Today we announce selections 11 through 25 in the 2009 Short Track Draft presented by Hedman Hedders here on Speed51.com.
We went through the rules yesterday, but in brief, drivers must be 18 – 29 years-old and somebody that could be considered for a shot in NASCAR’s “Big Three.” We counted votes from a panel of 32 experts in the field.
The entire draft is dedicated to the memory of Matt Hawkins, last year’s Number 1 selection in the Draft. He was an incredible talent in anything he raced, from Late Models, to Pro Cup and ARCA. He passed away in February and is somebody that will always be missed.
11. Alex Yontz - Late Models / ARCA
Despite not making huge waves in the racing world in 2008, Alex Yontz has climbed from 33rd in last year's draft to 11th. In fact, the 22-year-old racer didn’t even enter victory lane during the season. It might have to do something with Yontz finally making more of a push outside of Late Model Stocks to the ARCA Series. He has teamed up with Venturini Motorsports, and at Rockingham (NC), his outside pole start alongside Ken Schrader and a top-10 finish showed he can get it done in the series. This season, Yontz might score the touchdown of his life, if he can keep it all together at Venturini.
Pros: Yontz has aligned himself with one of the biggest names in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. That, coupled with his talent from behind the wheel, can easily put him in victory lane this season. With big wins at Bristol (TN) and Martinsville (VA) in LMSCs, along with consistency everywhere else he runs, it is hard not to pick Yontz to pilot a car.
Cons: Taking a page out of the veteran's playbook, Yontz has put young Logan Ruffin in his Late Model Stock and is his driving coach. While this might sound like a Pro, it might show signs that Yontz is already looking towards a future of not driving himself, but being a car owner instead. He needs to make sure his focus stays on driving if he wants to make it to the big leagues as a wheelman.
12. Trevor Bayne - Pro Cup / East
Total package? You betcha. Kid’s good looking, well-spoken and can wheel just about anything to the front of the field. He’s one of the youngest winners in Camping World East, been winning in Pro Cup for a few years now, but all that couldn’t trump DEI’s financial woes that forced them to all but eliminate their development program, leaving the 18-year-old without a true home.
Pros: Bayne definitely has the look of a hotshot Southern Cal quarterback and can produce on the field (or track) as well as any high-rounder should. He’s a proven winner with the media savvy to be good on camera and on the mic, too.
Cons: We always hear of contract negotiations being tough when it comes to young draft picks, but in this case, there is still a contract for Bayne, just nothing for him to race. His one-off races have produced wins this year, but a more full-time starting gig would put him back on the highlight reels.
13. Johnny Clark - Super Late Models
You want clutch? You want someone to come up big when the game’s on the line? Then Johnny Clark’s your guy. It’s hard to argue with the big wins in races like the Mason-Dixon Meltdown at South Boston (VA) and the PASS 300 at Beech Ridge (ME) in 2008. He’s about as big of a big-game player as it gets. He’s like a Kurt Warner-type player…no matter how old he may be, how thick his facial hair grows or where he goes, he’s likely going to be a winner.
Pros: Not afraid to travel from North to South, racing in just about all the big SLM shows there are.
Cons: Clark doesn’t clean up too well, plus he’s getting older, meaning the days are winding down before he’s not able to make the move anymore.
14. Johnny VanDoorn - Super Late Models
Sometime marketing a driver is real easy when they have a great name like Johnny VanDoorn. Take your pick, you can say “Johnny Be Good” or imagine VanDoorn on the back of the jersey of your favorite team. One way or another, this 20-year-old is marketable and with his fun personality, he’s pretty high up our list. Last year he had a win at Mansfield and finished sixth in CRA points after nine top-10 finishes. This could be the determining year for VanDoorn as he needs to step up big time to catch the eyes of “the scouts.”
Pros: VanDoorn caught the eye of veteran racer Tim Steele a few years ago that led him to big wins like the All-American 400 at Nashville. He’s got a new outlook after a down 2008 that already produced a win with his new team.
Cons: When the coach/quarterback combo of Steele and VanDoorn fizzled, VanDoorn’s stock seemed to fizzle with it. Without a full-time ride, VanDoorn went from a highly sought-after star to a late-rounder real quick.
15. Corey Williams - Super Late Models
In sports, things are often all about what you've done lately. After all, the New England Patriots and the New York Giants battled against each other for Super Bowl bragging rights in 2008, but this year the Pats didn't even make the playoffs and the Giants didn't make it into the championship round.
Corey Williams can relate to that. At this time last season, he was looking back at a 2007 season with three PASS South victories and a fresh winner in the early-season 2008 Easter Bunny 150. That momentum
helped guide him to a third-place ranking in last year's Short Track Draft. But a frustrating remainder of the season with no further victories pushed him out of the spotlight.
Pros: Williams can drive just as well as ever, and the 23-year-old is now showing the right mix of youthful energy and the experience to stay out of trouble on the racetrack.
Cons: But his name just isn't at the tip of as many tongues this time around. Williams needs to keep posting solid numbers to stay visible. Shaking the bad luck curse is critical to his chances of landing a development deal.
16. Jimmy Lang - Late Models
Jimmy Lang, the 2008 ASA Late Model South Series Champion is like the senior who came of no where to lead his team to the National Title. At the end of 2007, few would have given Lang the nod to be a champion in 2008. After five wins (including three in a row and five out of six) Lang was on his way to the championship. Other high points of the season for the 19-year-old included his fifth at Mansfield Motorsports Park (OH) and his sixth place run at Gateway International Speedway (IL). This off-season has been a long one as the Lang Racing team has been hit with financial problems and has not raced as of late April.
Pros: Determination and talent are not short on this kid, which could take a team a long way.
Cons: Lang has fallen of the radar a bit with lack of racing. Plus, his shy personality and “country bumpkin” look with his frequent mouth full of “chew” could hinder him in the higher levels of racing.
17. Ryan Preece - Modifieds
Scouts love young raw talent and Ryan Preece is just that. Preece is one of the young guns ready to break through on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Preece, now 18, became the youngest pole and race winner in Tour history last year. He scored his first win in big fashion at Martinsville Speedway, being awarded the trophy in the prestigious Whelen Made in America 300 after Burt Myers’ disqualification. The New England driver scored an impressive seven top-10 finishes in 2008 while driving the famed “Ole Blue” ride. He also competed in a Super Late Model at the 2008 Snowball Derby, for BDI Racing, scoring a 14th place finish. This year, Preece hopes to better his 10th-place finish in the Mod Tour point standings while he chases more wins and the championship in NASCAR’s oldest division.
Pros: Youth is Preece’s biggest asset. He is a well-mannered young man as well. If he continues to develop and increase his stats, he’ll be one to watch. He doesn’t get himself in bad spots on the track and doesn’t tear up much equipment either.
Cons: Stats baby, stats! Development is measured in the end by performance and while Preece has matured behind the wheel, he needs to hold more checkered flags. He also needs to position himself to get more experience outside of the Modified scene in fendered racecars. The Snowball Derby helped introduce him to the non-Modified part of the Short Track scene. Preece needs to build on that and continue to branch out.
18. Cassius Clark - Super Late Models
This 28-year-old has been redshirted for eligibility a couple times over and he’s running out of time before “Father Time” removes him from the draft all-together. The talented kid is one of the best in the business of Super Late Model racing; he’s been a winner and title contender on all PASS Tours the past couple of years. In fact, he won the PASS National SLM championship in ’08.
Pros: Like a quarterback, he’s got a great “touch” or “feel” for the ball, or racecar in this case. He’s a winner and has the on-track determination to get the job done.
Cons: Like brash wide receiver Terrell Owens, he can be pretty cocky, but he’s improved on his outgoingness over the last year. Unfortunately, he did not win a single race in ’08, thus holding steady as far as his position in the draft.
19. Andy Seuss - Modifieds
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and racer Andy Seuss have a lot in common. Both were the 19th pick in their respective drafts; both have had issues over the last few years and both have made a strong push as of late. While Maclin has dealt with multiple knee blowouts, Seuss has dealt with sub-par runs and wrecks outside of his control. However, neither has given up, which has put them on watched list by big names. In Seuss' case, his bland season with Riggs Racing in 2008 finally turned the corner at the end of the year, with a win at Caraway Speedway (NC) in October. After looking like he was going to drop off the draft; that win, along with two victories and all strong runs in 2009 has popped Seuss right back up in the fray.
Pros: Seuss is a very likable guy, even if he sometimes comes across as too shy. Fans, sponsors and other drivers like the kid because he is humble and doesn't let any success get to his head. The Riggs Racing team and Seuss are on the same page now, and could take the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour title. He has also gotten a bit more aggressive.
Cons: There is no doubt that Seuss loves to race, but that passion might bite him in the focus department. When he is not driving the Southern Modified for Riggs Racing, he is driving his family-owned ride, and the results are just not there with that car. It could shake his confidence if he continues to teeter-todder back and forth between the two rides and two different results.
20. Tim Russell - Super Late Models
Tim Russell hopes to follow in the steps of Percy Harvin as a prospect to come straight out of Florida and into the big leagues of the sporting world. Like Harvin, Russell knows all about posting big numbers in front of Gator fans (as well as Seminole fans and Hurricane fans).
Pros: This 26-year-old has been winning on asphalt tracks throughout Florida for several seasons now. There is no questioning his home record. A few very positive ARCA starts might indicate that Russell can succeed out of his element. More starts would confirm that fact.
Cons: Russell's away stats are still a bit incomplete. He doesn't travel much and the lack of results, or even much experience, in places like PASS South, CRA, ASA Southeast or in the Blizzard Series hurts his cause a little bit. Russell also has his age working against him somewhat. At 26, he is still ripe to move up but he'd better do it quickly.
21. Jacob Goede - Late Models
UConn’s first-ever first round NFL Draft pick, Running Back Donald Brown, is known for his deliberate patience when finding his way through blocks to get towards the endzone. Jacob Goede has to have patience of his own, because he doesn’t race for a “big-market team,” racing mostly on a tight budget. But, whenever he does put the pads – or firesuit – on, he’s a threat to make it to the endzone that is victory lane. He’s won big on the big stage before, winning in ASA Late Models at places like Iowa and Bristol on a shoestring budget.
Pros: He doesn’t have the cocky attitude most first-round picks have. Goede’s a genuinely good kid, most always smiling and knows the way to victory lane.
Cons: He wasn’t able to seal the deal for the ASALM Challenge title in ’08, which may have left some of our scouts wondering if he can produce in the cluch.
22. Bubba Pollard - Late Models
Many might have expected 22-year-old racer Bubba Pollard to race up the charts more than two spots over last year's draft. Unfortunately Pollard just didn't turn enough heads during the 2008 season and looked to drop completely off the map. Sis performances lately have stepped him back into the spotlight. He has won multiple races this year, and racing his name back up on the charts, similar to former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. Even though he might have backed into a few victories, first is first, and he has put himself back on the map with strong outings at the start of this season.
Pros: The team chemistry is there and Pollard is starting to show strength at every event he goes to, not just certain ones. The uniform he got last year replaced the horrid red Santa look with a more aggressive and professional black and red look. Now is Pollard's time to shine and he is grabbing opportunity with both hands and is running with it.
Cons: Pollard still needs to ramp up his personality. Also, he needs to invest in razors. Until you make it like Jimmie Johnson, modern-day owners aren't going to put a driver in their car that looks like he just woke up minutes ago.
23. Michael Pope - Super Late Models
A draft prospect is always tested when they move from High School ball to the College world, and Michael Pope is doing pretty much the same thing as he says goodbye to the mid-sized Georgia town of Dublin and settles in among the bright lights of Charlotte as the lead driver for the BDI Racing Super Late Model team in 2009.
Pros: Pope, who is still only 19 years old, showed enough promise on the short tracks of his home region to attract the attention of SPEED Broadcaster Bob Dillner. Now with coaches like Dillner, crew chief Jason Ricker, and Director of Race Operations Matt Kentfield, the young man is honing his skills. Pope shows plenty of heart. He's hit the gym to shape up and has already ventured onto new fields such as New Smyrna Speedway (FL) and Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) so far this year. A diverse schedule of racing that includes PASS, CRA, ASA SAT and Pro Late Model events will give Pope plenty of experience and exposure. A winning personality and the support of a close-knit family are also things on Pope's side.
Cons: The attention that comes with a high profile ride could be something that Pope needs to be careful about too though. With so many eyes looking after him, a run of simple bad luck could be misconstrued as being the driver's fault.
24. Coleman Pressley - Late Model Stock Cars
According to our scouts, this kid wasn’t on anybody’s depth chart last year. This year, the son of former NASCAR big league competitor Robert Pressley shows up in the top 25. Coleman Pressley finished in the top-10 in NASCAR Whelen All American Series points in 2008 with seven victories. The 19-year-old is also a winner of the prestigious Bobby Isaac Memorial at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC).
Pros: Comes from a lineage of racing talent. He is a third-generation racer. His grandfather was the late Bob Pressley, who had more than 500 wins in his career. Coleman has a great personality and is now travelling on the UARA Tour.
Cons: For the most part Coleman has been “One-Track-Jack” throughout the early part of his career. He’s run consistently at Hickory Motor Speedway and occasionally at Greenville Pickens Speedway (SC). That’s why we think it’s great he is expanding his horizons to the UARA traveling tour in ’09.
25. Stephan McCurley - Super Late Models / ARCA
Last year the racing world got to know Stephan McCurley and he became in some eyes “An All American Hero.” The 18-year-old from Humble, Texas doesn’t play football, but he still found a way to get drafted. McCurley did it pretty much by himself on the ASA SAT tour a year ago from setups, shop work and driving. He and his dad towed to all the races and did all the work on the car at track for the entire season. In the end, the only thing that was empty was the win column. Stephan won a regional point title with ASA SAT and finished second overall in the final standings.
Pros: The kid knows the car inside and out. He’s got the heart of a racecar driver. Last year at the Snowball Derby he parked close enough to the access road so he could win the race to the tech line.
Cons: Perhaps McCurley left school a year too early, since he never won a big Late Model race and isn’t getting the attention this year with his move to ARCA that he was getting on the short track level.