Speed51.com Short Track Power Rankings
A 51 Exclusive - and Tradition
1. Matt Kobyluck, NASCAR Camping World East Series - 5.6 Rating
Matt Kobyluck has been a fixture in what we used to call the NASCAR Busch North…then Busch East…and now Camping World East Series for as long as Speed51.com has been around. He's won plenty of races and gathered some good point finishes. But this summer has been his strongest one yet. He's knocked out three victories in the last five series races and leads the points.
And while nobody could call the Kobyluck team “underfinanced”, they are competing against farm teams from NASCAR Sprint Cup powerhouses like RCR, Joe Gibbs Racing and DEI. And while we know there is just about every comfort on earth at the Mohegan Sun Resort that sponsors Kobyluck, we haven't found a wind tunnel anywhere nearby the last time we checked.
It was all about parity in this version of the Speed51.com Short Track Power rankings. Our panel, which consists of short track racing experts from across the country, nominated a total of 62 drivers to make the list. The votes were all fed into the computer and our top 20 was calculated - with another baker's dozen honorable mentions put in for good measure.
Another interesting note is that the top two in June's Short Track Power rankings - Brian Ickler and Ted Christopher - didn't even get a single vote this time. It appears that our panel has a short memory.
So without further ado, here is what our panel came up with:
Pole Position - Sadly, there is a missing man formation to our grid this time around.
Brian Pack, a colorful character in the world of Southern Modifieds recently lost his life in a motorcycle. He'll be missed, and was thought of by our panel.
“I never knew him, but saw his reach and heard a bunch about him,” said one of our experts from a region far away from the Southern Modifieds. “He should be remembered.”
And he will be. Rest in Peace Brian Pack.
2. Matt Hirschman, Mods - 6.9 Rating
Meanwhile, another Matt finished in second place.
The good news for Matt Hirschman is that by winning four races in a row at four different types of Modified races, for three different teams, he won the hearts of our panelists who religiously follow asphalt Modified racing. He gathered twice as many first place votes as anyone else.
9. Donny Schatz, WoO Sprints - 12.1 Rating
Schatz is winning in World of Outlaws Sprints. What else is new? He sure has plenty of experience doing just that over recent seasons.
10. Sean Murphy, ASA LM - 12.2 Rating
A trio of ASA Late Model Challenge Series races has quietly made this young driver a powerful force.
11. Woody Pitkat, MODS - 12.3 Rating
Pitkat has won at Stafford, coming from two laps down to take their prestigious 150-lap SK Modified race. He's won at Thompson too. He got himself into a Modified Tour ride without signing a check. That is a powerful tri-fecta.
12. Brett Hearn, DIRT MODS - 12.4 Rating
Hearn recently won his 100th career DIRT feature. Victories #101, #102 and so on probably won't have to wait for long either that way he's been running this year.
17. Boris Jurkovic, CRA - 13.3 Rating
Big Boris has been keeping Scott Hantz honest in CRA competition this year. He started off the season a little bit slow, but has scored a pair of victories in the last five races.
18. Adam Bates, PASS - 13.4 Rating
He's smooth. He's quiet. He's clean….and now he is a winner too in the PASS North ranks. Adam Bates might have seemed to come from nowhere to run up front in that Super Late Model division, but we're not really surprised one bit after watching him race for awhile now.
19. Johnny Clark, PASS - 13.5 Rating
Over the past few PASS North races, Johnny Clark has been one of the hottest drivers out there. A top three finish at Thompson, a victory at Riverside and a runaway at All-Star that ended with a flat tire showed his strength. But the fact that his last name is Clark instead of Rowe might have caused some of our panelists from other parts of the country to overlook him. At least that is the only explanation we can think of for his ranking of 19th.
20. Ricky Rolfe, LM - 13.7 Rating
Maybe the most dominant “Saturday Night” driver anywhere, as five out of six wins at Oxford Plains Speedway will tell you. Rolfe had a bad Oxford 250, but that's nothing. You show me a driver that wins more often and I'll show you Kyle Busch in the big leagues. And Ricky's too old to move up and beat Kyle.
Honorable Mentions -
Jimmy Blewett (Mods)
He won a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Riverhead's bullring. That's surely
enough to make it into the Tower of Power!
Jake Crum (UARA)
Currently leads the UARA-STARS points and has won two series races this season.
Billy Decker (DIRT)
Decker has won five Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTCar Modified races this year. We
know guys who haven't even entered five races yet this year!
Clint King (Pro Challenge)
Three Pro Challenge victories in a row, and five overall, is a pretty strong show of power.
Benny Gordon (Pro Cup)
On the road to yet another Pro Cup Northern division title.
Alex Haase (PASS)
He's won a pair of PASS South features in Kyle Busch's Super Late Model.
Paul Hahn (ARCA Trucks)
Hahn has won six of the last eight ARCA Truck features. Good thing he doesn't
raced cars - because he'll need his truck bed just to carry around all of those trophies.
Eric Holmes (CW West)
Holmes is leading the NASCAR Campign World West points and heading toward
Glen Luce (ACT)
This ACT rookie, and longtime Oxford competitor, actually appeared to make Kevin
Harvick nervous in the closing laps of the Oxford 250. Luce finished second, but he
did finish second to Harvick….so that is still pretty powerful.
Hunter Robbins (Pro Cup)
Hunter Robbins has progressed pretty well so far in his career. Now, after last week at Hickory, he is a Pro Cup race winner at the tender age of 16.
DJ Shaw (PASS)
There sure are a lot of trophies stuck in the Shaw family tree. Now, teenager DJ Shaw has a PASS North victory to his name to add to the ones that his father Dale has scored in PASS North, ACT and NASCAR's series formerly known as Busch North.
Scott Steckley (NASCAR Canada)
The Canadian Tire Series needed a guy like Scott Steckley - unsponsored, unproven - to come in and kick butt this year. Good for him, and good for Canadian racing!
Justin Wakefield (PASS)
The blurb in this week's Big 10 stories of Short Track Racing couldn't have said it better…so we'll just recycle it for this story:
It's nice anytime a former NASCAR All Pro Division can still get the job done. Justin Wakefield had to wait a day in the rain to score his first PASS South victory on Sunday afternoon.
6. Derek Ramstrom, PASS - 11.3 Rating
Nearly winning the PASS North race at Thompson (from the back) and sealing the deal at All-Star (from a mid-pack starting spot) put this 16-year-old on the Power radar screen. He sure knows how to race.
A string of Pro Stock/Super Late Model victories in weekly competition at Thompson this year hasn't hurt his cause either.
“Speaking of wicked bright future, here's Derek Ramstrom,” wrote one of our experts. “He dominates at Thompson weekly, and as weird as it is to say at 16 years old he was overdue for a PASS win, the reality is that he probably should have had two or three by now. Congrats on the All-Star win."
7. Jimmy Lang, ASA LM - 11.9 Rating
There's only been one ASA Late Model Southern Division race this year that Lang hasn't won. That's powerful.
“Four wins in the ASA LM South series has him high in the poll. If he wins a Challenge race he will quickly be on top of the chart,” predicted one of our experts.
8. Mark McFarland, Pro Cup - 12.0 Rating
McFarland earned a single number one vote in our Power Poll. Here is what that panelist had to say about his season…
“Sure he's been cold the last two races but six top five finishes including three wins and two seconds are showing that he is a serious contender for the championship.”
13. Dan Frederickson, ASA MW - 12.5 Rating
Frederickson has been around the Midwestern short tracks for awhile and this year he is putting all of that experience to great use by carving up the competition on the ASA Midwest Tour.
14. Jay Middleton, ASA SAT - 12.7 Rating
“He's hot in ASA SAT, he has two wins and he's leading the points he has also been close on other occasions,” wrote one of our voters.
15. Ben Rowe, PASS - 13.0 Rating
OK, Ben Rowe isn't having a career that is quite up to his standards. But when you're Ben Rowe, those standards are pretty lofty anyways. He's leading the PASS north points, has run strong in a few PASS South appearances and placed in the top five of the TD Banknorth Oxford 250. Pretty powerful for a “slump” we'd say.
16. Scott Payea, ACT - 13.2 Rating
Seven-time ACT Late Model champion Jean-Paul Cyr isn't having a “Cyr-like” year in 2008… but Scott Payea is. There's a general consensus that the kid is going to have to really screw up in order to lose the American-Canadian Tour championship. And Scott Payea doesn't screw up often. Put it this way, with ACT's new point system where you drop your worst two races, one of Payea's “drops” is a 5th. Plus, there are a couple of CWSE teams looking at him. He's got a wicked bright future for sure.
The competitors of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour released balloons to remember Brian Pack at last weekend's Bowman-Gray event. We honor him with the Power Pole. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
Interestingly, Kobyluck didn't get a single number one vote. But remarkably, he was on all but one ballot that came back to us and he scored very, very high on each one.
Here are a few of the comments from our panel about Matt and his ascension to number one on the Tower of Power.
“Could this be the drive to his championship? I know we're not supposed to be biased, but I'd like to see the big guy and his gang at the head table in November.”
In contrast, another one of our experts didn't even try to be politically correct…
“One of, like, two drivers in CWSE that hasn't been tossed out of the tech line this year, Matt's going to do us New Englanders proud and take his puny seven-car, multi-million dollar stable and beat those spoon-fed brats for the title! And you know what? Eddie MacDonald's gonna finish second! Most of those rich kids in that series are still in high school, so here's a math equation for you: One year of Mini Stocks on dirt + Famous last names = Nothing respectable. Here's another equation: Experience + Drive + Actual Talent = Guys like Kobyluck, MacDonald, Bryon Chew, and the much-missed Dave Dion… real racers, and real heroes. Okay, rant off."
Wow….we might end up get a little hate mail from that one, but we do encourage our panelists to speak their minds!
Matt Hirschman has been spending a lot of time in victory lane lately. (Jim Dupont Photo)
But he was also completely left off some ballots as well, which dropped him to the runner-up slot. We might be able to blame the fact that his success is so spread out as the reason. After all, he's not leading the points on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and only has one victory there to his credit. So he's easy to gloss over….but those in the know KNOW what a great job Little Hirschy is doing.
“It's hard to beat anyone like Matt for first place on the track or in this poll, and like you guys at 51 have said, well, there's not much else to say,” stated one of our experts.
3. Scott Hantz, CRA - 9.5 Rating
So far this year, Scott Hantz has won more CRA Super Series races than even Mother Nature (His four victories weighed against three rainouts or postponements). His dominance comes against a stocked field too - Boris Jurkovic, Johnny Van Doorn, Rick Turner and company aren't slouches.
4. Trevor Sanborn, PASS - 9.6 Rating
Sanborn is making the most of a limited schedule in PASS North and South, with a pair of wins in the PASS South ranks.
“This guy is clutch, and what he does on the race track is 100% effective. He may not race often, but he should,” wrote one of our experts.
5. Scott Speed, ARCA - 9.7 Rating
Scott Speed used an unorthodox path to the ARCA RE/MAX Series. He came to the short and long track tour from Formula One racing! It worked too. So far, he has won three races as an ARCA rookie - including two of the last three.
“Um, excuse me, where the hell did Scott Speed come from? Finally an international open-wheel driver that's worth his salt in a REAL racecar! Oh wait… he's an American? Even better!” wrote one of our panelists.
Jimmy Blewett (Top - Howie Hodge / NASCAR photo), Benny Gordon (Middle - Kathy Bond - USAR Photo) and Clint King (Bottom) all came close, but didn't enter this edition of Short Track Power.
PASS youngsters Trevor Sanborn (Top - 51 Photo) and Derek Ramstrom (Bottom - Jamie Williams Photo) wow'ed our panel of experts.
Dan Frederickson (ASA MW Photo)