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Stock Report: Drivers Rising & Falling in Short Track Draft

April 17, 2018 • App, Archives, Other News, Region - National, Short Track Draft, Ticker

Each year as the NFL Draft approaches, aspiring professional football players see their draft stock rise, fall or hold steady.  Similarly, short track racers see their stock rise and fall ahead of the Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes.

 

Our short track racing experts have taken a look at some of the drivers in this year’s draft to determine whether their stock is rising, falling or holding steady leading up to the 2018 Short Track Draft on Speed51.com.

 

Be sure to use hashtag #51Draft on Twitter and let us know whether you agree or disagree with our experts.

 

The kiss that Eckes will never forget at the Snowball Derby. (Speed51.com photo)

Christian Eckes – Stock Falling

Age: 18

Hometown: Middletown, N.Y.

Current Level: ARCA

Last Year’s Pick: 3rd

 

Christian Eckes heard his name called third in the 2017 Short Track Draft after a stellar end to the 2016 racing season that included the biggest win of his career in the Snowball Derby.

 

Since the Snowball Derby win, Eckes has turned in strong performances but has been held winless.  As a result, our experts believe that his draft stock is falling heading into the 2018 Short Track Draft.

 

Eckes recorded four top-five finishes and nine top-10 finishes in 10 ARCA Racing Series starts in 2017, coming up short of his first career victory by just inches at Elko Speedway (MN).  He added four top-five finishes in CARS Tour Super Late Model action but failed to reach victory lane.

 

The good news for Eckes is that he’s still only 17 years old and has plenty of time to improve his stock.

 

Armstrong celebrates a win at Winchester Speedway in 2016. (CRA Racing Photo)

Dalton ArmstrongStock Falling

Age: 23

Hometown: New Castle, IN

Current Level: Super Late Models

Last Year’s Pick: 14th

 

Dalton Armstrong earned the highest selection of his career in the Short Track Draft one year ago when he was selected as the 14th pick. Since that time, a lack of funding has kept Armstrong on the sidelines for the most part and has resulted in his draft stock falling.

 

When he’s on the track, there’s no doubting Armstrong’s talent behind the wheel.  He’s a former JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour champion and a former Redbud 300 winner at Anderson Speedway (IN).  The problem now is that he’s struggling to come up with the all-important dollar to get back on the race track.

 

If someone steps up and is able to get him back in a race car, there’s little doubt that his stock will rise once again.

 

Griffith celebrates a PASS North victory at Speedway 95 in 2017. (Speed51.com photo)

Derek GriffithStock Rising

Age: 21

Hometown: Hudson, N.H.

Current Level: Super Late Models

Last Year’s Pick: 30th

 

Derek Griffith jumped up 18 spots to the 30th pick in the 2018 Short Track Draft. Now, he’ll look to rise even higher after a stellar start to his 2018 season.

 

Griffith, a member of the Kulwicki Driver Development Program and Team PFC Brakes, already has as many PASS wins this season as he had all of last season.  He kicked things off with his first career PASS South victory at Dillon (SC) and followed it up by winning the PASS North season opener at Thompson (CT).

 

With success coming his way both on and off the race track early on in 2018, there should be no questioning that Griffith’s stock is currently rising.

 

Kraus celebrates a recent K&N West victory at Kern County Raceway. (Speed51.com photo)

Derek Kraus- Stock Rising

Age: 16

Hometown: Stratford, WI

Current Level: NASCAR K&N Pro Series West

Last Year’s Pick: 17th

 

Derek Kraus is no longer just the other kid from Wisconsin.  After living the past few seasons in the shadows of his good friend and former number-one Short Track Draft pick Ty Majeski, Kraus is beginning to carve out a successful career of his own.

 

As Majeski has put much of his focus on the higher levels of NASCAR, Kraus has picked up the slack within the short track racing ranks.

 

Racing for powerhouse team Bill McAnally Racing, the kid from Wisconsin now has two NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victories at Kern County Raceway (CA) and appears to be in a good position to contend for the 2018 series championship.

 

Although he can still be quiet at times, Kraus is starting to develop a personality and always has a smile on his face at the race track.  As he continues to hone his skill on and off the race track, our experts expect his stock to keep rising.

 

Jeremy Doss celebrates his season-opening SRL victory at Madera. (Speed51.com photo)

Jeremy Doss – Stock Rising

Age: 21

Hometown: Upper Lake, CA

Current Level: Super Late Models

Last Year’s Pick: 18th

 

After dropping four spots from 14th to 18th in last year’s Short Track Draft, our experts expect Doss to bounce back after a strong start to the 2018 season.

 

While some racers have yet to even hit the track in 2018, Doss has already picked up a pair of victories.  He opened the year with a win in the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series at Madera and followed it up with a win against a strong field of Super Late Models at Evergreen Speedway (WA).

 

Another performance that should increase his stock was his 13th-place finish in the 50th Annual Snowball Derby.  While a 13th-place finish isn’t normally something to write home about, a 13th-place finish and a top-five qualifying effort in the biggest Super Late Model race in the country is something that should grab the attention of our experts.

 

At this point in his career, Doss needs to keep the wins coming and hope that he receives an opportunity at the next level.  If not, he has the potential to become a short track star on the West Coast.

 

 

Larry Wight celebrates a Super DIRTcar Series win at Airborne in 2017. (Speed51.com photo)

Larry Wight – Holding Steady

Age: 25

Hometown: Phoenix, N.Y.

Current Level: Dirt Modifieds

Last Year’s Pick: 39th

 

“Lightning Larry” ended a nearly two-year Super DIRTcar Series winless drought by picking up a pair of victories in 2017.  While those victories have the potential to help his stock rise, we expect his stock to hold steady in comparison to his 39th selection in last year’s Short Track Draft.

 

The reason for this is quite simple: Wight is another year older and is entering his final year of Short Track Draft eligibility.  At the age of 25, the likelihood of getting a shot at the higher levels of NASCAR decreases.

 

Wight appears to be on the path to becoming a Dirt Modified star, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Just look at Brett Hearn, Kenny Tremont and Danny Johnson.  There’s certainly a place for those type of racers in our industry.

 

Natalie Decker led the ARCA field to the green flag at Daytona in 2018. (ARCA photo)

Natalie Decker – Stock Rising

Age: 20

Hometown: Eagle River, WI

Current Level: ARCA

Last Year’s Pick: Best of the Rest

 

Natalie Decker will be looking to become a Speed51.com Short Track draft pick for the first time in 2018, and all indications point to that happening.

 

After being selected as a “Best of the Rest” pick one year ago, Decker has made strides towards earning her shot at the next level.  Her biggest moment came earlier this year when the Wisconsin native earned the ARCA Racing Series pole and finished fifth at Daytona during Florida Speedweeks.

 

Driving for Venturini Motorsports this season, many of our experts believe that Decker has the potential to become the first female winner in the 66-year history of the ARCA Racing Series.  If so, the talks will heat up about Decker and her potential to get to the next level.

 

Off the track, Decker has also become a superstar by becoming active in the community and on social media.  A win or two will help her put together the whole package and see her stock continue to rise.

 

Lessard celebrates a CARS Tour win at Myrtle Beach. (Speed51.com photo)

Lessard celebrates a CARS Tour win at Myrtle Beach. (Speed51.com photo)

Raphael Lessard – Stock Falling

Age: 16

Hometown: St-Joseph de Beauce, Quebec, Canada

Current Level: Super Late Models

Last Year’s Pick: 7th

 

Raphael Lessard was one of the biggest movers in the 2017 Short Track Draft, jumping 43 spots from 50th to seventh.  While we don’t expect him to fall too far down the tree, we do expect to see him fall slightly this time around.

 

Lessard, the 2016 CARS Tour Super Late Model champion, took a step back in 2017 with only one CARS Tour victory at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC).  While he contended for wins in big races such as the Redbud 400 at Anderson Speedway (IN), he struggled to find victory lane.

 

With a switch to Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Super Late Model program for the 2018 season, Lessard has come out strong with a pair of top-five finishes at SpeedFest and the Rattler 250.  However, he still lacks that signature victory.  Once he gets that, we believe his stock will rise once again.

 

Ronnie Williams turned heads by winning the pole for the NWMT Icebreaker at Thompson. (Speed51.com / MoJo Photos)

Ronnie Williams – Stock Rising

Age: 21

Hometown: Tolland, CT

Current Level: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour

Last Year’s Pick: Missed the Cut

 

It’s hard to tell exactly where Ronnie Williams may fall in this year’s draft. Although he’s not a household name in the Modified ranks yet, he’s shown that he has the potential to be a star at different points during the past few seasons.

 

In his first full season of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competition, Williams already turned some heads by winning the pole award for the Icebreaker at Thompson.  He is also a seven-time winner in the super-competitive SK Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT).

 

Will he crack the top 51 in this year’s draft?  We’re not quite sure about that, but we certainly expect to at least see him in the “Best of the Rest.”

 

Tyler Courtney celebrates a Chili Bowl preliminary night win in 2017. (Photo credit: WRT Speedwerx)

Tyler Courtney – Stock Rising

Age: 23

Hometown: Indianapolis, IN

Current Level: USAC Midgets

Last Year’s Pick: Missed the Cut

 

The sun is shining bright for “Sunshine” Tyler Courtney entering this year’s Short Track Draft.  After missing the cut last year, the Clauson-Marshall Racing driver  is primed to crack the top 51 this time around.

 

Courtney has three USAC National Midget Series wins already to his name in 2018, including two during Florida Speedweeks, and sits third in the series championship standings.  Add in his Chili Bowl Nationals preliminary night win during the 2017 season and he has a resume capable of making this year’s draft.

 

Off the track, Courtney has a personality and attitude that fits his nickname “Sunshine.”  Although he’s older than many in this year’s draft, he could still have a shot at the big time if things go right.

 

Smith celebrates his first career ARCA win. (Speed51.com photo)

Zane Smith – Stock Rising

Age: 18

Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA

Current Level: ARCA

Last Year’s Pick: 12th

 

One year after making this list with “Stock Falling” next to his name, Zane Smith has rebounded in a big way entering the 2018 Short Track Draft.

 

Smith, who was the third pick in the 2016 draft before falling down to 12th last year, increased his stock dramatically be breaking his winless drought and winning his first career ARCA Racing Series race at Nashville (TN).

 

The California kid has the personality and the full package to be a star in the sport, all he needed entering the draft was a few wins.  He has one win already in 2018 and appears to be in a good position to get a few more while driving for MDM Motorsports in the ARCA Racing Series.

 

-Text by Speed51.com Staff

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