In honor of this week’s NFL draft, where amateur football players are selected by pro football teams, the speed51 team is conducting its own Short Track Series draft. We have selected 20-guys whom we feel deserve a shot at either a NASCAR Busch or Craftsman Truck Series ride. Those who have competed in either Trucks or BGN are not eligible for this draft (although we do have our free agent draft below in a separate story) and drivers must be at least 18-years-old to be included in this draft.
fact, he was a lot like Payton Manning in his first year with the Colts, but Payton wasn’t even taken #1. (Remember the Chargers screwed up and took Ryan Leaf.)
He, like Truex Jr, has the look too. And with as much as his dad, multi-time Busch North Series champ Kelly Moore, has been showing him in the Cup garage, we wouldn’t be surprised if someone swoops him up to a letter of intent this year.
2. Travis Kittleson (ASA) – He looks a little like Steve Grogan, tall and slender and we all know how good the former New England Patriots quarterback was in his glory days. Well, Travis is already 24, but after a full-season of nurturing in ASA last year, we think this is the perfect time to snatch him up. Kittleson’s glory days are just around the corner.
Remember when you were 21? What a great age. It was time to hit the bars and celebrate your official entrance into the “big world.” Well, Jason Hogan’s big world consists of racing and making sure he upholds the image he portrays.
The kid comes from a racing family. In fact, he grew up around current NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racer Rick Crawford at some of the biggest short track races in the country. He has the passion and the background and on top of all that, the talent to make it to the big time.
Hogan is a no-holds barred type of racer. He goes for it all, yet he also knows the boundaries of his racecar. He was the 2002 NASCAR Southeast Series Rookie of the year
Hogan collected his first-career SES victory at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) this year.
and he followed it up with a third place finish in the final point tally last year. His eye is focused on the title in 2004, but he’s also looking for a shot at some Truck or Busch Series races as well. He deserves that shot, especially with his outgoing personality.
4. Todd Szegedy (MODS) – The last time we can remember a Todd being selected this high in the NFL draft was probably 1983 when the Kansas City Chiefs selected Todd Blackledge with the seventh overall pick. Blackledge was a bust, Szegedy won’t be.
He was overshadowed by teen sensation Reed Sorenson in last year’s rookie of the year battle, and he’ll be the first to tell you, that occupied too much of his thoughts. Heck, by the second race of the year in ’03, Reed already had his contract signed with Ganassi. If you are Kittleson, who was higher than Sorenson in the points at that time, it’s gotta piss you off.
In just one race this year, in which he finished second to three-time ASA champ Butch Miller, you can see how much Kittleson has matured both on and off the track. He used to be this skinny kid from Florida who was nervous on-camera; now he’s a confident driver who knows what he wants and is going to get it.
1. Ryan Moore (BGNN) – With the first selection of the 2004 Short Track draft, the 51 boys select Ryan Moore of the University of the NASCAR Busch North Series.
This 20-year-old has a bunch of things going for him right now… none the least of which is that former Busch North hotshoe Martin Truex Jr. is lighting up the big league Busch Series right now. Talent seekers, as they always do, will now look at some other Busch North guys and Moore is the class of that field.
The now “super sophomore” showed the patience, poise and maturity of a veteran in his rookie season last year. In
Ryan Moore is our top pick in the first ever Short Track Series draft. (NASCAR Photo)
3. Jason Hogan (SES) – Similar to how some college players improve their draft status with a good workout in the NFL Combine, Hogan’s victory in the NASCAR Southeast Series race in Hickory, NC boosted him on our depth chart from fourth to third.
Huffman is good; he dominated the Hooters Pro Cup Series last year in both the Southern Division and the Championship Series. He’s personable, talks well and still has enough brass to not take any crap on or off the racetrack. Some people call him whiny, but they said the same about Rusty Wallace and look where it got him. Huffman is of the Rusty-mold, but he needs to sign with a good team now before he gets overlooked.
Pushing 30, even Shane Huffman knows it’s time for him to sign a big league contract or just realize he’s going to be one of the top short trackers in the country.
And Even though your tongue may trip over his last name, this is a guy who can do it all. Szegedy has won in anything he has ever sat in; from go-karts to open-wheel stuff.
He stepped into an SK Mod a couple years ago and was successful right off the bat. Then he went to the Featherlite Modified Series and won Rookie of the Year in 2002 and the series title last year. And now to start this season, he has two poles and he did cross the finish line first in the season-opener (Thompson, CT), but was DQued after post-race tech.
Like Kittleson, it is time to snatch this guy up right now. He’s already 26, but he’s got a bunch of years ahead of him in whatever he races. Szegedy may still run a few races with Joe Nemechek’s Busch Series team this year.
5. Shane Huffman (PRO CUP) – Ohio State receiver Shane Olivea was the 209th overall pick by the San Diego Chargers in this year’s NFL draft, the first Shane to be taken. Our first Shane, and only one for that matter, is Huffman, but we are taking him with our fifth overall selection.
6. Casey Smith (ASA) – There were no Caseys taken in the 2004 NFL draft. Too bad. Back to our draft, Casey Smith fits in the sixth slot here and he’s the first teenager on our list. At 19-years-old, Casey Smith is one of those undiscovered talents lurking in the shadows of some of the bigger names in short track racing. But, we think he is about to explode.
Shane Huffman (#84) is pushing the envelope on the age barrier.
Travis Kittleson is ASA's hottest prospect right now, but he isn't the only one.
Much like Truex Jr’s success is going to help Ryan Moore, Pro Cup grad Brian Vickers triumphs in NASCAR is going to help Kauffman. And Joel, like Vickers, is a kid who gets it. He is not cocky, but yet confident enough to get the job done. He listens to what his crew chief is telling him and offers plenty of feedback. And on the track, he is patient; that says a lot for his maturity as a teen. He has top-notch equipment, so all the ingredients are there for him to excel.
Kauffman was last year’s Rookie of the Year in the USAR Pro Cup Northern Division and now is going for the series gold, the championship. Running on a radial tire (in Pro
Casey has won in everything he’s ever competed in, including Quarter Midget and National Legends car championships. He’s been to victory lane in a Super Late Model and is now making an impression in ASA. And he finished third in the prestigious Snowball Derby in Pensacola, FL last year.
The only downfall is the fact that he is saddled with financial instability of a family-owned team. His dad & mom have done wonders for Casey; they’ve paved the road, now all Casey needs is an owner to take him down that road to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
7. Joel Kauffman (PRO CUP) – Looks like we are in teen row right now. 18-year-old Joe Kauffman is the next pick in our draft. Like Casey, Joel is has also won in everything he has ever driven and he is a former champ of the Sunoco Super Series (Super LMs).
Casey is our second ASA driver to make the top-10 list of draftees.
Cup) and having veteran NASCAR crew chief Timmy Kohuth on his side will on raise his stock. He may even race the Craftsman Truck event at Bristol later this year. Get his John Hancock now before someone beats you to the punch.
8. Stephen Leicht (ASA) – Stephen Peterman, and offensive lineman from LSU was one of the youngest players taken in the NFL Draft. The same can be said for Stephen Leicht in 51’s Short Track Draft. He’s also the last teenager in the top-10.
Here’s a guy who has all the potential in the world, yet hasn’t been consistent in the big leagues of ASA for someone to snatch him up yet. All that is about to change.
Leicht won the UARA championship two years ago when he was just 15. That same year, in his first ASA start (Illiana Motor Speedway), he finished in the top-ten. Last year he was one of the favs to win the series Rookie of the Year title, but a new team and having veteran short tracker Scott Hansen as a coach just didn’t work out for Leicht.
Now he’s in the right position, with the right team and with a handful of perfect coaches to mold him into the big time racer he can be. He is running with WalTom Racing’s Driver Development program and has short track wizard Howie Lettow teaching him the tricks of the trade. Lettow is the same guy who helped make Jimmie Johnson (Nextel Cup), David Stremme (Busch Series) and Tony Raines (Busch Series) into the racers they are now. Plus he’s got ASA veteran Robbie Pyle to lean on for info from the driver’s seat. That combo could launch Leicht’s career.
With a teacher like Howie Lettow, Leicht is primed to head to the big leagues.
9. Kevin Hamlin (NWS) – You know, the San Francisco 49ers selected Joe Montana, one of NFL’s greatest quarterbacks ever, in the third round. Why do we bring this up? Because Kevin Hamlin, like Montana, is the forgotten man. He’s been eating up the competition in NASCAR’s Northwest Series the past few years. In that time he has won two series titles. How can teams ignore this guy?
We think what hurts Hamlin is the misperception about his age. Because he has been so successful, so long out west, a lot of people think he is older than he actually is. Folks, Kevin Hamlin is only 25.
We know Larry MacReynolds has been looking at Hamlin for quite some time, but that’s been the story of Hamlin’s career lately. He’s gotten a lot of looks, but as they say, “looks” will only get you so far.
10. Robert Richardson (ROMCO & SES) – This might be the surprise selection of the draft. Much like Ben Roethlisberger (QB from Miami of Ohio) came from a small school, Richardson comes from a smaller, regionalized racing series, the Texas based Super Late Model series known as ROMCO. Well, Roethlisberger was taken 11th in the NFL Draft on Saturday and Richardson just squeezes into the top-10 in 51’s Short Track Draft.
Yeah... he's only 25.
And get this; Richardson is a former QB at SMU. How ‘bout that for a little irony?
We saw Richardson kick everyone’s tail at the ROMCO race at the Texas Motor Speedway in April, so you know he’s got some big track experience. He’s now running with the NASCAR Southeast circuit this year, but hasn’t turned on the juices just yet.
We have a feeling about Richardson; whether we are right or wrong about Richardson remains to be seen.
Richardson is the second Texan on our list.
Click Here For Our Second 10 Drafted In the First Round.
Click Here for Those Not Eligible, Pre-Draftees & Next Year’s Candidates