Welcome to this edition of the Speed51.com Short Track Power rankings. All of the major short track tours have been clicking off races over the first part of the 2010 season and what has happened in those events leads us to 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 summer of the 2010 short track racing season:
1. Bobby Santos, III - (WMT) - Nearly 80% of the ballots returned for this time's Speed51.com's Power Rankings had the same name on top - Bobby Santos, III. That kind of agreement is almost unheard of. Then again, so is the season that Santos is having on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
In the first four events on the schedule, Santos has won three times. That other finish? A solid runner-up result. He's also been quick in time trials - winning the pole award in three out of the four races. In his spare time, Santos has also won in USAC Competition at Iowa Speedway.
That kind of record didn't just impress our judges, it blew them away. Here are a few of their comments…
“Bobby Santos shouldn't just get my first-place vote. He should get my #1-#10 place votes.”
“With three wins in four starts, this guy has flexed power virtually everywhere he's gone. From Thompson to Martinsville, Santos has been beating up on the competition no matter where he points his hauler. With an impressive points lead early in the season, it's starting to look as though if his competition wishes to beat him, they should use a baseball bat while he sleeps, because in a groundpounder Santos has been THE man, no questions about it.”
“Bobby Santos has won three of four races to start the Mod Tour, no one has ever done that. Not Lia, Christopher, Stefanik, Hirschman, or Evans. The kid is on a roll.”
2. Ross Kenseth (ASA MW and SLMs) - Ross Kenseth wasn't ranked number one on anyone ballot this time around, but there sure were a lot of seconds and thirds for his efforts - and that level of consistency is a sure-fire way to show some power.
The comments of this voter, really seems to nail down exactly why Kenseth's stock is so high:
“It seems as though Ross Kenseth hasn't met a Midwest track he doesn't like. Whether it's sweeping the uber-tough Elko Speedway, winning at Winchester (in his first time ever racing the track!!!) or pulling off a win on the most competitive tour in the country (aka the ASA MW Tour), Kenseth has shown an affinity for hoisting hardware. Proud poppa Matt must feel as though he's taken the hot tub time machine back to the early '90s, because father and son are starting to look more and more alike every time Ross hits the track.”
3. Chase Elliott (SLM, PLM and Sunoco National Tour) - It's hard to bet against the son of a NASCAR Champion, especially when a kid like Chase Elliott has won as much as he has in a hurry so far in 2010. He's beaten tough fields like in the Montgomery “Show Me the Money” Series and the Blizzard Series Super Late Model mini-Snowball Derbies. He's also won against not-so-tough fields like in the Sunoco National Tour, but still to get it done as much as he is - all at just 14 - is pretty impressive and our voters seemingly all agreed.
Here is what our panel had to say about Elliott's record this season:
“When it comes to big, early season races, Chase Elliott has run the gamut. From SLM to Pro Cup and the Sunoco National Tour to PLM, Elliott has whet his whistle all over the country and has come home with some big results. Most recently becoming the youngest winner in Blizzard history. Not only has Chase flexed some muscle heading to different victory lanes all over the South, but has also flexed his versatility in the meantime. With his father's backing, Chase's blossoming talent is only going to become more apparent moving forward.”
4. Andy Loden (PASS South) - Where did this guy come from? Andy Loden has rocketed to the front of the class in PASS South Super Late Model racing with the power of a big-block Chevy.
“To go from a total SLM unknown, to winning back-to-back PASS South races is pretty powerful in my book,” said one of our panelists. “Loden has absolutely exploded onto the scene this year, and the guys he's beating aren't scrubs by any stretch of the imagination.
“Two straight PASS Wins has him climbing the charts,” added another voter.
5. Clay Rogers (Pro Cup) - The true meaning of power is knowing that every driver and crew member in the pit area has their stopwatch on your racecar during practice and qualifying, then all point to you as the guy to beat. That guy in Pro Cup this year (and for many of the years he's been there, in fact) has been Clay Rogers. He's won half the USARacing Pro Cup races so far this year in powerful fashion and is the clear-cut championship leader.
“Two wins, at two very tough tracks, in four races is pretty impressive,” said a panelist. “Clay Rogers is leading the driver points in USAR action right now - and with good reason. This likely wont be the last time I cast a vote for Rogers this season, I don't expect his winning ways to come to an end any time soon.
Another voter added, “Killing the field in Pro Cup. I think we forget he'd do it in any type of car and against the best.”
6. Keith Rocco (SK Modifieds) - “Kid Roc” started off the year with a fracas with Ronnie Silk and his crew at New Smyrna in February. That deal must've lit a fire under the young second-generation driver who has won an astonishing 10 wins in 18 starts to date so far in 2010. Rocco's still just a weekly racer, but he's racing in the competitive SK ranks at three Connecticut racetracks on any given weekend, where the competition is quite stiff - stiff enough to place Rocco tops in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Point standings.
Our panelists have taken notice. “Hard to put a weekly racer in the poll, but to win as much as he has at three different tracks against tough competition at all three (TC, Pitkat, etc.) is impressive enough,” said one voter.
“It doesn't matter if it is Stafford, Thompson or Waterford - Keith Rocco absolutely owns the SK/Sunoco Modified ranks in Connecticut this season,” added another.
7. Max Gresham (K&N East) - The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East is full of young kids who have been given a shot by either a fat wallet or been given a development program opportunity, but winning has to come with some talent - and it appears with two wins already in his rookie season and the series' point lead, Max Gresham is on his way to emerging from the rest of the kids on the tour.
“A trust fund kid, no longer,” said one voter. “Gresham has shown the entire racing world that he has what it takes these past couple of months. From a dominating win at SoBo to a clutch performance at Iowa, the kid from Georgia has definitely opened some eyes. There's a reason Gibbs tabbed him as a future powerhouse.
“Two East wins has him a prime contender for the season ending championship.”
8. Ryan Blaney (PASS South and CRA) - Another legacy racer, Ryan Blaney overcame a ration of bad luck in 2009 to have a big early season in 2010. Blaney scored his first PASS South victory in the season opener at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC). He's been on the podium in just about every other PASS South race and also scored a win in the CRA Southern Six Pack series at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) last month.
9. Patrick Laperle (ACT) - Patrick Laperle is no stranger to a power poll, proving that power doesn't have a bad exchange rate between the US and Canada. Laperle, the 2007 ACT Quebec Champion, scored the victory over a stout field at Montmagny in Quebec on opening day last month. In the season's second race, things looked like more of a show as Leperle started back in the 16th position Autodrome Montmagny. But it wasn't much of a show after the 24th lap though, because that is how long it took Laperle to make it to the front and stay there. He also finished on the podium in the ACT Late Model Tour opener at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) last month.
10. Scott Hantz (SLM and CRA) - “The Hurricane” has been tearing through the short tracks of the Upper Midwest this season. Hantz recently won a Gold Cup race at Toledo (OH), a Main Event Outlaw Super Late Model tour race at Angola and set a track record in qualifying at Plymouth Speedway (IN) in his Outlaw SLM car - plus he controlled the Winchester CRA Super Late Model show until the last lap before Ross Kenseth overtook him for the win.
11. Preston Peltier (PASS South) - Much has been made about NASCAR driver Kyle Busch being the “New” Kyle in his more controlled, patient demeanor on the track. Preston Peltier started off 2010 by telling Speed51.com that he was the “New” Preston, as well, and it appears to be working. Already Peltier has won PASS South shows at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) and Orange County Speedway (NC) and has finished in the top-five just about everywhere else he's been.
Added a voter, “Two wins and a string of top five has this fast talking shoe doing the work with his right foot in 2010.”
And another…”I'd say winning the Easter Bunny 150, over 50 of the toughest SLMs this side of Pensacola, would have been enough for Peltier to get a vote from me. However, to follow it up with another win at Orange County only a couple of weeks later, definitely shows that Peltier is working with some power this season.”
12. Scott Bloomquist (Dirt LM) - There are no weak links in Scott Bloomquist's racing program again in 2010. He currently enjoys a 150-point lead in the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series on the basis of four victories to date.
13. Bubba Pollard (SLM and PLM) - Bubba Pollard winning races in the Deep South is as common as hearing crickets on a summer night. This year, he's been won four races in 14 starts to start out the season right.
"Shocker! It's racing season in the south and Bubba Pollard is going to victory lane on an almost weekly basis,” wrote one of our voters. “Granted, the car counts haven't ALWAYS been at their strongest, but Bubba has been whooping fields left and right, regardless of how many cars he puts in his rearview."
And things could even be better, according to another voter…
“Bubba has four wins in the Deep South and has been close to others as well.”
14. Levi Jones (USAC) - Levi Jones entered three USAC races last weekend. He won three of those and finished second in the other one. Now we know that the Tony Stewart Racing driver has been strong all year long, but that performance of last weekend alone shows just how powerful he can be.
15. Nick Sweet (ACT) -Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) regular Nick Sweet won the ACT Late Model season opener and could have possibly won the famed Memorial Day Classic at T-Road as well if he hadn't gotten spun early in that race. Sweet might not have a big budget, but he can post some big numbers.
16. CE Falk (LMSC) - When a number of NASCAR drivers headed to Southside Speedway (VA) for a recent charity event featuring Late Model Stock Cars, most of the pre-race buzz focused on Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart. But it was CE Falk who beat them all at the game and won the race. Falk also has won three of his last six races and has moved up to eighth in the national standings for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
17. Johnny Van Doorn (CRA) - Johnny Van Doorn started out the CRA Super Series season with a victory at Anderson Speedway (SC). Most recently, he finished fourth at Berlin Raceway despite two flat tires over the course of the race. Another championship could be well within the grasp of the man who currently leads the series standings.
18. Mike Rowe (PASS North and SLM) - First, Mike Rowe won the PASS North season opener at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Then he backed that up by finishing just off the podium in the next race at White Mountain. To start out the regular season at The Ridge, where Rowe is a regular in the Pro Series (Super Late Model) division, he finished fifth. Last week, he backed that up with a runner-up finish. Four top five finishes to start out his season? Pretty powerful stuff in our book.
19. Justin Johnson (LMSC) - Justin Johnson has not finished worse than eighth so far this season in a Late Model Stock Car at South Boston Speedway (VA) or Motor Mile Speedway (VA). Included in that tally are six feature victories. He's sure got the power this year!
20. Ted Christopher (WMT) - Ted Christopher is the only guy to finish ahead of Bobby Santos, III in any of the four NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races held so far this year. His dominant performance in February's World Series of Short Track Auto Racing at New Smyrna Speedway during Florida Speedweeks is also still somewhat fresh in the minds of many. With the bulk of the Modified Tour season still ahead of him, and a probably PASS North start in one of Jay Cushman's Super Late Models this summer, we think that TC will be climbing the Tower of Power in coming editions of the rankings.
21. James Civali (WMT and WSMT) - James Civali has been double-dipping in NASCAR Modifieds this season. Civali currently leads the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour point standings with one victory and also sits within the top 15 of the “Northern” Tour standings. He's won the SMT race at South Boston Speedway (VA) and made quite a splash by locking horns with defending track champion Tim Brown at Bowman-Gray Stadium (NC) last Saturday night.
22. Trevor Sanborn (SLM and PASS North) - AT Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) this season in the weekly series ranks, Trevor Sanborn has been unbeatable so far after two races. He also dominated the early going of the PASS North season opener at the Ridge and scored a podium finish in the PASS North race at White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH). On Thursday, Sanborn announced that he would now chase the PASS North championship instead of the track crown at Beech Ridge.
23. Eric Holmes (K&N West) - Winning two of the first three stand-alone NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races of the season has been a pretty powerful accomplishment by Eric Holmes as the 2008 series champion looks to reclaim his throne.
24. Rowan Pennink (Mods) - Rowan Pennink has been racing Modifieds all over the place this season. He's posted top five finishes on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the Modified Racing Series and in both SK Modified and weekly Tour-type Modified shows. The highlight of his season so far has been a victory in the MRS/RoC Modified combination race at Albany-Saratoga Speedway (NY).
25. Jeff Fultz (SLM) - Jeff Fultz is back to his winning ways this season and has a pair of big Super Late Model victories to his credit. Fultz won The Rattler and a Miller Lite SLM Series feature at Mobile International Speedway (AL). Podium finishes in the CRA Southern Six-Pack race at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) and in January's SpeedFest at Lanier National Speedway (GA) haven't been too shabby either.
26. Jimmy Owens (Dirt LM) - Here is what one of our voters had to say about Owens - “'The Newport Nightmare' has been Mr. Power in Lucas Oil Dirt Action. Took home some big wins early in the season, including a dominant performance at Browntown's Indiana Icebreaker.”
27. Phillip Morris (LMSC) - Four victories so far this year at Motor Mile Speedway (VA) have shown that Phillip Morris could be well on his way to another NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National title. They've also put him near the middle of our current “Tower of Power”.
28. Steve Arpin (ARCA) - Steve Arpin's pair of ARCA Racing Series victories this year were enough to earn a chance to run a few races for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and they have also been enough to earn an honorable mention in the Tower of Power from our voters this time around.
29. Eddie MacDonald (ACT and K&N East) - One of our voters cast his ballot for Eddie MacDonald, “Not so much for his East efforts, which seem to lack against the Cup satellite teams, but for his ACT prowess.” MacDonald won the ACT Late Model race at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) and is looking towards trying to defend last year's Oxford 250 victory of last summer at the track. He's also used to winning East Series races at Loudon, so Eddie Mac ought to be plenty powerful when that series heads to the “Magic Mile” later this month.
30. Darrell Wallace, Jr. (K&N East) - Here is what one of our voters had to say about Darrell Wallace, Jr.'s history-making season…
“Even though the youngster hasn't been able to follow up on his early season Greenville-Pickens win, that win was a history making moment. Becoming the first African-American to win in tour history, as well as the first driver to win under the Revolution Racing banner is a big deal and definitely should be recognized.”
31. Travis Swaim (LMSC) - The 2009 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series North Carolina State Champion is tearing up the tracks again this season with his Late Model Stock Car. Recently, he swept a pair of LMSC features at Motor Mile Speedway (VA) over Memorial Day weekend and his winning ways are far from over.
32. Tommy Ricker (ACT and LM) - The most improved driver in all of short track racing over the past twelve months might be Maine's Tommy Ricker. Last summer, Ricker scored his first two Late Model victories at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME). This season, he equally that tally in just the first two events of the season. He also finished a close second to 2009 Oxford 250 winner Eddie MacDonald in the ACT Late Model race there - crossing the finish line sideways at the checkered
33. Josh Richards (Dirt LM) - A dozen podium finishes and five victories so far in Dirt Late Model competition this season prove that Josh Richards is definitely one powerful racer on dirt this season.
34. Caleb Holman (Pro Cup) - Maybe 2010 was supposed to be the year that Clay Rogers won everything in the USARacing Pro Cup Series, but apparently Caleb Holman didn't get that memo. Rogers has been winning plenty of races, as shown by his ranking of fifth in the Power Rankings, but Holman has been keeping him honest by scoring back-to-back Pro Cup victories at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) and Hickory Motor Speedway (NC).
35. Johnny Clark (PASS North) - Don't look now, but Johnny Clark might be on the way to another PASS North title. He already has four championship trophies and conquering one of his worst tracks, White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH), with a convincing victory could be a powerful sign that Clark could be headed for number five in 2010.
36. Dave Pembroke (ACT) - Dave Pembroke's powerful victory in the Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) was so good that it almost looked easy. It also came on the heels of a Late Model victory against some big guns at the newly paved Devil's Bowl Speedway (VT). To top it all off, Pembroke hopped into a entry on the Tiger Sportsman Tour last week and finished in the top five at White Mountain even though it was a very different creature form his familiar Late Model.
37. Derek Thorn (SRL) - The SRL Southwest Tour is a brand new playground for Derek Thorn this year, but it is one that he enjoys taking control of. After three races, the rookie has won twice. Even on the East Coast, we keep hearing good things about this young driver.
38. Derek Ramstrom (SLM, PASS North and K&N East) - As a rookie ranked solidly in the top 10 of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East ranks, somehow Derek Ramstrom still “lost his ride.” Humph. We like how he just came back and clicked off three Super Late Model victories at Thompson International Speedway (CT) to start off his title defense there. Four straight wasn't to be though when Ramstrom suffered from a brake problem that sent him into the wall hard. In his spare time, Ramstrom has also been running in PASS North.
39. Andy Seuss (Mods) - One victory on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour shows power for Andy Seuss, as do top five runs in races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and in the Modified Racing Series. Unfortunately for him though, luck has been a more powerful force lately - as bad lucks have led to spins, penalties and even another driver having brake problems while running beside him (leading to a wreck). If Seuss just had average luck, you would easily find him at least another halfway up this list.
40. Zach Brewer (WSMT) - Zach Brewer is having a break-out season in 2010 and that attracted the notice of a few of our voters. Brewer has scored top ten finishes in each of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races so far. He is ranked fifth in the SMT standings and third in the Bowman-Gray Stadium points.