If you had a team in NASCAR’s big three divisions, which kids would you like to draft from the short track ranks for your organization?
That's the question that we asked ourselves, a number of other journalists, industry insiders and even a few unnamed figures int he Cup garage recently. We took all of their votes, put them in a blender...well, actually a spreadsheet program, and those drivers were ranked as part of the annual Speed51.com Short Track Draft. We've been doing this for years and here is our 2010 installment.
In years past, we had a seperate underclassman draft. But that got too confusing and with the onslought of teen drivers in the sport now, we've rolled everything into one big series.
We told our panel that there were a few ground rules. You can’t have a ride this year in the “Big Three.” (Start and Park teams not included). Choices also need to be at least 12 years old, but not older than the age of 30. We know that there are a lot of great drivers over 30, but nobody is looking to draft them in this day and age.
Earlier this week, we featured the top 10 Short Track Draft picks. You can read all about them, by clicking right here.
Those are the rules, and here are the picks - from 11-25 in this installment.
Age - 22
Hometown - Shinnston, WV
Series - Dirt Late Models, East Series
Lots of racers, and football players for that matter, have had the nickname “Rocket.” But, as far as we know, there's only one “Kid Rocket,” and Josh Richards fits that nickname to a T. The “Kid Rocket” moniker could have changed to “Kid Champion” after the 22-year-old won his first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship in 2009, becoming the youngest nationally-touring dirt series champion ever.
Richards got a shot in some ARCA and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races in 2009 with Ken Schrader Racing in ARCA and Dave Davis in the East Series, where he had a shot at the win at New Hampshire last year before a late-race incident. “Kid Rocket” has done plenty of racing already in his 22 years on this planet, having been to more than 120 tracks in his career, winning at a good percentage of them.
Pros: Confident yet humble, Richards has affiliations with Tony Stewart and Ken Schrader already and has proven to be a winner and a champion at a young age.
Cons: Not enough success in stock cars to really open eyes. Needs more chances to run in ARCA or East Series with teams capable of winning.
Age - 18
Hometown - Norwalk, CT
Series - Late Models, Modifieds, East Series
Eighteen-year-old Corey LaJoie has had the nickname “SuperShoe” since he was running Legends Cars around the Charlotte area. With a moniker like that, a driver better be able to back it up. So far, LaJoie has been doing nothing but backing it up. The third-generation racer from the Norwalk, Connecticut based family which includes SuperShoe's dad, two-time NASCAR then-Busch Series Champion Randy.
Corey has been adding his own chapter to the LaJoie family record book in recent seasons, scoring impressive wins in the Pro Challenge Series and UARA. Perhaps the Concord, North Carolina resident's biggest moment, however, came in his first-ever NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified race, when he held off veteran racer Tim Brown for victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier in 2010. With that win, LaJoie has now taken victories at three of the most prestigious tracks that short track series visit, Atlanta, Rockingham Speedway (UARA in 2009) and Bristol Motor Speedway (Pro Challenge in 2007).
Pros: Has a family history and wins in big moments. Also has a unique personality that balances his passion for driving perfectly.
Cons: Just like his dad, confidence does not lack for “SuperShoe.” Some may see that confidence as cockiness and be turned off by it. Funding has kept him out of the seat on a full-time basis, but more seat time in anything, really, will be a benefit.
Age - 19
Hometown - Berlin, CT
Series - Modifieds
Ryan Preece is the young driver who has been breathing new life into 'Ole Blue, one of the most historic and recognizable rides in all of short track racing. Preece had a podium finish in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points chase last season and is off to a strong start in 2010 after a runner-up finish in the season opening Icebreaker at Thompson International Speedway (CT).
Pros - Has developed into a driver who is wise beyond his years. These are turbulent times in Modified racing right now, but Preece (for the most part) has earned a reputation very quickly of being a rare driver who can be raced with without beating and banging. Preece learned quickly in his career to not get in over his head and his on-track moves are very well thought out and planned.
Cons - Has only run one race in a car with a full body. But that was the Snowball Derby, where he finished, so he knows how to aim big. The Modifieds used to be a big place to find up and coming stars, but that trend has soured somewhat in recent years. He might have to move up a little when it comes to series before someone gives him the call to move up into the majors.
Age - 23
Hometown - Hampstead, NH
Series - Mods
The 14th pick of this year's NFL Draft, Jason Pierre-Paul, is one of those defensive pass rushers that's fast and strong, but he lacks some discipline. The 14th pick in the Short Track Draft is two of those three things. Andy Seuss is fast, tough and has the maturity behind the wheel not only to win races, but compete for and win championships, as well. He's proven to be a winner on the track and a well-spoken sponsor's dream behind the microphone or in front of a camera.
The former winner of the Tour-Type Modified division during New Smyrna's Speedweeks in a family-owned ride, Seuss almost scored another Mod title in 2009, coming just a few points shy of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified championship with four victories. Seuss and his team are known to travel to just about any place that there's a Modified race on any given weekend and give it a shot. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don't but the attitude of just going racing whenever and wherever helps raise this 23-year-old's stock.
Pros: Well-traveled and a winner from North to South with lots of experience. Has a winning smile and outgoing personality that can sell a product.
Cons: Races so much that sometimes efforts aren't 100-percent when the team shows up to a track. Racing a lot is good, but if you're going to do it, you better be prepared for it.
Hometown - Pensacola, FL
Series - SLMs and PLMs
“Jo-Mania” is a common ailment among fans of the Blizzard Series Super Late Models at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida where Johanna Long is an extremely popular driver. This teen queen has already won a Blizzard Series title, Gulf Coast SLM championship, several features and the pole position for the Snowball Derby before most kids even enter college.
Pros - Could be the most talented female stock car in the country right now (including Danica) and in a sport that is hungry for a female to succeed, she appears to be the real deal. Has a tremendous amount of fan support and a strong mentor in her father Donald.
Cons - With all of the support comes pressure. Can Long live up to the expectations that are being placed upon her? Not working with Freddie Query anymore has led to struggles on track so far in 2010.
Age - 16
Hometown - Griffin, GA
Series - East Series, SLMs and PLMs
Max Gresham could be the “Midas” of developmental drivers because everything that he touches seems to turn into gold right away. Gresham won in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East division after only a handful of starts. Then he went out and won the pole in his ARCA Racing Series debut and backed that up with a sixth-place finish at Salem Speedway. Gresham is driving for the Joe Gibbs Racing team this season in the East Series.
Pros - Has the funding to help climb the ladder of motorsports. Is now a proven winner in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East ranks. Alignment with JGR could open some big doors for him.
Cons - Branded with the perception of buying his rides, which might make it harder for some to take him as seriously.
Age - 16
Hometown - High Point, NC
Series - SLMs
After a successful 2009 campaign Super Late Models, Ryan Blaney attracted the attention of several voters in this year's draft. The son of NASCAR Cup Series driver Dave Blaney really helped his cause when he scored his first PASS South victory at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC) in the season-opening points race there. Blaney is built more like a football kicker, yet still manages to get things done on the track. He was the Rookie of the Year in PASS South last season and finished second in points.
Pros: Blaney has come a long way in the Late Model ranks and that experience has made him a better racecar driver. Ties with his father Dave Blaney will aid him in succeeding at better opportunities down the road.
Cons: Needs to conquer emotions at the track better. You might think Dave puts a lot of pressure on him, but in fact young Ryan does it to himself. Now that his first Late Model win is out of the way, that should aid him in this process.
Age - 14
Hometown - Denton, NC
Series - UARA-Stars
Clint King has been winning races ever since he started in Bandoleros at the age of eight - which is scary because that was only six years ago. From Bandos to Pro Challenge to Late Model Trucks and now in UARA at the age of 14, King has won early and often. The 2008 Pro Challenge Series National Champion was the toughest-to-beat driver in that series' history. He moved up to Late Model Trucks in 2009, where an up-and-down season still ended up with one PASS Truck win and a few weekly show triumphs, as well. That set the stage for a Late Model Stock transition this year, where he won a UARA race in just his third-career start in on the tour.
Pros: Very humble and well-spoken for just 14. Has driven for a family team with the same guys working on his car since the Bandolero days, which keeps him level-headed.
Cons: Won so quick in UARA, the expectations for more victories instantly come. With his young age, he needs more time to develop before wins can be expected week after week like they do for some veterans of the series.
Age - 19
Hometown - Kannapolis, NC
Series - Legends, SLMs, and PLMs
We've seen a lot of Legends Car drivers come and go from the Short Track Draft in its six previous editions. Legends Car drivers that have a lot of hype and success in those scale cars are kind of like being a Quarterback at USC. Yeah, there's a lot of success and headlines to be made at that level, but a very rare few ever leave Legends Cars, or USC, and succeed at the next level. Matt Leinart was a stud at USC, now he rides the pine in Arizona. Daniel Hemric appears to be far more of a driver that can stick around and be a star than Leinart ever will be in the NFL.
The 19-year-old from Kannapolis, North Carolina was the 2009 Legends Pro Division National and the Summer Shootout Pro Division Champion at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That success led him into Late Model racing in late 2009, where he set a Pro Late Model track record at Concord Speedway (NC) in his first-ever big-car race. He finished second that night for BDI Racing and finished second in his second-ever Late Model race at Orange County Speedway (NC) driving for Jeff Fultz Racing in 2010.
Pros: A proven winner in Legends Cars, he's also been a quick learner in Late Models with a couple runner-up finishes in his first two starts. He's also friendly and polite, which helps.
Cons: The bandwagon is filling up quick. At the track, Hamric has got managers, marketing people, sponsors, PR guys and other hangers-on trying to get a piece of him. He needs everyone to back off a bit and let him grow as a driver and as a kid before trying to smother him.
Age - 29
Hometown - Rowley, MA
Series - East Series, ACT, PASS and Whatever Else He Can Find a Ride In
If this had been 15 or 20 years ago, Eddie MacDonald would be on his way to the top levels of NASCAR racing. He's a throwback to the old ladder of winning on a short track, then going on tour, winning at that level and then moving up some more. Just in the past two years, he has won the Oxford 250, ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, three NASCAR East Series races at the same track and gave Michael Waltrip Racing's Ryan Truex a run for his money in chasing the East Series title.
Pros - A very proven winner. A nice kid who you can't not want to help out after just talking to him for five minutes. He also works on his own cars, which earns him respect.
Cons - MacDonald is an “old school” racer, but that might not be what new school talent scouts are looking for. He doesn't bring money and he doesn't talk a big game. He's kind of shy and reserved.
Age - 20
Hometown - Hudson, NH
Series - ACT, East Series, SLMs
As one of the young stars of the ACT Late Model ranks, this young driver has been earning himself quite a fan base. He's young, he's personable and he's won several races on that tour while also branching out into the PASS Super Late Model ranks and NASCAR East Series in his free time.
Pros - Pole has a ton of determination and drive. He doesn't give up easily. A new alliance with Ford could help Pole be introduced to some movers and shakers. Hmmm….the Fenway part of Ford powerhouse Roush-Fenway is based in New England (just like Pole) and we always see Pole wearing a Boston Red Sox hat.
Cons - ACT Late Models are still native to New England and Canada only, which limited his chances to travel and make a national name for himself (although Pole has turned heads at Florida Speedweeks). A few attempts to break into the Super Late Model world haven't worked out. His East Series ride is only for a partial schedule, so more sponsorship dollars are needed.
Age - 17
Hometown - Grimes, IA
Series - East Series
From dirt tracks to ASA Late Models to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East division, Brett Moffitt has been steadily climbing the ladder of racing. This year, he's in one of the Joe Gibbs Racing East Series rides as he looks for career victory number two on that tour.
Pros - He won in the East Series as a rookie and spent a year learning under the guidance of the tour's version of Obi-Wan Kenobi - Andy Santerre. Having that kind of education is even better than going to college.
Cons - Not a very exciting personality, but then again in the age of Jimmie Johnson's dominance of the sport, is that really such a con? Will need to set the world on fire in 2010 with JGR equipment because there will be no excuses for mediocrity with that high profile ride.
Age - 23
Hometown - Chelsea, AL
Series - PLMs and SLMs
A year ago, Josh Hamner was ranked in the top 10 in the Speed51.com Short Track Draft. Some people didn't realize that Hamner did spend the year getting off his little section of the world to race all across the county in what was then known as the ASA Late Model Challenge series and is now known as the Sunoco National Tour. Hamner had lots of success and scored a win at Salem Speedway (IN). That deal in no longer and Hamner will return to the Florida Panhandle to run with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Gulf Coast SLM Championship Series this season.
Pros: Teaming with Kyle Busch Motorsports could be the key to Hamner's future. He now has the best equipment possible with a super team behind him. Hamner is hoping that Kyle Busch makes the Chase for the Championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series so he might get a chance to race the Snowball Derby with the car that won last year as Busch heads to the Cup banquet instead.
Cons: Victories have not come as frequently as they should, to get Hamner more recognition. Plus, the added pressure of racing for Kyle Busch Motorsports could take a toll on the young driver.
Age - 14
Hometown - Pinellas Park, Florida
Series - LMs and Pro Cup
We will almost bet that Nasse will be a top pick in next year's draft, but for now he's just inside the top 25. This 14-year-old from Florida has proven quite a bit in the last few months. Strong performances in the Pro Ratter and the first two events of the USARacing Pro Cup Series have lots of people looking at this kid's future. Nasse won a pair of Late Model events at New Smyrna Speedweeks in February and since then has been up front every week.
Pros: At 14, he's a decent interview and his personality is getting even better. Some 30 year-olds could take a lesson from a kid who can't yet vote or drive a car on the street.
Cons: Could stall out with his age. At 14, he's stuck at this level for at least another year, but the variety of tracks in Pro Cup will help with his growth.
Darrell Wallace, Jr.
Age - 16
Hometown - Mobile, AL
Series - East Series
Sweating it out in the war room, like so many draft picks do on NFL Draft day, Darrell Wallace, Jr. makes it into this round of the Short Track Draft as pick #25. The Concord, North Carolina teenager has been winning for a while now, as he dominated Bandolero and Legends Car racing in North Carolina for a few years before moving up to Late Models in 2008.
He's a former UARA Rookie of the Year and won a couple of UARA races over the past two years, but his big break came earlier this season when he inked a deal with Revolution Racing. The NASCAR Drive for Diversity program in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Revolution has “Bubba” in one of their four East entries, but he will forever go down in history as the first-ever RR driver to win an East race, winning at Greenville-Pickens earlier this season.
Pros: A proven winner and has adapted well to big cars from the Legends ranks.
Cons: He's a little too serious in interviews. Not much of a smiler. That can be taken as being cocky or just ticked off all the time, which Wallace isn't. Just needs to loosen up a bit.