51’s Short Track Draft - The Original
#11-#40 of Our Underclassmen Picks
11. Jake “The Snake” Crum (UARA Late Models) - Down in the Carolinas, “The Snake” has slithered his way from Bandoleros, to Legends Cars and now to the Late Model Stock wars. He made a name for himself last year in the touring world of UARA-STARS Series. Will the 17-year-old follow in the footsteps of Late Model Stockers like Denny Hamlin to the big leagues? Time will tell.
Positives: The former Carolina Legends Car standout's aggression behind the wheel and youth are the biggest things he has going for him. He has become a more consistent driver over the last two seasons, while running in the UARA Late Model ranks, and isn't getting himself in as many bad situations.
Negatives: Much too quiet outside of the racecar. You have to pull words out of him. Needs media training in some ways, but mostly needs to loosen up or he won't make it in the big leagues. He's won in the UARA once (Coastal Plains Speedway in 2007), but now needs to close the deal again so he isn't labeled a one-hit-wonder.
12. DJ Shaw (PASS North / Super Late Models / Late Models) - Dale Shaw has been one of the best drivers in Northeastern stock car racing for the good part of three decades. He's the only person we can think of who has won in ACT Late Models, PASS Super Late Models and what used to be the NASCAR Busch North Series. But, Shaw has also started more than his share of trouble by using his front bumper quite a bit through his career.
Now imagine a driver identical to Shaw - with the same amount or possibly even more talent and a cleaner driving style. Imagine how much that driver would excel. Well, you don't have to imagine - just watch the rising career of his son, 17-year-old DJ Shaw, in PASS North and you'll see.
Jake Crum has been turning his wheels in the UARA-STARS series.
15. Ryan Preece (Modifieds) - The freshest face on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour has been enjoying a pretty good season already in 2008. Preece, 17, won in his family's ride at New Smyrna during Florida Speedweeks and then landed a seat in the “Ole' Blue” #3 Modified of Boehler Racing Enterprises. Two races into the Tour season, Preece dominated the Spring Sizzler at Stafford, but had an engine failure. He turned a lot of heads there and maybe if that performance came before these ballots were cast, he'd be solidly ranked in the top 10 of the underclassman draft.
Positives - Preece was basically raised in the Modified pit area. His grandfather, Bobby Judkins, owned some very successful Mods through the years and Preece started going to track at an early age. Everything he learned over that time has got to mean something… maybe a lot. Preece has a tremendous amount of desire to succeed and has started out the 2008 showing some real smarts on the racetrack.
Negatives - The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is a pressure cooker, so it's trial by fire for Preece. Will going wheel-to-wheel with veterans like Ted Christopher and Mike Stefanik improve Preece's game or will the Tour chew him up and spit him out? Time will tell. There's also a lot of pressure in driving for what is probably the most storied team in Modified racing.
16. Johanna Long (Super Late Models) - Especially now that Danica Patrick has won in the Indy Racing Series, NASCAR needs a great female driver who can step up and be competitive in the Sprint Cup Series. If that doesn't happen within the next few years, then 15-year-old Johanna Long might be the person to do it when she becomes of age. This talented young racer is making her mark in the Super Late Model ranks of the Florida panhandle and Alabama, so keep your eye on her.
Positives - Everyone who has met her has said that Johanna is an exceptionally nice girl, which is no surprise since he father is nice-guy racer Donald Long. Racing in the tough Deep South Super Late Model world is a great education too. Joanna is up against some great veterans every race and can learn from the best. She won her first Pro Late Model event at South Alabama Speedway just a few short weeks ago.
Here is a list of the remainder of picks 11-40 in this year's Underclassman Short Track Draft
Positives - It hasn't taken long for DJ Shaw to post big results. Two years ago, in his first year out of a go-kart, he won the track championship at White Mountain Motorsports Park. Last year, he won big open shows at Lee USA Speedway and Wiscasset Raceway. Now, he is already establishing himself in PASS North as part of this year's rookie crop. DJ adapts to different types of racecars quickly and is very smooth. He knows them inside and out too, having grown up around his Dad's car building business.
Negatives - There's no well of money here, so any ride that Shaw gets as he moves up the racing ladder is going to have to be earned by his talent and not what he can bring to the table. Unfortunately, that is a tall order these days.
13. Kyle Fowler (ASA SAT / Pro Late Models) - Kyle Fowler has taken a similar path to most kids; quarter-midgets, Legends Cars and now Late Models. After winning numerous races in Legends, he claimed the Rookie of the Year honors last year in the Georgia Asphalt Series in his first true season in a Pro Late Model. Now the 15-year-
DJ Shaw (Far Left) is racing against some big names in PASS North - like (L-R) Mike Rowe, Johnny Clark and Cassius Clark.
old is at a crossroads. He has competed in a few Late Model races this year, but is also eyeing a few runs in the NASCAR Camping World East Series this year.
Positives: This kid is extremely polite and has an overall nice demeanor. He has a great feel for a racecar and can adapt to many different racetracks. He is also a clean racecar driver who gives nice feedback to the crew.
Negatives: Right now his family-owned team cannot decide the path they will venture down this season. He has competed in the first three ASA SAT races, but are debating about limiting the Late Model races for East Series races. Money is tight, as with everyone else. While he is well-spoken, he needs to smooth out his on-camera interviews.
14. Dakoda Armstrong (USAC Sprints and Midgets) - The USAC kids have always done well in adapting to NASCAR racing. This isn't a surprise since their traditional route to the Indy 500 has dried up. When it comes to teens, Dakoda Armstrong is one of the brightest shining talents out there. He's won a ton of races, everywhere in the US and when he was 13, he became the youngest USAC championship series winner. This year he is competing in both the Sprint Car and Midget trail, although he has gotten off to a slow start. All of the ingredients are there for this 16-year-old to become a success.
Positives: Ganassi driver Bryan Clausen drove for Dakoda's father in the USAC ranks. Why is this a positive? Connections count in the modern-world of Motorsports. Playmakers always shout, “Give me the ball!” Possibly Dakoda's biggest positive is a busy schedule of Midget and Sprint car races will ensure he gets enough touches to develop his skills. Just like first-round choice and underclassmen, Arkansas running back Felix Jones (selected by the Dallas Cowboys), Armstrong is a big-play just waiting to happen. He's certainly got “The Look” as well.
Negatives: Needs to get behind the wheel of something with fenders. He drove Bandoleros, but needs to experience the feel of a heavy racecar with a body on it. Also, needs to win more. He's won big shows like the PRI Midget race in 2007, but needs to keep adding to that list. His first name is often spelled wrong in the media too.
Ryan Preece was a winner at Florida Speedweeks.
Negatives - Maybe Johanna is a little bit too aggressive at times. She kept her recent victory in the Viper Series, but lost all of her points and earnings from the finish as a result of a rough driving call. Then again, the other driver who she rooted out of the way on the final lap said that he didn't blame her for going for the win… so maybe this is more of a case of youthful enthusiasm than dirty driving.
17. Michael Bilderback (Late Models) - Already a winner this season at Rockford Speedway in the Big 8 Series, 16-Year-Old Bilderback is turning heads early in 2008. He had a lot of laps last season between ASA and the Big 8 Series. Being so young and already winning events is the best thing going Bilderback. He is another graduate from the Legends Car wars.
Positives: He lives in a part of the country where he has quite a few options on where to race to showcase his skills. Plus, in that part of the country we see some “tough racing.” After all, the upper Midwest honed the skills of a bunch of NASCAR guys, including former Cup champ Matt Kenseth.
Negatives: More wins are needed along with more starts and better finishes, but isn't that the case with anyone trying to make it. His name is out there, but her could certainly do a better job at promoting himself more.
18. Chad Boat (USAC Sprint / Midgets) - It's always good to have a dad who has been successful in this sport. Just look up the history of father/son combinations of the Earnhardts,
Allisons and the Unsers and you'll see some good ones. Chad's dad, Billy, was a winner in the IRL's infancy. Now the younger Boat is one of those highly-touted young drivers who has a lot of experience in open wheel competition. This year, for the first time, the 16-year-old is competing on both the national USAC Sprint Car and Midget Tour.
Positives: He gets a lot of laps in and he always seams to be running at the finish as he had 14 top tens in 20 stars last season in Indiana. When he was 13 he became the youngest Sprint Car winner ever in the state of Arizona. He also has Curb Records on the side of the car and that means he is associated in some way with the [Cary] Agajanian side of the sport. He's young and he looks it too.
Negatives: While he is consistent, he has only won four races since 2006. More wins are needed. He also needs more asphalt experience. His 12th place run at Anderson, IN a few weeks back was his first USAC event on asphalt. He's got the name, he just has to back it up now.
19. Ross Kenseth (Super Late Models) - The name alone gets his some credibility, but his dad, NASCAR's Matt Kenseth, certainly wants his son to make his own name for himself. He stepped out of Legends cars and into a Big 8 Series car and promptly put the thing on the pole at Oktoberfest in 2007. Will see more Big 8 Series action in 2008 and run weekly at Wisconsin Dells Raceway Park. The kid is a wheelman.
Positives: His father is Matt Kenseth. He is young (14) and he will have good equipment. He is a good overall kid and has a great opportunity.
Negatives: His father is Matt Kenseth. He will have a lot of pressure put on him by other people - especially on the short tracks of the Midwest where his father made a name for himself not that long ago; how he adapts to that is what will make or break him.
20. Brandon McReynolds (UARA Late Models) - For the third straight time in this draft, the last name of a driver will certainly go a long way into aiding a driver up the chart. Brandon is former Cup crew chief and current FOX commentator Larry McReynolds son. Larry is a true good guy and he is raising his son to be the same. Brandon learned to win in Bandoleros and continued that trend in the Allison Legacy Series where he finished top five in points a season ago. Now he is entering his first full-season of UARA Late Model Stock Racing.
Positives: His dad, like Kenseth, can certainly help. But his dad has also done everything the right way, in terms of making Brandon earn everything he has received. The 17-year-old is personable and knows his way around a racetrack. The Late Model experience will certainly help this year.
Negatives: There are not many here. His inexperience in full-bodied cars is the only that comes to mind, so this year will be a pivotal year in his development.
21. Jeremy Mullinax (ASA SAT) - He raced more than 40 times last season in the Legend Car ranks and that has set him up for what he has already done in 2008. The 17-year-old is competing in the inaugural season of the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour and has had run solid at times this season. He scored a top ten finish in Cordele, GA and set-fast time at the series opener.
Positives: Has the right people working with him, as he eases into the roll of driving a Late Model. Former ASA competitor and Georgia “wheel-man” Doug Stevens is his crew chief. Seems to be a nice enough kid.
Negatives: Although they are working at easing him in, his inexperience behind the wheel could be a struggle at times in his first season behind the wheel of a Late Model. Next year could be his year in the draft.
22. Nick Stroupe (Pro Challenge / Legends Car) - Successful drivers can usually be split into two groups - those who win lots of races and those who also win championships. Nick Stroupe will probably fall into both. Even at the age of 12, this kid already knows how to last through the early and middle stages of a race and strike near the end. He isn't a checkers or wreckers type and shows wisdom beyond his years.
Positives - Above all else, this kid is smooth. He doesn't get worked up; he doesn't get excited and he is a very calculating driver on the racetrack even at his young age. Stroupe very seldom makes mistakes and he's easy on his equipment. His older brother Zach is #4 in the underclassmen draft and that experience will help. Like his brother, he too drives for Bob Dillner.
Negatives - With Logan Ruffin winning in a Super Late Model at age 13, the bar is set high for any youngster these days, so there's already pressure on kids like Stroupe.
"Slick" Nick Stroupe in victory lane last season at Dillon Motor Speedway.
He could also be a little bit more aggressive at times and use a little muscle on the track if necessary.
23. Chad Finchum (Bandolero Young Guns) - Out of all the drivers throughout the 51 Draft, practically no one has achieved 2008 race stats like Finchum. In 19 starts, the 13-year-old Bandolero Young Guns division racer from Tennessee has 14 wins (12 in a row) and two winter championships. This all took place at eight different tracks in four states. It doesn't matter when or where, this kid gets it done from behind the wheel and could be a diamond in the rough.
Positives - Finchum is eager to learn and quick to adapt, no matter where he is at. This kid eats, sleeps and breathes racing and doesn't give up until the checkered flag falls and he is in victory lane. He recently raced in a Legends Car event and finished second out of 10 drivers in his first stint behind the wheel of the different racing vehicle. That shows he can adapt quickly.
Negatives - Location might hurt him as he lives in Tennessee, hours away from North Carolina and the heart of Stock Car & Legends country. Many young drivers do live outside of the Carolinas, but moving closer to the heart of Stock Car country could prove beneficial. He has that typical messy young teenager look, but as he gets older, that will need to change.
29. Max Gresham (Legends / Late Models) - This must be the peachy section of our draft because Gresham is the fourth straight driver from Georgia on the board. Gresham piloted a Legends Car in the 2007 season and won four times throughout the year. All the while the 14-year-old driver took a spin around a few tracks in a Late Model as well. In 2008, the now 15 year old will race in multiple touring series, including the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour and the Georgia Asphalt Series. He needs to show more strength at these events to make him stand out in a crowded field of talented drivers and he's got the right guy, Gene Roberts, to lead the way.
30. Gene Kirila (Legends Cars / Late Models) - Many drivers need a gimmick to set them out from the rest of the drivers so people will remember their name. That is why Gene “The Gorilla” Kirila might have a leg up on the competition. The 15-year-old Legends driver has made some Late Model starts this season, but he needs to calm the beast in the bigger cars if he wants to make it in the big leagues. Pushing his way around a Legends Car track is one thing, shoving a Late Model driver out of the way will create retaliation that he might not be able to afford. He's got the talent and he's a nice kid, but he needs to shed the Legends Car racing at this point.
31. Jordan Anderson (Legends Cars) - There is no question Jordan Anderson has talent. Over the past few years the South Carolina driver has put himself at the front of the field in many races in the Legends Car Pro division. Anderson's aggressive nature on the track has created some enemies. Anderson is a strong-willed driver with a strong faith in religion, but faith alone won't get a driver a ride in the sport. Money seems to be his issue as he appears to be stuck in the Legends cars beyond his time. With a little patience, more money and a few more prayers answered, Anderson might make it to the big leagues some day, but he needs to do it sooner than later, as in this year. He just turned 17 last month and needs to gets out of a Legends Car.
32. Steven Ross (Legends) - Last season there were not many people who could beat Steven Ross on the track. Whether it was in his car or his brother's car, Ross took checkered flags at racetracks all across the Carolinas. Late in the season he hooked up with Hendrick Motorsports crew member Tim Ladyga's Legends team and quickly showed he could pilot the famous #48 Legends car to top finishes. He is known to be aggressive at times, but that fits the Ladyga Motorsports style of racing. He will have to lose that, and his mop-head hair, if he wants to advance into the big-car world. After all, he's no Boris Said.
33. Brandon Thomson (Thunder Cup) - After spending time winning in Legends Car competition in Florida, Thomson tried his hand at a few Goodyear Challenge races as well as a couple Sunbelt Series events in '07 with some success. In a shocking move for the 2008 season, Thomson parked his Late Model equipment to race the new Thunder Cup cars (Thunder Roadsters) at the advice of Lowe's Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler. The bold move might give him some press in the INEX world, but will the rest of the racing world respect that career direction?
34. Dillon Bassett (Bandoleros) - Talk about a kid with a great nickname, the young Bassett is known as “Sparkplug” around the racing world. He is both a sparkplug around the garage and on the track. He may look too small and fragile to be race car driver, but when he hits the track Bassett wheels it like nobody's business. Too young to be in the Young Guns division, the 11-year-old has spent time in the last few seasons winning just about anything and everything. The only problem he seems to have is losing gracefully, but that is something he will learn over time.
35. Erick Rudolph (Modifieds) - Many were surprised when the Washington Redskins
selected Colt Brennan with the 186th pick in the NFL draft. The Quarterback from Hawaii,
who had strong numbers, could be the surprise though, much like Erick Rudolph going
late in the Speed51.com Short Track Underclassmen Draft.
Talent can often be overlooked at times when you are playing in Hawaii or racing on a tour
that doesn't receive much exposure, like the Race of Champions Modified Tour. The
17-year-old driver knows how to score though. He won his first RoC Mod race last year.
The second generation drivers' stock also went up after his sixth place run at the
North-South Shootout at Concord Motorsports Park in 2007. Rudolph is attempting to run
several NASCAR Whelen Mod Tour races in 2008.
36. Daniel Hemric (Legends) - Talent isn't a problem for Daniel Hemric. He has proven
to be a winner everywhere he's been over the last few seasons of Legends Car racing.
Mid last year, after a disagreement with his car owner (Tim Ladyga), Hemric lost his ride.
That forced his career to completely stall out for several months. He didn't give up though,
and after months of watching from the sidelines he landed a ride as the star driver at Dan
Snyder Racing. This has proven to be a great move since he has won just about everything he has entered in 2008. He needs to keep doing what he is doing, get noticed, then move up. You only get one second chance. He has improved his appearance during the past couple of years and is now well-rounded and well-spoken.
37. Ryan Glenski (Allison Legacy Series) - Ryan Glenski dominated just about everything in the Bandolero realm over the past few years and finally got out of the division at the end of 2007, but it came at a price since he was reportedly suspended for a year due to mechanical rules violations. He was able to shrug off the black mark with a move full time to the Allison Legacy Series in 2008, winning his first series race at South Boston within the past month. This kid has talent coming out of his ears, but the choice of where and what he races is causing some to not take him seriously from behind the wheel. He needs to get out of the momentum cars and into something that showcases his raw talent, otherwise he will never make it in this business.
38. (Tie) Justin Lloyd (Legends Cars) - His draft status has picked up immensely during the past several months after a handful of wins in Legends Cars at the competitive Concord Motorsport Park. The 17-year-old is dominating the racing on the quarter-mile track. The kid is polite, good looking and shy at times. He needs a good showing at the Lowe's Motor Speedway's Summer Shootout to continue to move up the charts. The other thing he needs is more full-car experience, either in the form of Late Models or at least the Aaron's Pro Challenge Series.
24. Alex Kennedy (Late Models / Legends) - Has run well in just about everything he races and had a very stellar record as a Legends Car driver. Last year he scored a second place finish at I-70 Speedway in an ASA Late Model event. At only 15-years old he has seen more track time in more states than most drivers his age.
Positives: He mastered Legend car racing while running out of his home state of New Mexico and the past has shown that kids who can win a lot in Legend cars can usually do great in big cars too. He's a very nice and polite kid and seems very grounded. Moving to North Carolina to compete in Late Model Stock Cars has been a very smart career move.
Negatives: A lack of wins has kept him off many people's radar screens. Coming from the Southwest, there aren't as many people who have been around to follow his career from its early stages.
25. Nick Murgic (ASA Midwest Tour) - Watching his father Steve Murgic race on
the short tracks of the upper Midwest has done Nick Murgic well. The Minnesota teen is moving up from racing weekly at Elko Speedway, where he has won in the headlining Super Late Model division, to the tough ASA Midwest Tour this season. Murgic is pretty handy with the book too. He's holds a near 4.00 GPA in his high school classes and aspires to follow in the footsteps of Ryan Newman by chasing a college degree in mechanical engineering as well as pursuing a racing career.
Positives: Any kid this smart will excel in whatever he does in life - whether it is being a race engineer, mechanical engineer or stock car driver. He's grown up around racing, so he knows the sport and he fared very well against a tough field of regulars at Elko. Racing on the ASA Midwest Tour, which is very much on the rise, could prove to be a very smart move.
Negatives: There don't appear to be too many here because the Murgic family seems to be making the right moves with this youngster's development. The bar of competition is high in ASA Midwest, so he'll have a tough time posting really big umbers in 2008.
26. Kyle Mitchell (Late Models) - This Pro Challenge grad is making the right moves this year to advance his career. Mitchell, 17, has won several times in the competitive Pro Challenge ranks and even held titles such as Georgia Region champ and National Regular Season Pro Challenge titlist. Mitchell also competed in a Legends Car at times with limited success. However, he did score big recently by winning his first Late Model event at South Georgia Motorsports Park. He is a crafty kid, but sometimes he is a little over-confident.
27. Mitch Cobb (Super Late Models) - He has run a lot of series, from Blizzard races in Pensacola, FL to GAS and PASS South. The Georgia-native also drives for Bill Elliott, a great name to have backing your racing operations. Cobb, 17, hasn't had a lot of great finishes; he hasn't tasted victory in the Super Late Model ranks, but he is improving. He probably needs to shed some of his diehard Georgia appeal and adopt and overall marketing appeal.
28. Jonathan Chandler (Legends / Pro Challenge / Late Model) - The 2007 racing season was a great one for Chandler in the Pro Challenge Series. With Aaron's Sales & Lease on his car, the young Georgia racer did the math and scored the series championship. In 2008, 17-year-old Chandler will race a Late Model at his home track Lanier National Speedway as well as some Legends Car races during Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder. He needs to get his name out there more because he is a good looking young kid with a great personality.
38. (Tie) Corey LaJoie (UARA Late Models) - His draft ranking has dropped a bunch lately due to the fact that the kid doesn't race much. He is the son of former NASCAR Busch Series champion Randy LaJoie and he has been impressive behind the wheel of a car. He made his mark in the racing world a couple years ago in a Pro Challenge machine, but since then his stints behind the wheel have been few and far between. The 16-year-old is competing in the UARA STARS Late Model Series in '08, so that should be a marked improvement. He's savvy and he's certainly well aware of his appearance, but jet-black hair and plucked eyebrows may be a bit too much. He does have a good personality and he speaks well to boot.
39. Michael Cooper (Allison Legacy Series) - There is a lot of competition in the Allison Legacy Series, especially in the Carolinas, so to win is tough. To be a champion is tougher. But Michael Cooper was a champion in the Legacy ranks last season. The Pittsboro, North Carolina native is up to the same thing so far this year. Just last weekend, he led all 50 laps on his way to winning at Concord Motorsport Park.
40. Clint King (Pro Challenge) - Some race car drivers are not just good from behind the wheel, they are also book smart and talented in other ways. King is one of those drivers as he is a member of the AIG (Academically/ Intellectually Gifted) and is a first chair trumpet player, with several awards in music. Along with his other talents, King has wheeled his Pro Challenge to three wins in a short period of time, but the competition hasn't been the best at some of the events he has won at. While he has been in the mix, he hasn't been able to dominate over the best of the best in the series. He needs to stand out more to be recognized. He might need a different hairstyle too.
Mitch Cobb is using a Super Late Model to make a name for himself.