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.
To start off the week, we featured the top 10 Short Track Draft picks. You can read all about them, by clicking right here. Then we revealed the picks in slots #11-25 yesterday, which you can see by clicking here. Now, we finish out our list with the #26-51 selections.
Age - 17
Hometown - Winchester, VA
Series - East Series, Super Late Models
Sometimes, one football game can make or break a football player's career. Like when David Tyree made a nearly-impossible catch to keep a drive going for the Giants in the Super Bowl. Since then, he's just been “That guy who made that play.” One race has made Sergio Pena almost a household name in the developmental ranks. Pena almost bested Joey Logano in the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (CA) in his first-ever K&N East/West-style racecar for Revolution Racing earlier this year. A Late Model racer before his time at Revolution, Pena stormed onto the scene then and has been wheeling one of four RR entries in the East Series since.
Pros: Became a feel-good story after Irwindale and gained a lot of fans and respect. Very personable and friendly, as well.
Cons: His couple of runs in the East Series so far in 2010 haven't lived up to the super-early hype that surrounded him after the Showdown.
Age - 20
Hometown - Center Conway, NH
Series - East Series, PASS North, ACT Late Models
He's won in Late Models, PASS North and is now making a name for himself during his rookie season of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Racing. His name is D.J. Shaw and he's one of the true talents of the Northeast.
Pros - A tight-knit network of family and friends creates a positive environment for Shaw. He's a friendly and genuine young man. The driving skill of his father, 1994 NASCAR Busch North champion and New England racing legend Dale Shaw, has really seemed to rub off on him.
Cons - Sometimes having Dale Shaw as a dad can be a bit overwhelming, but the crew seems to solve that problem by just taking away Dale's radio when needed. The younger Shaw is also having to enter a racing world where a big checkbook helps paves the way to the top. Shaw doesn't have that - just boatloads of talent instead.
Age - 20
Hometown - Mount Holly, NC
Series - Dirt Late Models
From the Charlotte suburb of Mount Holly, North Carolina, 20-year-old Chris Ferguson has only been racing dirt Late Models for two years, but he's already at the top of many dirt racing's experts list of the “next big thing.” “Fergie” is fresh out of high school, but has more accolades than top drivers that have been tearing up the dirt LM scene for as long as he's been alive. He's a former FASTRAC crate late model series Rookie of the Year, winner of the 2009 Skyler Trull Memorial at Carolina Speedway and has track records at both Carolina and Toccoa (GA) Speedways.
Pros: A winning smile and a friendly attitude. Has been racing with, and beating some of the toughest DLM guys in the country on a weekly basis.
Cons: Needs more consistency, as mechanical problems kept him from even more success in 2009. He wants and needs some asphalt experience and has been rumored to be getting some soon.
Age - 18
Hometown - Boyleston, MA
Series - PASS North, SLM, East Series
This teen racer has built up quite a resume in a short amount of time. Ramstrom won a PASS Outlaw championship, multiple PASS North races and a Super Late Model championship at Thompson International Speedway (CT). He's also a nice young man who people want to try and help to get to the next level.
Pros - Ramstrom is polite, well-mannered and a stellar student. He'd do a sponsor very proud without much polish at all. He's also one heck of a racer. He's honed his skills against some of the best Super Late Model drivers out there while running in PASS North - and he's won there.
Cons - Limited funds can't help much in an age of buying rides. A chance to drive the NDS Motorsports NASCAR K&N Pro Series East car for the full schedule of 2010 races fizzled, despite Ramstrom being ranked within the top 10 of the standings after two races. Winning often at Thompson might make him a hometown hero, but doesn't do much to help him build a national reputation.
Age - 19
Hometown - Sacramento, VA
Series - UARA-Stars
Poole is a talented driver out of California now racing in Late Model Stock country. After winning on just about every level on the West Coast Poole came east like football player looking for exposure. After a full season of Late Model Stocks in the UARA-Stars ranks, it looks as if Poole has found his a rhythm after he scored his first win a few weeks back at Tri-County.
Pros: Poole is teamed up with a Late Model Stock veteran Jamie Yelton. The combination has done wonders for both as every track Poole went to in 2009 was a new one. With Yelton, it allowed Poole to adjust quickly.
Cons: Might not have had enough success yet at the Late Model Stock level to get noticed.
Age - 18
Hometown - Mooresville, NC
Series - LMSC and ARCA
The UARA-Stars Late Model Stock tour has been a great farm system for this year's Short Track Draft. Many drivers have made the list that are quite a bit younger than Brandon McReynolds, but “The Franchize” was the first in the group of young LMSC stars in UARA to make a splash. McReynolds is the son of famed Cup Crew Chief-turned-broadcaster Larry McReynolds, but he lets his prowess on the racetrack distance himself from dad's legacy. An up-and-down 2009 season saw McReynolds still earn a shop at the UARA championship, eventually finishing third with three wins and three poles. He's now competing on a limited basis in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, where some bad luck has ended top-10 runs in his two starts so far in 2010.
Pros: Can win when things are going right and knows how to overcome adversity, as bad luck with mechanical problems kept him out of contention in several UARA races last season.
Cons: With a famous dad, the “rich kid” thoughts surround him and drivers like him, whether it's true or not.
Age - 17
Hometown - Miami, FL
Series - East Series, ASA LMs, SLMs
This hot shot from Florida is only 17 years old, but if you want someone to get it done in the seat of your racecar, then he could be you future. Brannon has a Speedweeks Limited Late Model championship and won the 2009 ASA Late Model South title. He also won races in what is now known as the Sunoco National Tour. Brannon is a hard charger on the track and a well spoken driver off the track.
Pros: Has moved up the ladder at a steady pace to land in the K&N East Pro Series in 2010. He's right on track to be ready for the top three series in the next few years.
Cons: Has been a bit aggressive in his racing career. That has followed him to the East Series and he has wrinkled a few fenders early on in the season.
Age - 18
Hometown - South Beloit, IL
Series - Big 8, ASA MW, SLMs, LMs
Michael Bilderback is a former Big 8 Series standout and winner at Slinger Speedway in Wisconsin. The 18 year-old will be entering the ASA Midwest tour event this coming weekend at Madison Int'l Speedway (WI). Winning is nothing new to this driver who hails from South Beloit, IL. He won in both Bandoleros and Legend Cars before moving to Late Models.
Pros: Has had lots of success at every level. We should expect the same at the Super Late Model level.
Cons: Is getting into the Super Late Model game a little late, but its against a talented field at the Joe Shear Classic 136.
Age - 24
Hometown - Concord, NC
Series - LMSC, UARA-Stars
Another son of a former NASCAR then-Busch Series veteran, Kyle Grissom has been making a name for himself and continuing the Grissom family legacy in his own right in Late Model Stocks. The 20-year-old from Concord, North Carolina is the son of former Busch Champion Steve Grissom, but even dear old dad would admit that the kid's on his way to doing some big things if breaks fall his way. Grissom is the 2005 UARA Rookie of the Year and a former Champion in the Legends Car ranks during the Summer Shootout. With victories in weekly shows at the famed Hickory Motor Speedway and on the UARA tour, Grissom is quickly adding his name to the “must-watch” lists with other former Busch racers' kids in UARA like LaJoie and Pressley.
Pros: Intimidating presence as a big, tough kid, just like his daddy was. LMSC faithful will admit that if you can win at Hickory, you're doing something…and Grissom has.
Cons: There's a heavy crop of good, high-teen/low-20 racers in UARA and it's going to take some real results to emerge as the best of them all.
Age - 18
Hometown - Alpine, CA
Series - East Series, Open Wheels
Two races into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season, one of the biggest surprises of the year has got to be Cole Whitt. The rookie currently leads the series standings with his Red Bull Toyota. Whitt is a former USAC Open Wheel star who is now on the fast track to NASCAR's upper levels.
Pros - Whitt has really flattened out his learning curve in adapting to the NASCAR East Series, which is a good indication that he can learn quickly in any racing situation.
Cons - Being involved with the Team Red Bull machine could lead to cockiness. Take this line from Whitt's website for example, “Cole has amassed a resume of racing accomplishments few ever match in a lifetime.” It takes lots of help to make it to the top in this sport and people aren't as willing to lend a hand to someone who comes across as already thinking he knows everything.
Age - 25
Hometown - Shakopee, MN
Series - ASA MW, LMs
Shakopee, Minnesota's Jacob Goede makes the 51 list for the second straight year. This Late Model standout has won at tracks like Iowa, Bristol and Mansfield. In 2009, he switched to the highly competitive ASA Midwest Tour. He finished seventh in points and had a pair of top 10 finishes. Considering his average season in 2009, Goede dropped 15 spots - which shows that our panel can see his talent.
Pros: Is racing in perhaps the most competitive series in the county. People can gauge the 25 year old's talent against the best in the Midwest.
Cons: He's getting past the age of reason that “NASCAR teams” look at these days.
Age - 28
Hometown - GBuda, TX
Series - SLMs and PLMs
This is the year of guys named Colt making headlines in the Draft. Texas Quarterback Colt McCoy was drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft, going to the Cleveland Browns, but fellow Texas native and stud named Colt, Colt James, went quite a bit higher in the Short Track Draft this year. With a name like Colt, you better be tough and fast, and Colt James is both. He's got plenty of success without really following any tour or series on a regular basis. He's scored big Pro Late Model wins at Concord Speedway over the past two seasons, while also finishing an impressive second in the 2009 World Crown at Gresham Motorsports Park (GA). He also has five career ASA Late Model victories and has competed in PASS South from time to time.
Pros: Wins in big spots, having taken some big-money races at Concord and some other tracks.
Cons: At 28, the clock is ticking. He also needs to perk up a little bit, as his mellow demeanor can be taken as a lack of personality.
Age - 25
Hometown - Julliette, GA
Series - SLMs, PLMs and ARCA
What a success story this has been for Beau Slocomb. The young man battled back from cancer to finish third at last year's World Crown 300. Slocumb was already a proven winner in the past and was a contender for a championship a few years back. Slocumb will no doubt win again this season and chances are he'll do it at Gresham Motorsports Park sometime this summer.
Pros: Has talent behind the wheel and knows about overcoming adversity in both life and on the track. Got black flagged out of the lead in his last race and showed tremendous composure.
Cons: Doesn't race enough, but just to be racing at this point is good enough for Slocumb.
Age - 27
Hometown - Waterloo, NY
Series - DIRT Mods
A Quarterback right out of college better be really darn good to take the starting job away from a multiple-time Super Bowl Champion QB. That'd be like Brian Hoyer taking Tom Brady's starting spot for the Patriots. It just doesn't happen. But, Matt Sheppard gave multiple-time Super DIRTcar Series Champion Brett Hearn a stiff challenge for his ninth series crown in 2009. If competition makes the great ones even better, then that's what Sheppard did in 2009 for Hearn. But Sheppard himself is a soon-to-be Super DIRTcar champion in his own right. Sheppard scored seven series victories in 2009 and ran Hearn down to the last race for the title and already has three wins in 2010.
Pros: “SuperMatt” is a proven winner and can win through a grueling Dirt Modified schedule
Cons: Very little asphalt experience. If he's going to get a shot in the big time, he has to do it soon as he's already 27 years old.
Age - 23
Hometown - Colleyville, TX
Series - SLMs, PASS South, Blizzard Series
A top-10 Draft pick last year, Ryan Lawler's stock fell a bit in this year's Draft, likely because of what part of his knock was in 2009's edition - he just doesn't race as much as he used to. This 23-year-old Texas native-turned North Carolina resident won the PASS South title in 2007 and has won a bunch of events in that series. He's a former winner of the Winchester 400, too, and has run well throughout the Southeast in a Super Late Model. He had a cup of tea in the Trucks back in 2008, but since then it's just been a few here-and-there SLM starts for Kyle Busch Motorsports and Stanley Smith's SLM team.
Pros: Tall and handsome, Lawler has a good thing going with the Stanley Smith #49 team in the Gulf Coast Championship Series events in the Florabama area. A championship there will certainly go a long way.
Cons: As mentioned, the kid just isn't in the seat a whole lot these days. He can win and he's got the “total package” appeal, but it goes for naught without a ride.
Age - 18
Hometown - Laurel, Delaware
Series - Dirt LMs
The biggest talent from the state of Delaware since QB Joe Flacco, Austin Hubbard has been turning heads in the Dirt Late Model scene for a few years, but he now has the chance to really shine with the Beitler #19 ride that had been driven to numerous wins and championship with Steve Francis behind the wheel. Hubbard was the second-youngest-ever to qualify for the World 100 at Eldora Speedway and set fast time for the Dirt Track World Championships in Charlotte in 2009. Already in 2010, Hubbard has one victory in the Beitler #19 at Screven Motor Speedway in World of Outlaws Late Model action.
Pros: Hooked up with a title-winning team at just 19. Has already seen quite a bit of success in a hurry.
Cons: Has lots of poles and track records, but the wins have to keep coming. He's hooked up with a title-capable team in the WoO LM ranks, so the attention is going to be big for the kid.
Age - 19
Hometown - Acworth, GA
Series - SLMs and PLMs
Another Late Model gun from the Peach Tree state, Reaid has done very well at the Pro Late Model level and now is switching to Super Late Model level. Reaid sat on the outside pole at last year's Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway. He then went on to stage one heck of a war with Augie Grill before finishes second. Reaid also won several times earlier in the year.
Pros: Is driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the CRA Southern Six Pack series. This could bring bigger things if they can put together a strong run or win that championship.
Cons: Maybe got into Super Late Models a little late. Some think at 19 he's too old, but with KBM backing there is no telling what the future could be.
George Brunnhoelzl, III
Age - 27
Hometown - West Babylon, NY
Series - Mods
Another legacy racer, George Brunnhoelzl III captured the longtime Modified-based family's first NASCAR championship in 2009, winning the Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship with a series-high five wins and six poles. GBIII is a warrior of years of short track events, having followed in his dad's and grandpa's Modified footsteps for a while, then moving to the USARacing Pro Cup Series with limited success, but ever since he got back into Modified racing a few years ago, his stock has been on the increase in our panels' eyes. The success in 2009 led GBIII to get a ride in the Northeast-based Whelen Modified Tour in 2010.
Pros: Has been around the sport his whole life and understands the “do-it-yourself” mentality. Not afraid to work on his own cars and finally has a shot to open some eyes with a solid ride on the Whelen Tour.
Cons: At 27 and already having a bunch of experience in stock cars, moving to Modifieds may be considered a step down in some eyes outside of the Modified community, making him forever a “Modified Guy.”
Age - 27
Hometown - Necedah, WI
Series - ASA MW
Talk about legacies…in short track racing perhaps no name means family tradition than Sauter. Travis Sauter, the 27-year-old son of famed short tracker Tim and grandson of Jim and nephew of Johnny and Jay Sauter has been ripping up the Midwestern short tracks - when funding is available - to keep the Sauter name atop the stat sheets in the area. Travis did something in 2009 that no other Sauter had been able to do before - win the historic Oktoberfest Super Late Model show at the LaCrosse Fairgrounds in the family's home state of Wisconsin. He didn't race much in 2009, but when he did, he was extremely potent, finishing in the top-five in three of his five starts, including the Oktoberfest win, which was a ASA Midwest Tour points event.
Pros: Long family history of short track and NASCAR success. Very personable and friendly, which not all Sauters are known to be.
Cons: Not much racing equals not much attention.
Age - 24
Hometown - Barre, VT
Series - ACT LMs
The poster child for Tom Curley's ladder system at Thunder Road and on the ACT Late Model Tour is Nick Sweet. He started in four-cylinder Street Stocks, moved to Sportsmen cars and then graduated to Late Models. He's been competitive along every step of the way too and won the 2008 ACT Late Model Rookie of the Year award. In 2009, he stepped back to running regularly at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) and in a few select ACT events.
Pros - Plenty of natural racing talent. Sweet is also very hard working and personable. He always remembers to thank his team and in return, they are willing to do anything for him. Shows amazing attention to detail too - his cars are immaculate and sponsors like that.
Cons - Doesn't race on a big enough stage for many people to notice. Running ACT races gets some publicity, but racing weekly at Thunder Road might be competitive, but it isn't something he'll get national attention for. Then again, if Sweet can win the Oxford 250 this year, he's sure to earn plenty of headlines for that.
Age - 28
Hometown - Farmington, ME
Series - SLMs, PASS North and South
He's the youngest of the “Rowes and Clarks” who have dominated PASS North racing and now Cassius Clark is looking to do the same down south. His racing schedule is varied. He has been picking up rides in PASS South and CRA events whenever he can. Luck hasn't been his friend lately, but speed sure is. You can usually find him up front in any Super Late Model race that he enters. He just doesn't always finish there.
Pros - Now lives in North Carolina - the hotbed of racing activity. Clark's “No BS” style is very refreshing in this day and age of robot-like racing personalities. Most of all, Clark can just flat out wheel a racecar.
Cons - Clark is starting to get old - 28 at this point - and that's not good in this game. He's also cared more about winning races than moving up the ladder, which has hurt his career possibly.
Age - 22
Hometown - Warner, NH
Series - PASS SLMs
Another youthful gem on the PASS North tour is Adam Bates. With multiple career wins against some tough competition on the tour, Bates has shown that he can drive a racecar and has hoping to try out those skills in an East Series car. So far, nothing has developed on that front but if it does, expect him to waste no time finding himself up front.
Pros - A smart driver on the track who manages to usually stay out of troublesome situations (of course there is no accounting for bad luck - see below). He's also a very bright and friendly young man from a strong family-owned team.
Cons - In 2009, Bates suffered from the bad luck bug. He was a legitimate PASS North championship contender when his family's only Super Late Model got destroyed in a mid-summer crash at Thompson. That has been tough to bounce back from. Bates needs to come out of the gate strong this year and return to the form he was in less than one year ago.
Age - 23
Hometown - Loxahatchee, FL
Series - SLMs and PLMs
Jeff Choquette's driving record resembles that of a Bo Jackson type. He can do it all - Crate Late Models, Super Late Models, Dirt Late Models, Modifieds. You name it and Jeff has driven it to victory lane. This 23 year-old North Carolina transplant has done a lot in his career already. With some good luck backing him, Choquette could grab several wins in 2010.
Pros: Is teamed up with Fountain Motorsports which fits both parties well. Now Jeff needs that big win further his career.
Cons: Has gone through at lot with tech issues in the past. Some would look at that as a black eye, but he did get it right at the end of the week at Speedweeks in the Pete Orr 100. He's been running Super Late Models for the past few seasons, so maybe his career has become a little stale in some voters' minds? We're not sure exactly what it is that placed him just barely inside the top 50 of this year's draft., but something just isn't clicking with many racing insiders.
Age - 24
Hometown - Dothan, AL
Series - PLMs
Those who know him can see there is plenty of talent in this 24 year old driver from Dothan, Alabama. Korey Ruble started off the season wearing the snake in victory lane at South Alabama Speedway after the Pro Rattler 125. Ruble is veteran in the Pro Late Model ranks and has been learning the Super Late Model ranks with Royce Johnston as well as in his own equipment.
Pros: He's smart. With an engineering degree from the University of Alabama, Ruble is a one-man-band in the Short Track world. He knows the car inside and out.
Cons: Lack of funding has hurt him and the advancement of his career. Unless he gets a big break he will always be seen as a diamond in the rough.
Age - 24
Hometown - Pensacola, FL
Series - PLMs and SLMs, Blizzard Series
The stock of 2008 Snowflake 100 winner Brandon Carlson is rising. Carlson will enter the Blizzard Series ranks in 2010 driving the car formerly wheeled by his father Scott Carlson.
Pros - Coming from a racing family with a father like former Blizzard Champion Scott Carlson gives Brandon plenty of experience in how to approach the sport. Having a racing Godfather like Eddie Mercer can't hurt either when it comes to having a place to go for advice. Honing his skills in the Blizzard Series at Five Flags Speedway is one of the best places to do it too. Having national attention focused on his local track is another plus.
Cons - It's been rare for Carlson to venture out of Five Flags so far in his career and he's just now getting into a Super Late Model at age 24 when it is too common to see kids in their mid teens wheeling those cars throughout the country. The family name means a lot of short trackers, but it isn't “Elliott”, “Kenseth” or even “McReynolds”, so it won't open many doors in the Cup world.
Age - 18
Hometown - Newport, TN
Series - SLMs, LMSCs
As the youngest winner ever of the Bailey's 300 at Martinsville Speedway, Jake Crum is a proven winner. From his Legends Car days to his UARA-Stars Championship in 2008 “The Snake” always excels to the top. This year he has already made his first start in the East series and run a Super Late Model event.
Pros: Whatever he has climbed into he has won in. From Legends to Late Model Stocks he finds away to get it done.
Cons: Not running a full schedule could sweep him under the rug in 2010. Success will be his key to the next level. His aggressive style could be a turn-off to some.