2018 PFC Short Track Draft First Round Picks: #3-10

The 2018 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes ballot was completed by 61 short track insiders, including media members, team and driver development professionals, track and series promoters and officials, product and industry representatives, NASCAR National Series drivers, crew members, short track racing veterans and more.  The voters could select as few as 10 and as many as 51 drivers on their ballot, ranked in order that they would choose the drivers to compete for their driver development team in the top levels of the sport.  

 

Speed51.com used a scientific equation that factored in total number of votes, quality votes, first-place votes, top-five votes and top-1o votes in order to determine the top-51 picks in the 2018 Short Track Draft.  

 

The number-one overall pick was revealed on Thursday, April 26. The second pick was revealed on Friday, April 27. 

 

The second round of picks (11-25) will be announced at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, April 30.  The third round (26-51) will be announced on Tuesday, May 1 at 5 p.m.

 

For the first time in the history of the Short Track Draft, Speed51.com will be revealing the top 100 picks in the draft.  The fourth round (52-75) will be revealed Wednesday, May 2 at 5 p.m with the fifth and final round (76-100) being announced Thursday, May 3 at 5 p.m. 

Here are the 2018 Short Track Draft picks #3-10. 


Pick #3
Casey Roderick
Age: 25
Hometown: Lawrenceville, GA
Series: Super/Pro Late Models
Twitter: @CaseyRoderick1
Last Year's Pick: 5th

In a racing career that has had its highs and lows, Casey Roderick concludes his final year of Short Track Draft eligibility at an all-time high. In a year that featured dozens of victories and multiple Pro Late Model track championships in 2017, Roderick carried that momentum directly into 2018 where so far he has four straight wins, including a notable Super Late Model victory at Nashville (TN).

 

Like a quarterback who came off a magical championship season in his senior year, Roderick improved his draft stock during his final year of eligibility.

 

Roderick appeared on the ballots of 49 voting members, the second most of any driver. He also had the second most top-five votes at 33, achieving 73% quality votes overall. Roderick was chosen by four different experts as the number-one overall pick.

 

His selection as the third pick is the highest that Roderick has ever been in the draft, surpassing his selection as the fourth pick back in 2010. At the time, Roderick was on the hot track to NASCAR, moving to the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2012. But not everything goes according to plan, with Roderick averaging finishes outside the top 25 in eight starts.

 

But Roderick has since rebounded these past six years, eventually teaming with all-time Late Model great Ronnie Sanders, first for Pro Late Model racing and eventually on the Super Late Model side.

 

Although he's proven he can compete with the best of the best, Roderick's age is working against him when it comes to getting another chance at the next level.  Is there an owner willing to give a 25-year-old driver another chance at the top levels?

 

With the recent success of Ryan Preece’s bold gamble in the XFINITY Series, Roderick would certainly like to be the next driver given the same chance.

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Pick #4
Chandler Smith
Age: 15
Hometown: Talking Rock, GA
Series: ARCA/Super Late Models
Twitter: @CSmithRacing26
Last Year's Pick: 29th

My oh my, what a difference a year can make.  Like North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Chandler Smith used the 2017 season to increase his draft stock and become a top-five draft pick.

 

In addition to his increased success on the race track since last year's draft, Smith matured off the race track as well.  He's taller, he looks older and he's well-spoken.  Although Smith is still a teenager, he's no longer the shy teenager at the race track; he's developed his own personality that is outgoing, and he's often seen joking around with others during race weekends.

 

On the track, Smith proved that he can compete against the best of the best and that he's a natural behind the wheel.  At the age of 15, Smith competed for the Southern Super Series championship in 2017 before finishing third in the standings.

 

Although the wins weren't there for him last season, he displayed his ability to keep his equipment underneath him, develop as a driver and record top-five finishes on a consistent basis.  Throughout the season, he recorded top-five finishes with the ARCA/CRA Super Series, CARS Tour and Southern Super Series.  However, one of the knocks against him was that he had yet to win a Super Late Model race.

 

That all changed early on in 2018 when Smith prevailed in a battle of Super Late Model heavyweights during CRA SpeedFest 2018 at Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA).  He's since followed that up by claiming pole awards in his first two ARCA Racing Series starts.  He also competed for the win at Salem Speedway (IN) prior to hitting the wall late in the race.

 

There's no questioning that Smith is going to contend for wins in Super Late Models and his limited ARCA Racing Series starts in 2018.  The potential is certainly there and our experts took notice.

 

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Pick #5
Bobby Pierce
Age: 21
Hometown: Oakwood, IL
Series: Dirt Late Models
Twitter: @BobbyPierce32
Last Year's Pick: 4th

The name Bobby Pierce has been floating around the draft for years, like a fifth-year senior.  In fact, much like the overall number-one pick in the NFL Draft, Baker Mayfield, the Smooth Operator has been to a couple of different schools of thought during the course of the past couple of seasons.

 

The 21 year-old is at a new school, so to speak, in 2018.  He is now driving for the famed Dunn Benson Ford team out of North Carolina.  He recently took over the ride of four-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Earl Pearson Jr.  And while Pierce has not won this year, his prowess driving for another school, his family-owned low-buck team, has propelled him near the top of the list.

 

During the past two years, Bobby Pierce has won at least 36 times, including a couple of crown jewel events, last year’s Show-Me 100 at Lucas Oil Speedway (MO), the World 100 at Eldora Speedway (OH) and the North-South 100 at Florence Speedway (KY) in 2016.  Along the way, he won the "Heisman" as the championship driver on The Hell Tour, DIRTcar UMP Late Model’s Summer Nationals the past three years.

 

Pierce has several other characteristics that he shares with Mayfield.  While he’s big on the track, he’s not tall in stature and that’s been the knock on Mayfield.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter as a race car driver.  He’s got the charisma just like Mayfield, without the cocky edge.

 

Pierce is a talent like no other and possibly a big part of the future of Dirt Late Model racing.  He has run several NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, including a near victory at Eldora a couple years ago.  The question is whether he is content with being a top-notch Dirt Late Model racer or does he still want to try to conquer the world of NASCAR?

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Pick #6
Kyle Benjamin
Age: 20
Hometown: Easley, SC
Series: NASCAR K&N Pro Series East / ARCA 
Twitter: @KyleBenjamin71
Last Year's Pick: 6th

Unlike the NFL Draft, there are no limits to how many times a driver can be selected in the Short Track Draft.  As long as a driver meets the age requirement (25 or younger) and is not scheduled to compete in more than 10 races in one of NASCAR's top three series, they are eligible for the draft.

 

With that said, for a record seventh straight year, Kyle Benjamin is a top 10 pick in the 2018 Short Track Draft. And for the second straight year, the driver from Easley, S.C. has been selected as the sixth pick in the draft.

 

If you wanted to compare Benjamin to a college football player, you would probably call him a six-year redshirt.  Despite only being 20 years old, it seems like he has been around the short track ranks forever.  He's done well with the opportunities he's received in NASCAR's top three series, but that has yet to earn him a consistent ride in any of those series.

 

Meanwhile, Benjamin continues to dip his toes in the short track ranks with series such as the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. In 2017, he scored a victory in each series with an ARCA win at Winchester (IN) and a K&N East victory at Greenville-Pickens Speedway.

 

Additionally, Benjamin continues to turn heads when given an opportunity at the higher levels.  His second-place finish in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Iowa in 2017 and his runner-up finish in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Martinsville in 2018 had many people talking about him.

 

 

Benjamin's performance since last year's Short Track Draft earned him four first-place votes and the fourth best average among all drivers.  However, he appeared on less ballots than any other driver in the top 10.  This is an indication that some experts may believe he's been around long enough to earn his shot at the top levels.

 

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Pick #7
Zane Smith
Age: 18
Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
Series: ARCA
Twitter: @ZaneSmith41
Last Year's Pick: 12th

One of the highest grades from the first round of the NFL Draft went to the San Diego Chargers for selecting Derwin James with the 17th pick . Why? Because many experts believe they believe he can lead his team to wins right away.

 

The same can now be said for Zane Smith. For a little while experts were beginning to wonder if Zane Smith could still win races. He won a handful of Late Model starts in 2015, and then that was it until just a few weeks ago when he broke into victory lane with the ARCA Racing Series at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. But he didn’t just win that race. He dominated that race.

 

That dominating fashion turned a lot of heads. Experts were asking if they could resubmit their selections because Smith needed to be moved higher after that victory.

 

Then he went to Salem Speedway and backed up the win by finishing second there. He’s now proving that he’s a force to be reckoned with each and every race.

 

If Smith can keep on winning, he’ll become a household name soon enough. He has the looks; he has the fun personality. Everyone has just been wondering if he had the talent to go along with it. Now he’s showing everyone that he does.

 

Smith received one first-place vote this year, as well as 14 top-five votes and 28 top-10 votes. That is a big improvement over 2017, which saw Smith receive no first-place votes, 10 top-five votes and 21 top-10 votes.

It's also worth noting that some people did in fact submit their ballots prior to Smith's breakthrough win, meaning that he could have potentially went even higher in this year's draft if the timing was right.

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Pick #8
Christian Eckes
Age: 18
Hometown: Middletown, NY
Series: ARCA
Twitter: @christianeckes
Last Year's Pick: 3rd

Every year there is a player in college football that enters the year with projections to be near the top of their draft class. Then they struggle during the year and their draft stock starts to fall, but at the end of the season they turn in a draft-saving performance to keep them in the top 10.

 

Christian Eckes can be placed in that category for the 2018 Short Track Draft.

 

The 18-year-old New Yorker was a top-three pick in the 2017 draft when he was coming off victories at the Thanksgiving Classic, Myrtle Beach 400, and his signature win at the 49th Annual Snowball Derby.

 

But in 2017, Eckes failed to find victory lane even once. He always ran strong, no matter the type of car, but victory lane eluded him.

 

As a result, it was looking like he might fall outside of the top 10 in the 2018 Short Track Draft.

 

And then the ARCA Racing Series went back to Salem Speedway. Eckes led 91 laps at Salem in 2017 and at one point lapped the field before a flat tire ended his chances at winning, but he proved that Salem would be a track he’d win at some day.

 

That day was this past Sunday. Eckes led 72 laps this year en route to his first career ARCA Racing Series victory. It was a win that perhaps may have saved his draft stock, and his confidence.

 

Even though he slipped five spots from 2017, Eckes is still in the top 10, thanks to 14 top-five votes and 26 top-10 votes. Eckes’ name also appeared on 43 of the ballots received.

 

Like with Zane Smith, it's once again worth noting that some of our experts submitted their draft ballots prior to Eckes' win.

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Pick #9
Derek Kraus
Age: 16
Hometown: Stratford, WI
Series: NASCAR K&N Pro Series
Twitter: @derek9kraus
Last Year's Pick: 17th

When you look at their physical structure, there are very few (if any) similarities between offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver Derek Kraus.  In fact, there's likely a difference about 175 pounds between the two.

 

Despite these differences, McGlinchey and Kraus do have something in common: they've both been selected as the ninth pick in their respective drafts.

 

Like McGlinchey, Kraus has proven to be a fierce competitor in his sport during recent years.  The 16-year-old Wisconsin native has climbed the ladder into one of the most potent rides in short track racing: the No. 16 Bill McAnally ride on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West circuit.

 

Although Kraus hasn't won as many races as many drivers in the Short Track Draft, our experts believe his potential is as high as any of them.

 

So far, Kraus has been able to visit NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victory lane twice driving for McAnally.  Both of those wins came at the same race track, Kern County Raceway Park (CA).  One of those wins also came after making contact with NASCAR Cup Series superstar Kevin Harvick in front of Harvick's hometown crowd in Bakersfield, CA.

 

Kraus, the current K&N West points leader, finished third in the standings one year ago behind his teammate Todd Gilliland and Chris Eggleston.  But Gilliland has since moved on from Bill McAnally Racing and that has put Kraus in the team's prime seat.

 

Despite his early success in the K&N Stock Cars, Kraus has not set the world on fire within the Super Late Model ranks, with only one ARCA Midwest Tour victory in 2016.  Improved performance within the Super Late Model ranks could certainly go a long way when it comes to Kraus' draft stock for 2018.

 

Only time will tell if Kraus will be able to live up to expectations, but he certainly has an opportunity to prove he should be ranked with the best of the best short track prospects.

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Pick #10
Jeremy Doss
Age: 21
Hometown: Upper Lake, CA
Series: Super Late Models
Twitter: @JeremyDoss75
Last Year's Pick: 18th

 

In the NFL Draft, a down year right prior to the draft can sometimes pull a player’s stock down. But there are also those who have had such a stellar season the year prior that it will still keep that player’s stock up.

 

For Jeremy Doss, his spot in the 2018 Short Track Draft increased by eight positions from last year, despite running a limited slate in 2017.

 

Doss ended the 2017 season strong by earning an SRL Southwest Tour Series victory last November at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a year after taking the 2016 Montana 200 win and the 2016 Pacific Challenge Series championship.

 

Doss also earned the respect of experts nationwide by making the cross-country trip to the Snowball Derby in 2017, qualifying fifth and finishing 13th against the toughest Super Late Model field in the nation.  He carried that momentum into the 2018 season by winning the SRL season opener at Madera Speedway (CA) and a Super Late Model feature at Evergreen Speedway (WA).

 

His numbers lifted him from 18th to 10th in 2018 draft, the highest he has ever been. Doss collected 40 total votes from the 2018 panel, including three number-one votes, 10 top fives and 20 top 10s.

 

Doss burst onto the West Coast scene in 2012, winning eight races in the Pacific Challenge Series and the season title. He has since followed it up with two runner-ups in SRL in 2013 and 2014, plus another PCS championship in 2016. Despite not competing for a championship in 2017, Doss has gained a level of respect that has earned him the praise of the panel for 2018.

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2018 PFC Short Track Draft First Round Picks: #3-10