draft that have family ties to the sport. Bobby Santos III is no different. He’s another third generation driver. And, he’s got the talent. He’s got the resume. It includes winning the 61st annual “Night Before the 500” USAC Midget race, wining the Midget race at The Milwaukee Mile, winning the ISMA Supermodified Budweiser Classic at Oswego Speedway, being the youngest ISMA Supermodified winner in club’s history and time spent in the Silver Crown Series, ARCA Series, Whelen Modified Tour and more. He’s signed by Bill Davis Racing, who is giving him plenty of seat time, which is his biggest downfall in stock cars right now. He’s got the ability to make it or break it. Time will tell. (2006 Draft Position: Not Listed)
Bobby Santos III is always focused on improving.