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.
You can find the top 51 picks by clicking on the stories to your right. To find who couldn't make the cut, please keep reading.
Just like at any race held on the racetrack, there were a set of rules that needed to be followed for the 2010 Speed 51 Short Track Draft. After the votes were counted, the tech line opened up and a few drivers even found themselves disqualified from the competition for various reasons.
There were basically only three rules this year that had an affect on eligibility.
The first was that all drivers had to be under 30 years old. We'd love to have Ben Rowe or Augie Grill is our racecar, but NASCAR Cup teams are looking for the next young star, so opportunities for drivers over the age of 30 are few and far between.
The second rule was that drivers who had a deal to compete in one of the top three NASCAR Series were not eligible. That was expanded to include anyone who was once a semi-regular in the series as well - so Clay Rogers, who made a short-term home in the NASCAT Truck ranks was out, but someone like Bobby Santos, who made a few spot starts here and there in what is now the NASCAR Nationwide Series, was allowed to stay in.
The final rule was that no driver was supposed to already have a major Driver Development deal. That got to be a bit tricky because even Street Stock teams these days claim to have a Driver Development program. So we narrowed this down to Cup teams only. Logan Ruffin's Driver Development deal with the Pro Cup team of Turner Motorsports was ok for example. It also had to be a real driver development deal and not just an affiliation of some sort with a Cup team.
As you can see, there were plenty of gray areas that kept our technical inspectors busy. Even these three simple rules were open for much interpretation.
Deciding whether or not a driver was eligible for the draft wasn't always an easy call. Max Gresham and Brett Moffitt both drive in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for Joe Gibbs Racing, while Cole Whitt is in the same series as a Red Bull racing pilot. Both of those teams field NASCAR Sprint Cup entries, so naturally, that would make one think that they have development contract and would be ineligible for the draft. Well, not so quick. None of those three drivers have been announced as a future driver for any rides in the NASCAR Sprint Cup or Nationwide Series and any bonafide Development Contract has not been announced either, so they were allowed to stay in.
Remember the part about a driver “competing” in one of the big three NASCAR Series? Well, that led to an interesting situation with Coleman Pressley. The North Carolina Late Model Stock driver has started and parked for a NASCAR Nationwide team, but we couldn't call that “competing” with a clear conscience. You've got to do what you've got to do when it comes to putting food on the table or getting your name out there and we didn't want to use that against Pressley.
Meanwhile, JGR driver Matt DiBenedetto was eliminated because he has been announced as a part-time Nationwide Series driver for JGR. We really doubt that he will just start and park in that high-profile ride. That's the same story with Sean Caisse, who has a Nationwide deal that was announced with Richard Childress Racing. Jon Wes Townley would also fall under that category had he received any notice from the panel of voters. But he didn't, so that wasn't an issue.
On the other end of the talent spectrum was Brian Ickler. However, Ickler was just as ineligible for the draft as JWT was due to his deal to run a partial schedule of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
An age ceiling of 30 was placed on this year's draft, so several drivers, including Patrick Laperle, Gary Lewis and Jon Reynolds, Jr. were eliminated as a result.
You also needed to be at least 12 years old to be in the draft this year, but thankfully nobody was eliminated thansk to that rule. While young guns have largely taken over the sport, it's good to know that there are limits too.
Those were just a few of the drivers who received votes, but weren't eligible to make it into the Short Track Draft. So if one of your drivers didn't make the list for those reasons, you can be assured that they might still have plenty of talent and potential, but just didn't get through tech unscathed.