As usual, there were different drivers who received votes in this edition of the Speed51.com Short Track Power rankings and this time around, it's a new guy on top. Bubba Pollard won the last two editions of Short Track Power, but he slipped back deep into the top ten this time.
Things could be worse though for Bubba Pollard fans though - Brian Hoar, TJ Reaid, Tim Fuller, Preston Peltier, Donny Schatz and Bobby Santos, III were all ranked in the top 20 the last time around, but have fallen off our top 40 chart this time. That made room for some new blood though, so all is well on the Tower of Power.
Here are our power rankings. entering the twilight portion of the 2009 short track racing season:
1. Eddie MacDonald (CW East / ACT Late Models) - 6.79 Rating, Last Poll: 7th - Over the course of two weekends this season, Eddie MacDonald has done what many drivers would aspire to do in a complete career.
In July, MacDonald won the TD Banknorth Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway - one of the crown jewels in all of short track racing. On another weekend in September, MacDonald won both the NACSAR Camping World East Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, arguably the biggest venue that the series visits all season and the next day's inaugural ACT Late Model invitational at the same track.
MacDonald also finished second in the East Series point standings to Ryan Truex, who drivers for the Michael Waltrip Racing team that attacks the series with the same resources as their efforts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
MacDonald's racing budget isn't nearly as big. The winning Late Model at New Hampshire showed up in a trailer that needed bungie cords just to hold the door on. It was towed by a 20-plus year old GMC pick-up complete with a Fisher Snowplow frame. The truck was a lightweight model at least - its quarter panels were ravaged by New England rust, so the truck had to weight less than when it was new.
So to do so much with so little is truly powerful and our voters recognized that this time around. MacDonald didn't received the most first-place votes of anyone, but he did get mentioned on just about every ballot. That kind of consistency put him on top of this Tower of Power.
Our best panelist comment on MacDonald was a simple one:
2. Scott Hantz (CRA and SLM) - 7.00 Rating, Last Poll: 4th - Scott Hantz actually got the most first place votes this time around and he came oh-so-close to taking the top spot of our Short Track Power rankings. But the math doesn't lie, and Hantz had to settle for second place this time around.
Settling for second place isn't something that Hantz has had to do much this year - not even to Kyle Busch. Hantz has won three of the last four CRA Super Series events. He beat Rowdy Busch in the one at Nashville in fact. Hantz is also well on his way to defending his CRA Super Series championship.
Plus Hantz has been winning off the tour as well.
"He's still winning!!!!!!," wrote one of our voters. "He now has over 10 wins after winning at Baer Field."
And the best might be yet to come. Next month is the Winchester 400, where Hantz kicked tail last year but lost out to David Stremme when Stremme's pit crew gave him the extra boost of a quicker pit stop late in the race. Busch will be there as well, along with David Reutimann, but Hantz isn't afraid of a few Cup guys.
3. Johanna Long (SLM, PLM and a Little Bit of ARCA) - 7.57 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked - You could call Johanna Long the Danica Patrick of short track racing. There is a definite mania around her and everyone is abuzz about them both. Almost every ballot that came back this time around had Long ranked somewhere in its top 10.
But, Johanna and Danica don't have everything in common. For example, Johanna has won more than one race... and she's got championships to add to those victories. Long is also the new Blizzard Super Late Model champion - coming just one year after she won the Pro Late Model championship at Five Flags Speedway.
Did we mention that she's still a high school student? Long might have ranked third in this edition of the Short Track Power poll, but we expect that her best days are still ahead.
So yes, there is some degree of hype to Johanna-Mania. But in this case, there is fire where there is smoke.
4. Steve Carlson (ASA MW, ASA LM and SLM) - 8.86 Rating, Last Poll: 3rd - Steve Carlson has been winning wherever he points his race hauler this season.
He's battling for the ASA Midwest Tour championship on the basis of four victories there. He's also won a pair of ASA Late Model North events and the ASA Late Model Challenge Series race at Gateway.
"Crate engine or super late model-he's the one to beat in the Upper Midwest," wrote one of our voters.
5. Justin Lofton (ARCA) - 9.43 Rating, Last Poll: 26th - Earlier this summer, Justin Loftin knew that he was in trouble. The ARCA RE/MAX Series standout was trailing championship rival Parker Kligerman, who was winning anything in sight. So Lofton met with his team and buckled down.
That was a powerful move.
Lofton has now won five of the last eight ARCA events on the schedule. Kligerman has scored two by comparison (road course ringer Patrick Long beat both of them in the other event - at New Jersey Motorsports Park).
Using that power, Lofton has now wrestled away the ARCA RE/MAX Series point lead away from Kligerman - with just two races left on the schedule.
6. Augie Grill (SLM and PLM) - 9.71 Rating, Last Poll: 20th - Augie Grill has won the last two Blizzard Series Super Late Model races at Five Flags Speedway (FL). He's also won a pair of Miller Lite Series Super Late Model shows over at Mobile International Speedway. Grill also crossed the line first in the Viper Series season finale at South Alabama Speedway, only to lose the victory in the tech line. Oops. That was the second time this season that happened for Grill.
If you exclude the DQs, there has only been one other race anywhere all season when Grill has finished outside of the top 10.
Now that's powerful stuff.
7. Bubba Pollard (SLM and PLM) - 11.39 Rating, Last Poll: 1st - This time around, Bubba Pollard slid from first in the Tower of Power. He's still a major threat to win anywhere in the Deep South - and he is even heading to the All-American 400 in Nashville later this fall. But things haven't been flawless lately either. Pollard finished second in the Viper Series finale at South Alabama Speedway. Normally, that would be great, but Pollard has won every other race there this year so the runner-up spot was a disappointment.
Then, in Friday's Blizzard Series season finale at Five Flags Speedway, Pollard got wrecked on the first lap and saw his title hopes fade away. Yes, even Bubba Pollard can have bad luck. Actually, that might be one of the only ways to beat him this year.
8. Andy Seuss (Mods) - 11.57 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked - We always tell our voters to not worry about points, but to focus on power, when it comes to choosing their picks. This is one case where they did just that.
George Brunnhoelzl, III is almost the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion. His point lead heading into the final two races of the year is almost impossible to overcome. But Andy Seuss has been driving his heart out trying, and that hasn't gone unnoticed by our panel. In fact, Seuss even earned one first place vote. That's thanks to winning of the last three stand-alone SMT events. He's also won the True Value Modified Racing Series race at Thompson Speedway (CT) as well.
9. Ryan Truex (CW East) - 11.71 Rating, Last Poll: 2nd - Bubba Pollard wasn't the only one to free-fall through the top 10 of the power rankings this time around. Ryan Truex dropped from second to ninth between editions of Short Track Power - and he won the NASCAR Camping World East Series championship in the meantime.
The rookie posted some very impressive numbers this season in CW East, but the over one month gap in the schedule kept his name off many people's minds. His last two races in the season resulted in solid top 10 finishes. That was great for his championship plans, but not as impressive to our tough panel of voters.
10. Parker Kligerman (ARCA) - 11.83 Rating, Last Poll: 5th - Parker Kligerman is a rookie in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. Prior to this year, he hadn't raced a full-sized racecar on dirt.
We just thought that we'd remind you of that before we tell you what he has done this year.
Kligerman, who really only planned on running a partial ARCA schedule this year, is currently second in points. He's won at Toledo. He's won at Michigan. He's won at Iowa. He's won at Mansfield. He's won at Kentucky. He's won on the dirt at both Springfield and DuQuoin.
Yeah, we'd say that shows just a little bit of power. Enough to squeak into the top 10 at least.
11. Donny Lia (Mods) - 11.86 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked - Donny Lia has powerfully driven back through the field in a pair of recent NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events. He spun at Thompson and came back to win. At New Hampshire, he finished second. But there he had to overcome a practice fire and two wrecks in the race. Lia also won over Ted Christopher in the first ever Modified Tour race at Bristol.
12. Richie Dearborn (PASS North) - 12.40 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked - It is possible for one great race to get you into the 51 Short Track Power rankings. Just ask Richie Dearborn.
Dearborn put a hurting on the field in the he PASS North season finale at White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH). He led every lap, at times with a lead of half a lap, and dominated the race in a powerful way. In fact, we can't think of a more dominant drive by anyone this season so far.
13. Brent Dragon (ACT Late Models) - 12.41 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked - There have been a few hot streaks of late on the ACT Late Model Tour. We've seen Patrick Laperle check out on the competition at times, we've seen Brad Leighton do the same thing. In mid-summer, Brian Hoar was the man on a roll.
Lately though, it's been Brent Dragon who has had the winning combination. Dragon won at Autodrome Chaudière and at Twin State too. He's also got an ACT Quebec Series victory to his name this year too.
14. Ron Silk (Mods) - 12.46 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked - Ron Silk shouldn't have been on this list. After parting ways with the Modified team that he has spent the past several seasons with, we weren't even sure that Silk would be racing much before the off-season kicks in.
But then a funny thing happened, Silk got a gig running a back-up car for the TS Haulers team at New Hampshire Motor Speedway... and he won. Then he subbed for Keith Rocco in the main TS Haulers car at Martinsville and contended there as well.
True, that's only two races. But to come back like that after facing unemployment is a tale that we love to see in these challenging times... and it is a damn powerful statement.
15. Johnny Clark (PASS North) - 12.64 Rating, Last Poll: 14th - In the last edition of Short Track power, PASS kingpins Ben Rowe and Johnny Clark ranks 13th and 14th with Rowe leading the way. This time, it's Clark's turn to finish just a hair ahead of his fellow Mainer. Johnny Clark has been in points mode lately and hasn't won since the mid July race at Lee USA Speedway (ME). That isn't especially powerful, but winning his fourth career PASS North Super Late Model is certainly a powerful thing.
16. Ben Rowe (PASS South and North) 12.79 Rating, Last Poll: 13th - Ben Rowe is well on his way to possibly winning both the PASS South and PASS National Super Late Model championships this year. He just finished second in points up in PASS North. Rowe powerfully came back from a late race pit stop to win this past weekend in the PASS South/National event at Southern National Speedway (NC). All of those things put him solidly in the top 20 of our current rankings.
17. Brett Sontag (SLM) - 12.86 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked - ASA National Tour refugee Brett Sontag won the Bettenhausen Memorial at Illiana Speedway. He's been a force over at Grundy County Speedway this year too. A spin kept him from winning the Lee Schuler Memorial at Grundy County, but all in all it has been a great year for the Illinois racer.
18. Mike Rowe (SLM) - 13.14 Rating, Last Poll: 19th - Mike Rowe won seven features in the regular season and as a result became the track champion at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Right after that season was over, Rowe ran his first PASS North race of the year, also at Beech Ridge, and won that as well. Did we mention it was the series' biggest event of the season - the PASS 300?
Now if we could just find a way for him to get him to cap off his season running a big fall southern Super Late Model race or two...
19. Chase Elliott (SLM) - 13.29 Rating, Last Poll: 27th - Chase Elliott was having a pretty darn good year in his first full season of Pro Late Model and Super Late Model competition. Then he entered his first PASS Super Late Model race at Hickory Motor Speedway.
That is where pretty darn good changed to great. The little guy from Georgia, who is also the son of 1988 NASCAR Cup champion Bill Elliott, disposed of Cassius Clark and then chased down and passed Jeff Choquette to win the race. A powerful accomplishment for a driver of any age.
20. Gary Lewis (ASA NW) - 13.31 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked - Gary Lewis has been the man out in ASA Northwest land this season. He's won four races, including two of the last three, on the way to the series championship. Our voters have noticed that accomplishments and rewarded Lewis with a top 20 slot in this edition of the Power Poll.
The Best of The Rest…
21. Matt Hirschman (Mods) - 13.57 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
22. Ted Christopher (Mods) - 13.70 Rating, Last Poll: 21st
23. Daniel Hemric (Legends) - 13.71 Rating, Last Poll: 15th
24. Jake Kugar (SLM) - 13.97 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
25. Matt Sheppard (DIRT Mods) - 14.04 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
26. Patrick Laperle (ACT LM) - 14.07 Rating, Last Poll: 11th
27. Paulie Harraka (CW West) - 14.10 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
28. Bart Hartman (Dirt LM) - 14.14 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
29. Jason Meyers (WoO Sprints) - 14.26 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
30. Jeff Fultz (SLM) - 14.31 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
31. Ross Kenseth (ASA LM and SLM) - 14.43 Rating, Last Poll: 6th
32. Jason Bowles (CW West) - 14.51 Rating, Last Poll: 38th
33. George Brunnhoelzl, III (Mods) - 14.53 Rating, Last Poll: 33rd
34. Brett Moffitt (CW East) - 14.57 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
35. Jody Measmer (PASS Trucks) - 14.67 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
36. Casey Roderick (GAS and PLM) - 14.69 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
37. Andrew Ranger (Canadian Tire Series) - 14.70 Rating, Last Poll: 22nd
38. Steve Wallace (LMSC) - 14.71 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
39. Brandon Ward (Pro Cup) - 17.73 Rating, Last Poll: Unranked
40. Ryan Preece (Mods) - 14.76 Rating, Last Poll: 9th
Honorable Mentions - John Donahue (ACT), Brett Hearn ((DIRT Mods), Drew Herring (Pro Cup), Brian Hoar (ACT), Steve Holzhausen (SLM and ASA MW), Jan Leaty (Mods), Scott McDaniel (PASS Mods), Phillip Morris (LMSC), Billy Putney (Mods), Lonnie Sommerville (SLM), Mike Stefanik (Mods), Alan Tardiff (CW East), Donald Theetege (ACT Quebec), Chris Wimmer (ASA MW)