Welcome to this first 2010 edition of the Speed51.com Short Track Power rankings. The slate from 2009 has been wiped clean and as a result, there are plenty of new faces gracing the Tower of Power this time around.
It may only be February, but there has already been a good amount of short track racing taking place out there. There has been Florida Speedweeks for the asphalt and dirt short trackers at places like New Smyrna, East Bay and Volusia Speedway Park. There was the ARCA season opener, the PASS South opener, SpeedFest 2010 and the NASCAR All-Star Showdown that all took place as well. Competitors in all of those events were considered for this round of Short Track Power.
The rankings were decided after polling our panel of experts in the industry.
Here are our power rankings entering the first portion of the 2010 short track racing season:
1. Ted Christopher (Mods) - It's just another year and another stellar performance for Ted Christopher at New Smyrna's World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
Once again, TC won the Modified championship for Smyrna Speedweeks. He did this based on a pair of victories over the course of the five-features run during rain-shortened week. One of those victories came during the running of the John Blewett Memorial 50.
Christopher also had a strong run in a TQ Midget back in January during the Atlantic City Indoor races - winning one of two feature races contested.
"It was not a clean sweep Speedweeks, but still two wins and a record eighth Speedweeks title has his as an early favorite for the mod tour title. With Donny Lia not returning to the Mystic Missile team Christopher is sitting on top waiting for someone to knock him off," wrote one of our judges.
2. Kyle Busch (SLM) - When it comes to short track racing, Kyle Busch and his KBM super team have shown some serious power so far this season. Busch won the Super Late Model portion of SpeedFest 2010 hands down and appeared to be headed towards the same outcome in the Pro Late Model race of SpeedFest until he got sent to the rear of the field for rough driving.
The good news for his competition is that Busch might not be as powerful on the short tracks in the coming months.
"Reports are that Kyle Busch is out of his Late Model utill June, however the car will still be a threat to win with Alex Hasse and Brian Ickler who will wheel it at the Rattler. Hasse finished second in the Pete Orr Memorial," wrote one of our judges.
3. Jeff Choquette (SLM) - The final results will show that Jeff Choquette won only one feature event during the 44th Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway. That event was the Pete Orr Memorial 100 and it was the biggest show of the week. So that's pretty powerful. But even more powerful is the fact that Choquette actually crossed the finish line first on two other nights, but got disqualified by the uber-thorough tech crew led by Ricky Brooks. Choquette's team appeared to have pushed the envelope and, just like several other SLM competitors, they were disqualified. Could they have won with a legal car? Probably. So the record book might not really show just how powerful Choquette has been so far this year.
4. Matt Sheppard (DIRT Mods) - Not all of the action that took place during Florida Speedweeks took place on asphalt. Over at Volusia Speedway Park, The Big-Block DIRT Modifieds contested three feature races on dirt. The winner of two of those events was Canadian Matt Sheppard - who was crowned as the DIRT Florida Tour champion as a result. We've got three dirt racers ranked in the top 10 of this edition of the Tower of Power and Sheppard led the way of them all.
5. Bobby Gerhart (ARCA) - You may have missed this, with Danica Patrick finishing sixth in the race and all, but Bobby Gerhart won the ARCA Series race at Daytona again earlier in the month. It was the sixth time in his career that Gerhart had done that - which adds to an already powerful resume on the famous Daytona track.
6. Ronnie SIlk (Mods) - Ronnie Silk won just as many Tour-type Modified races during Smyrna Speedweeks as Ted Christopher. He also won a pair of SK Modified races during his time New Smyrna this year and definitely shown plenty of on-track power during Speedweeks.
Here is what one of our judges had to say about Silk:
"A strong Speedweeks could be what Silk needs to start a run to the NASCAR Modified Tour championship. Silk won the SK Modified title at Speedweeks extending a streak for the team that has killed them on the half-mile over the last five years."
7. Billy Moyer (Dirt LM) - The year might be young, but Billy Moyer has still been winning plenty of races. His 2010 victory tally now stands at four. He won three Dirt Late Model races in January out in Arizona and backed that up with a Volusia Speedway Park victory during Florida Speedweeks.
8. Stephen Nasse (LMs)- The break-out star of Smyrna Speedweeks this season might have been young Stephen Nasse, who swept the first two ASA-type Crate Late Model races of the 44th Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. The "Crate Models" might have been the most competitive class at New Smyrna, yet Nasse still showed plenty of power against the field in those races. If it wasn't for a few nights of bad luck late in the week at New Smyrna, Nasse might have won the Late Model championship for the series too.
9. Scott Bloomquist (Dirt LMs) - Scott Bloomquist won a pair of Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model events at East Bay Speedway during Florida Speedweeks. Given how powerful he is in that type of car, we're not surprised...but we are impressed.
10. Wayne Anderson (SLM) - Wayne Anderson's efforts during the inaugural FAST Super Late Model show at Citrus County Speedway (FL) this past weekend were very impressive - and powerful. Anderson started shotgun on the field, but came through to win the feature race. That was one powerful performance.
11. Brad Leighton (PASS) - In his first race with Richard Moody Racing, Brad Leighton showed plenty of power right away. The New Hampshire racer had already won plenty of races and championship in ACT and what is now known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, but he added to his legend by also winning the PASS South Winterfest 100 at New Smyrna. That's powerful stuff.
12. Josh Richards (Dirt LM / ARCA) - He won races in the Southern All Stars and on the World of Outlaws Late Model tour this season. He's also got a few other podium finishes as well. Josh Richards' early exit from the ARCA opener at Daytona might not have been what he was hoping for, but the rest of his season has been plenty powerful so far.
13. Tim Russell (SLM) - In between a spell of bad luck lately, Tim Russell has shown plenty of power with his Super Late Model. He won the Super Late Model feature on opening night of New Smyrna's World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing and he won last weekend's Icebreaker 100 at Desoto Super Speedway. In between, he suffered through some miserable racing luck that included a disqualification and two wrecked racecars. But when things have been good, they have been very good..and very powerful...for Russell this season.
14. Johnny Clark (PASS) - Johnny Clark flexed plenty of muscle during the PASS South Winterfest 100 at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). He set fast time for the race and enjoyed a full straightaway lead with only five laps to go in the race until a late caution came out and erased his lead. A second place result was his finish of record, but that fails to show just how much power he had in the race.
And one of our panelists thinks he might have even mor epower in reserve.
"No driver has as much momentum behind them going into a new season as Johnny Clark," commented one of our judges. "A fourth PASS North title, a win in the final race and a second-place finish in the PASS Winterfest leaves many to wonder if this guy can be beat?"
15. Sergio Pena (East) - Before the NASCAR All-Star Showdown at Irwindale, nobody really knew who Sergio Pena was. In fact, the newbie to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East tour didn't even have a guaranteed ride for the race. He had to earn his seat by competing against three fellow Drive for Diversity teammates in a 50-lap match race two nights before the big show. Pena won that event easily, then won the pole for the Showdown and battled Cup driver Joey Logano for the race win. Pena might have come in second place for the Showdown, but his welcome-to-NASCAR moment showcased plenty of power.
Honorable Mentions - Jeff Fultz (SLM and PLM), Matt Hirschman (Mods), Levi Jones (USAC), Patrick Laperle (LM), Joey Logano (Showdown), Donny Schatz (WoO Sprints), Greg Simpson (PLM), Brandon Williamson (Pro Challenge)