Throughout short track racing history, some drivers were so successful and had such buzz around them that they became household names throughout the industry. Still today, there are numerous short track drivers, especially young talents like the ones displayed in the Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes on Speed51.com, who are instantly known and recognized by fans of many disciplines of the sport.
While many of those young drivers were showcased as top picks in this year’s Short Track Draft, there were a number of drivers that carved out a niche in their particular state or region to get themselves into the top 51 picks of the Draft. They might not be household names yet, but if this year’s Short Track Draft is any indication, they soon will be.
Let’s take a look at some of the drivers who earned the votes to make it into the top 51 that fans may, or likely may not, know a whole lot about.
Pick #1 – Christopher Bell
Seriously, how can the number-one pick in the Short Track Draft not be widely known by race fans? Sure, he drives for Kyle Busch Motorsports and he’s won in just about every type of racecar he’s ever driven, from Sprints, to Midgets and Super Late Models. Still, up until he hit his stride in Super Late Models in late 2014 and into this season, only those in-tune on the dirt scene were aware of the talents of one Christopher Bell. Even before he joined with KBM and started tackling the pavement Late Model ranks, he was one of the hottest young stars in Sprints and Midgets. He won a World of Outlaws race even before his first pavement efforts. It’s likely that until Bell got with KBM and started winning prestigious races this season like the Bruce Gowland Memorial at New Smyrna and the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway, most asphalt racing fans had never heard the name Christopher Bell. Now, armed with the title of this year’s No. 1 Short Track Draft pick, Christopher Bell’s name won’t fly under the radar any more.
Pick #19 – Zane Smith
This kid came out like gangbusters in 2015 in asphalt Super Late Model competition – impressive considering many had never even heard of the 15-year-old Californian before this year’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). Smith made a few low-key Super Late Model starts – his first in a full-size stock car – in 2014 with Crooks Racing, but turned up the wick when the calendar switched to 2015. A graduate of BMX, Go-Kart and Legends Car Racing, Smith made an almost immediate impact on the short track scene with a championship-winning performance during the New Smyrna World Series. He won a race in the tough Super Late Model division and continued those winning ways last weekend in the PASS South tour event at Kingsport Speedway (TN).
Pick #28 – Brandon Sheppard
This 22-year-old is one of the top names in the dirt Super Late Model world, but outside of that, he’s relatively unknown by many. He shouldn’t be under the radar, though, given his impressive resume. He’s a past UMP DIRTcar Late Model National Champion and a UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals titlist. He has several Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series wins to his credit, as well. Still, he’s not the household name like Bloomquist, Owens, Pearson, O’Neal and others in the same discipline.
Pick #29 – Jeremy Doss
It’s easy to call “East Coast bias” on this one because anyone out west who has followed asphalt short track racing over the past year or so certainly knows about Jeremy Doss’ talents. On the East Coast, most people haven’t gotten the memo that this 18-year-old is pretty darn good. He finished second in the SRL Super Late Model standings in each of his first two years on the tour, missing last year’s title by just a few points with three victories. He’s gotten some K&N West experience and it probably won’t be too much longer until short track fans everywhere know Doss’ name.
Pick #31 – Tyler Dippel
Tyler Dippel nearly scored what would’ve been the biggest win of his – or any other dirt big-block Modified racer’s – career when he almost shocked the world with a World Finals victory in Charlotte at the end of 2014. That would’ve certainly made him more of a well-known driver, but still his stats at the age of 15 made enough of an impact to land in this year’s Short Track Draft. Still, Dippel, who got both dirt Modified and pavement Super Late Model experience in 2014, needs that one signature win to really make his stock rise to the elite levels of the Draft.
Pick #36 – Dylan Cappello
Cappello was an instant success in the Lucas Oil Modified Series when he won the tour’s title in his rookie season. Still, with it being his first season in a pavement Modified in the tough Lucas OIl series, it caught a lot of people off guard. A rookie isn’t supposed to garner the success Cappello did in 2014, when he scored two wins and eight top-10 finishes en route to the title. If those kinds of stats continue in 2015, there’s a strong possibility the 19-year-old will be known by far more race fans than just those that follow the Lucas Oil Series.
Pick #40 – Chandler Smith
There’s not much of an opportunity for a 12 year old to garner household name status, but those who follow the scale car ranks around the Southeast and now the PASS Pro Late Model circuit certainly have been alerted to the strength of Georgia’s Chandler Smith. The kid was light’s-out in Bandolero competition in 2014, winning countless wins and championships between Charlotte, Atlanta and beyond. He’s continuing that success in 2015, his rookie season in a full-bodied stock car, where he already has a PASS PLM victory and is primed for more at an extremely young age.
Pick #42 – Kyle Bronson
In the dirt Late Model scene of Florida, Bronson is a bona fide superstar. Outside of that area, however, the 24-year-old is almost unknown. Still, his success in the Sunshine State earned him enough votes to get into the top 51 Short Track Draft picks. As of press time, Bronson has won nine straight Late Model races in a one-month span at four different tracks. He’s unstoppable at tough places like Volusia, Bubba and East Bay. The only thing holding him back from being more well-known is some victories outside of his home state.
Pick #49 – Carson Ferguson
If you were one of the fans in the grandstands every Tuesday night the past few Summers, you knew all too well of how dominant Carson Ferguson was during the Summer Shootout Bandolero and Legends Car series at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The now-15 year old Ferguson was one of the most dominant Bandolero racers in the country before he teamed up with juggernaut Legends Car team Ladyga Motorsports and won the Legends Young Lions Summer Shootout title in 2015. Still, the Charlotte-area driver flies under the radar racing mostly scale cars, but he’s been getting more and more experience in Dirt Late Models, where he could someday be as well-known as, if not more so than, his cousin and WoO Late Model 2015 winner Chris.
-By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @MattKentfield