Speed 51’s 2009 Short Track Draft: 26 - 51
Our Panel Picks The Top-51 Short Track Racing Prospects
A Speed51.com Original
Today we select the final drivers in the third round of the draft to complete the 2009 Short Track Draft.  All together there are 51 selections for the 18 – 29 age bracket.

A panel of 32 people, from various areas of the short track industry, voted on the drivers they would select in this year’s Draft.  Many good drivers did not make the list for a variety of reasons.  We will have a best of the rest category in the coming days here at Speed51.com.

You may not agree with our panel’s selections or the placing of them, but that’s what is great about our sport… people can give their opinions all they want (as long as they are not personally degrading).  This was a fair evaluation of many people’s votes.  We invite you to partake in the discussion forum about this draft at MotorsportsLounge.com.

26. Justin Lofton - ARCA
Talk about the right time and the right place to get hot.  Last year we saw Justin Allgaier make a name for himself in the ARCA RE/MAX Series and now it looks as if 23-year-old Justin Loftin could follow in his footsteps.  Loftin gained votes late after his victory at Talladega last week, however his win at Michigan International Speedway in 2008 also turned some heads.  If the cards fall in his favor, Loftin should be a top-notch pick to win the ARCA Series title in 2009.  Loftin has moved up the ladder from his hill climb racing days in Colorado to his Desert Buggy Class 1000 events in 2004. A stint in the Camping World West Series has aided his switch to stock cars.  His adaption to new series is one of his biggest assets to his racing future.

Pros: Is right in line to move into one of the top-three series by season’s end, if not sooner.

Cons: Maybe he’s just a little bit too old. Cup teams seem to be in love with the under 18 crowd. 

27. Darren Hagen - USAC
Not seeing the driver classified as the “World’s Fastest Sprint Car Driver” on this draft list would be like the “burner” wide receiver that put the best 40-yard dash time in the draft combine going undrafted.  Darren Hagen has a Sprint Car speed record at Iowa Speedway, plus he’s won big races across the board, including last year’s Rich Vogler Classic at Winchester.  This 22-year-old currently leads the USAC National Midget with two victories.  

Pros: Polite and personable, motivated by speed and faith

Cons: Has little to no stock car experience, so it’s time to start some Late Model, ARCA or Camping World test and race plans

28. Adam Bates - Super Late Models
Adam Bates has evolved himself into one of the guys to beat every time there is a PASS North race.  This 21-year-old won against some tough competition at both Beech Ridge and Wiscasset and he’s on the verge of winning in PASS South as well, despite only running a limited schedule there.

Pros: Bates is extremely polite and personable outside of his racecar as well as very smart and calculating inside his racecar.

Cons: Maybe a bit too shy.  PASS North is very talent-rich right now so he’ll likely be winning less often there than if he was on some other tours – which could make his stats look weaker than they are.

29. Peyton Sellers - CW East/ARCA
This 25-year-old posted amazing results with one car and one engine for his family’s team in what was then the NASCAR Busch East Series back in 2007.  Sellers then backed that up by winning a race for Andy Santerre Motorsports in the series last season.

Pros: Very down-to-earth and clean-cut.  Sellers is just a nice young man who you can’t help but want to see succeed.  Knows how to do more with less and that could be a big help to a second-tier Nationwide or Truck Series team.

Cons: He’s already had what seemed to be a sure-fire developmental deal with Richard Childress Racing fizzle.  That experience could be still in the minds of many big-league talent scouts.  Lacks a full-time ride in any series right now.

30. George Brunnhoelzl III - Modifieds
If the 2009 Draft was just based on a driver's performance in the last two months, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver George Brunnhoelzl, III would pretty well be a lock in the top-10.  The 26-year-old driver has stolen the show so far this year and currently leads the series points.  However, his back-and-forth finishes in prior years has many waiting to see if GBIII can prove he has got that monkey off his back.  So far, it is looking good.

Pros: Solid runs have boosted his confidence on the track, and he is starting to smile more outside of the race car.

Cons: If he falters a few times, will he be able to shake it off and get back in the rhythm of running well?

31. Jason Bowles - CW West
One of the biggest threats in the hunt for the 2009 Camping World Series West title, 26-year-old Jason Bowles may be the next West Coaster to run well enough that the East Coast scouts take notice.  Two wins this year, including a dominating performance at Phoenix are waking up the people that he needs to shine in front of in order to make it to the next step

Pros: Has shined in a brief stock car career after successful karting background

Cons:  Needs to do some more East Coast racing and has to seal the deal for the title

32. Jeremy Colangelo - Super Late Models
Mark Martin knows how to pick talent.  He was one of the first to recognize the abilities of Joey Logano after all.  So when you consider that Martin chose Jeremy Colangelo to wheel his own Super Late Model equipment; that is a big deal.  Colangelo, 22, is still a relative newbie to SLMs, but he’s already winning races.

Pros: He’s got Mark Martin on his side and who else in racing could be a better mentor?  Colangelo is also a very personable young man.

Cons:  Needs to follow Jeff Choquette’s lead and race more often outside of Florida, which the team is attempting to accomplish this year.

33. Alex Haase - Super Late Model / CW East
Every college player in the draft needs a good agent to help them get the most out of their future – and paychecks.  Eighteen-year-old Alex Haase definitely had the right guy looking out for him last year, Kyle Busch.  Haase took the KBM Super Late Model to the PASS South Championship and he ran well in the Blizzard Series and select other SLM big shows.  He’s tried a couple stops in the Camping World East Series and ran well in every opportunity.

Pros:  Under Busch’s guidance, Haase’s stock has risen with big victories, proving he can get it done.

Cons:  Is he as great as the equipment he is in or is he just good?  Plus, going out around the lake area outside Charlotte has given him a bit of a “Good Time Charlie” reputation.

34. Ryan Crane - Late Models
This 26-year-old has been surrounding himself with the best equipment and people in short track racing and he has sure made the most of it by winning often throughout the Deep South in Super Late Models and Pro Late Models.  The fact that Crane recently made his ARCA RE/MAX Series debut shows that he might be ready to fly the coop and compete regularly in a series a bigger series.

Pros: Crane has the resources to help move up the racing ladder and he definitely knows how to win races.  Checking his stats at places like Five Flags and Mobile certainly proves that.

Cons: He’s posted great numbers in a Super Late Model in the Deep South, but has not travelled much.  That has hurt his cause and limited his exposure.

35. Joey Pole - Late Models
Back in the “old” days of the American-Canadian Tour, Kevin Lepage graduated to the big leagues of NASCAR racing.  The tour’s next great hope in heading to the top is 19-year-old New Hampshire native Joey Pole.  The skinny-as-a-rail racer is always smiling and always putting his foot on the gas.  His aggressive style is fun to watch and now with a few years of experience under his belt, he’s learned to temper that with some smarts behind the wheel as well.

Pros: His age.  Even though he is a proven winner now, Pole is still a teenager.  A very positive debut in the NASCAR Camping World East Series last season shows that Pole can adapt quickly to heavier racecars.

Cons: ACT is becoming more and more well-known throughout the short track world, but are talent scouts paying enough attention to notice Pole yet?

36. Paul Kelley - Late Models
Kelley is an Outlaw Late Model driver from Georgia who knows how to get it done on his home turf.  Sanford Stadium is the home of the Georgia Bulldogs Football team and it is just a few miles away from Lanier National Raceway (GA) and Peach State Speedway (now Gresham Motorsports Park) - racing the homes of Paul Kelley.  The 27-year-old driver has intimidated touring series regulars in his area by running strong and winning some several touring events.  From his 2008 Super Six title at Lanier, to his three World Crown 300 wins at the Gresham Motorsports Park,  Kelley is a proven winner behind the wheel.

Pros: He’s a tough competitor, but he also understands what it takes to be there at the end.  Seldom does he burn his stuff up before the end of the race.  Being in the right place at the right time is ok for Kelley, especially if he goes to victory lane. 

Cons: He doesn’t run any series for points mostly due to money.  He dose have some big backing this year with Hedman Husler Hedders sponsoring his rides.  Still, with the lack of regional traveling he doesn’t get noticed much outside of Georgia, and Five Flags Speedway.

37. Drew Herring - Pro Cup / ARCA
No doubt, the end of the Hooters Pro Cup Series hurt Drew Herring; he was the 2008 Rookie of the Year.  But, the rebirth of Pro Cup under a new ownership has given the 21-year-old a place to continue to showcase his talents this season.  In fact, he recently claimed his first series pole and win in Georgia.  He is now starting to dabble in the ARCA Series too, which should bode well for his overall worth and ranking in the sport.

Pros: He is coming into his own now in Pro Cup and has emerged as one of the series' top drivers.

Cons: Pro Cup has lost some value in the sport.  He needs to continue to move up the ranks to keep the momentum going.

38. Trent Snyder - Late Models
Every draft pick knows how it feels to win games but not many know the feeling of hoisting a championship trophy.  Trent Snyder, at just 25, knows how to do both, as he won a handful of races in the tough ASA Late Model North Division and won the season’s championship in 2007. 

Pros: Has raced with and beaten the best that the Upper Midwest Late Model scene has to offer

Cons:  Hasn’t done enough to really assert himself as a top-level talent.  The talent is there, just has to do a better job promoting himself and his accopmlishments.

39. Erica Santos - Open Wheel
Third-generation driver Erica Santos comes from a great bloodline of open-wheeled talent.  Her 23-year-old brother, Bobby III, is an open-wheel racing ace who was listed third in this year’s Short Track Draft.  In 2007, Erica Santos became the first female to win a feature event in the NEMA Midget Series, taking the checkers at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway.  After the win she said, “It doesn’t matter that I’m a girl. Tonight I’m a winner.”  In 2008, Erica didn’t visit victory lane but scored an impressive 10 top-five finishes while competing in 17 of 18 NEMA races.  This year Santos has been selected by Vern Porter to run in the SK-Light Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Pros: Erica is an attractive female driver and that, along with her talents, would make her a driver that could be easily marketed.

Cons: At 24, she needs to branch out from the New England racing scene to really get on the map and showcase her talents.

40. Matt Sheppard - DIRT Modifieds
Matt Sheppard is one of the highest prospects in the highly contested Advance Auto Parts Super DirtCar Series for the Big Block Mods.  The 26-year-old is one of only a handful of drivers who can say they’ve won at least one race on the series for the past five years.  His win total during that span, in overall Big Block Mod events, is seven.  He’s a decent looking kid who has turned some scouts heads.

Pros: If you can get the job done on the AASDCS, then we know you’re one tough driver.

Cons: The question is… could he get it done on pavement.  Somebody needs to give him a chance to find out.

41. Eddie MacDonald - CW East
When you look at the make-up of a NASCAR Camping World East Series race, you’ll see teams with big budgets or ties to Cup racing.  But neither of those things could beat Eddie MacDonald last year when the tour visited its most storied track, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, last season.  Eddie Mac, 26, swept both races there with his low budget group.  He’s also won in ACT Late Models.

Pros: Eddie Mac has enough maturity and experience to hop into a Truck Series or Nationwide ride tomorrow and not make stupid mistakes – on or off the track.  He’s a nice guy who will do a sponsor proud and he’s built up plenty of fans in New England already. 

Cons: Just doesn’t have the money to buy a ride and use that path to move up.  Needs someone to give his a chance if he’s going to move along further in his racing career.  Can also be a bit shy.

42. Brandon Johnson - Late Models
Maybe to some he’s the “Who’s he?” pick, but Brandon Johnson is really starting to get noticed in the Late Model world.  Last year he won the pole for the World Crown 300 at the Gresham Motorsports Park and backed it up with a fourth place finish.  He followed that up with pole and top 10 run at the Pro Rattler 125 in South Alabama last month.   He’s under the radar approach makes him like a punter or a kicker who does the little things well to keep you in the game.  He could be a sleeper for a big run this summer in the Late Model ranks.

Pros: He has a knack for qualifying, and he has proven that he can race with the leaders in several different types of tracks all around the southeast.

Cons: Has not been able to finish the deal with a big victory.  He did score a win with the ASA Late Models back in 2007 at New Smyrna, but since then nothing new has appeared in the win column.

43. Levi Jones - Open Wheel
Bo Jackson was multi-sport athlete, who was selected first-overall in the NFL Draft of 1986 and went on to play in both Major League Baseball and the National Football League.  Levi Jones, like Jackson, just wants the ball… or the wheel for that matter. Jones races as a top competitor in all three of USAC’s top divisions; Silver Crown, Sprint Car and Midgets. His head coach, USAC Legend and NASCAR Champion Tony Stewart, recognized the fellow Indiana driver’s talents and drafted him to be a part of his open-wheel stables a few years back. Jones is a two-time USAC National Sprint Car Champion. Jones tried to make it two-in-a-row but came up short in 2008, losing the title narrowly to Jerry Coons Jr.  

Pros: Exposure of driving for a high profile owner like Tony Stewart is a plus. Versatility… Levi gets it done in three different open-wheeled divisions and on both asphalt and dirt.

Cons: Age. Jones is now 27 years old. If he plans on advancing his career to another platform of racing, he’d need to do it soon. He needs to run something with fenders.

44. Jimmy Blewett - Modifieds
Talk about raw? Jimmy Blewett is a diamond in the rough, but rough, at times, has been an understatement during the 29-year old’s racing career. He his rough, no-holds barred style of racing from the Jersey shore to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2006. Life experience and on-track seasoning have helped mature and tame the driver once thought of as an animal on the track.  In 2007, Jimmy fought through the emotions of his brother’s death, fellow Mod racer John Blewett III, at Thompson Speedway.  On the track, Jimmy has whipped up on the boys during New Smyrna’s Speedweeks and has a four wins on the NASCAR Mod Tour, including two in 2008. He’s also a six-time winner at Wall Stadium’s (NJ) prestigious Turkey Derby.

Pros: Aggression. He’ll do whatever it takes to win. Jimmy also has a great appreciation for the history of the sport, and in particular the Modified division. They don’t call him “Showtime” for nothing!  Jimmy is one of the most colorful personalities in all of Short Track racing.

Cons: Aggression. His on-track antics have gotten him in trouble in the past.  Blewett also needs to hit the treadmill and shed some weight. At 29-years old, Showtime’s curtain may be closing in the eyes of NASCAR’s top levels.  

45. Ronnie Silk - Modifieds
Silk’s on-track development hasn’t exactly been as smooth as his last name.  A few years of inconsistency on the Whelen Tour are starting to become overshadowed by recent performances in the Hillbilly Motorsports owned #79 team. Silk scored two of his three career Mod Tour wins in 2008 and followed that up with a strong showing at this year’s version of New Smyrna Speedway’s Speedweeks. He was named the Mod Tour’s Most Improved Driver of 2008.

Pros: Good looking kid and he keeps the car out of trouble. He also gets an opportunity to race on both NASCAR Mod Tours with the Roger Hill owned team.

Cons: Too little too late? Silk has started to blossom, but the clock is ticking on this 27 year old. Also, is he a one track wonder on the Tour? All three of Silk’s Mod Tour wins have come at Thompson International Speedway (CT).

46. Justin Larson - Late Models
Justin Larson is 2a 0-year-old driver who has been on the verge of being a Late Model champion.  The Clearwater, Florida driver still needs to have notches in the win column before he can climb up the 51 draft list.  Experience is not the problem, he finished third in the ASA Late Model south point standings a year ago.  At Bristol he set the track record on his first lap of qualifying, only to back his car into the wall on the second due to tire failure.  It also seems that he is highly unlucky; he needs a rabbit’s foot or a four leaf clover in his racecar somewhere. 

Pros: Has the experience and a well-funded team to compete in the racing world. 

Cons: He’s needs to win, not going to victory lane almost kept him off the list this season.  Victories in Florida’s regular shows help, but away from the peninsula is the key. 

47. Caleb Holman - UARA / Pro Cup
Caleb Holman is the final of three USARacing Pro Cup drivers to make the list.  A year ago he drew a bunch of attention by winning the Pro Cup event at the Bristol Motor Speedway (TN).  The 25-year old driver from Abingdon, Virginia put himself on the map in 2008 with the win and 5 other top five finishes in the Pro Cup series on his way to a sixth place points finish.  Holman is a big guy build like a football player, he not a guy you would want to rumble with after a race.   

Pros: Kept himself busy with 13 starts in Late Model Stock last year at Motor Mile Speedway (VA).  He won three times and had 11 top 10’s.

Cons: Still running Pro Cup full time in 2009, the series is way down this year and the exposure is not like in the years past.

48. Brandon Carlson - Pro Late Model
All it takes is one big win to really open some eyes…just ask Brandon Carlson.  This 23-year-old doesn’t stray too far away from his home at Five Flags Speedway (FL), but he won the biggest Pro Late Model race of them all last year, the Snowflake 100 there during Snowball Derby weekend.  Carlson has been following in his dad Scott’s Late Model footsteps for several years, but now he’s made a name for himself with the Snowflake win.

Pros:  Wins a bunch at a tough place, Five Flags and can get it done in a big race

Cons:  Get outta the Panhandle, son!  Race outside of Pensacola and the stock is sure to rise more next year.  

49. Colt James - Late Models
Colt James spent most of his 2008 season going door-to-door with Jimmy Lang in the ASA Late Model South ranks.  James won two races and finished second in the points.  The season highlight for the 26-year-old Texas native was his fifth place finish in the ASA portion of the All-American 400.  James is a proven driver who deservers a shot with a better funded racing operation.  James is smart as a whip and has done a lot of the work on his cars in the past few years.

Pros: Has run dozens of tracks all across the southeast and had proven himself by winning at several of them. 

Cons: He has not run a lot this year, so he’s fallen down the radar a bit. 

50. Jason Hogan - Late Models
Jason Hogan is already a veteran of the 51 Short Track Draft.  He’s made a few appearances here as a member of the now-defunct NASCAR Elite Series, Super Late Models, Pro Late Models and such.  At the age of 26, he’s won races and earned at least a shot to try out for the pros…. but is time ticking away too quickly for him?

Pros: A proven winner who has plenty of experience at different tracks and in different series.  He’s got plenty of confidence.  His down-to-earth country boy image could be a marketer’s dream.

Cons: He’s been in the game for awhile and still hasn’t moved up…why would things be any different at this point for him?  Sometimes his boasting gets him into trouble if he can’t make good on his predictions.

51. Paddy Rodenbeck - Late Model Stock Cars
In his first year of eligibility, the 18-year-old squeaks his way into the final position in the draft.  This sport is built around, “What have you done for more lately?”  Well, lately Rodenbeck has been “The Bomb” on the UARA STARS touring LMSC series.  He finished second at “The Rock” and followed that up with his first tour triumph at Concord Motor Speedway (NC) this April.  He’s also a kid all the girls look at in the garage areas and that, silly as it may seem, could be a plus to attract sponsors.

Pros: Has matured a bunch since coming out of Legends Cars; has now learned you don’t have to push to pass.

Cons: He’s just fresh talent and that could mean he needs more time to season into a consistent competitor.