Since 2004, Speed51 has hosted the Short Track Draft. The Short Track Draft has annually crowned the top prospects in short track racing across North America, and some of the biggest stars in NASCAR started their careers as top draft picks.
We now take a look at the history of the number-one pick in the Short Track Draft.
2004 – Ryan Moore – Ryan Moore was named the NASCAR Busch North Series Rookie of the Year in 2003 prior to being selected as the inaugural Short Track Draft number-one pick. The Maine native scored two career wins in the series and competed briefly in the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series. Moore still competes routinely in Super Late Models, finishing sixth in this year’s Super Late Model standings at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
2005 – Charlie Bradberry – In 2003, Charlie Bradberry claimed the NASCAR Southeast Series championship and closed out the year with a win in the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL), all at the age of 21. Tragically, Bradberry lost his life in a traffic accident in 2006, cutting short his promising racing career.
2006 – Jason Hogan – While the title always eluded him, Hogan was a perennial championship contender in the NASCAR Southeast Series when he was the first overall pick of the 2006 Short Track Draft. 2005 also saw Hogan win the Rattler 250 and the All American 400. Hogan competed in Late Models into the early 2010s, but had toned down his racing career to focus on his graphic design company, Jason Hogan Designs, which is still successful to this day.
2007 – Ryan Lawler – Ryan Lawler exploded onto the scene in 2006 with wins in both the PASS South Super Late Model Series and the ASA Late Model Series Southern Division. Lawler would back up his top draft selection with a PASS South championship and a Winchester 400 victory in 2007, but scaled back his racing efforts soon thereafter.
2008 – Matt Hawkins – Matt Hawkins’ rise through the short track ranks included wins in the Snowflake 100, the Georgia Asphalt Series and the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series before his selection in the 2008 Short Track Draft. Hawkins added an ARCA victory an Iowa Speedway as well as his second-career podium finish at the Snowball Derby in 2008. Unfortunately, Hawkins’ life was another lost far too soon, as he died of an accidental gunshot wound in 2009.
2009 – Brian Ickler – At the time of his selection as the number-one pick in the 2009 Short Track Draft, Brian Ickler was coming off a three-win season in the NASCAR Camping World Series East after moving to North Carolina to seriously pursue a racing career. Ickler eventually made eight starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but effectively stepped out of the sport in 2012 outside of a couple of NASCAR Truck Series appearances.
2010 – Chase Elliott – Several Short Track Draft number-one picks of the 2010s now compete in the upper levels of NASCAR, and Chase Elliott is the first on that list. The six-time NASCAR Cup Series winner and 2014 Xfinity Series Champion won the 2009 Georgia Asphalt Series championship as part of an eye-opening season. Elliott only backed that up further in 2010, with numerous marquee wins including the Winchester 400, the Snowflake 100 and the Labor Day Classic 200 at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
2011 – Ross Kenseth – The son of 2003 NASCAR Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth, Ross was a winner on both the ARCA Midwest Tour and the ARCA/CRA Super Series in 2010 to earn his top draft selection. Kenseth would add to that success in later years, including wins in both the Winchester 400 and All American 400 in 2012. However, Kenseth stepped away from racing after the 2015 season, and now works in accounting for a commercial real estate company.
2012 – Bubba Pollard – Pollard’s success throughout the South in the Sunoco Gulf Coast Championship Series, Georgia Asphalt Series and more earned the Georgia native the first pick in the 2012 Short Track Draft. While Pollard has not competed above the ARCA Menards Series during his career, he has become the gold standard for Super Late Model competition in the Southeast, if not North America.
2013 – Kyle Benjamin – Kyle Benjamin was just 15 years old when he was named the number-one pick of the 2013 Short Track Draft. He had also won several Super Late Model races and contended for the 2012 Sunoco Gulf Coast Championship Series title. Benjamin has been successful at every level of competition, including top-five finishes in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Truck Series, but finding rides has been a challenge for the talented racer.
2014 – Daniel Hemric – On the strength of the 2013 championships in both the Sunoco Gulf Coast Championship Series and the Southern Super Series, Daniel Hemric earned the top pick of the Short Track Draft in 2014. Hemric’s stock continued to rise, winning the All American 400 in 2015 and competing in the NASCAR Truck Series. Hemric now drives part-time in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports.
2015 – Christopher Bell – After a prolific start to his career on the dirt, Christopher Bell made waves in the pavement world with wins at Orange County Speedway and New Smyrna Speedway prior to his number-one selection. Bell’s legend only grew as he climbed the ranks, where he is now a NASCAR Cup Series competitor for Leavine Family Racing and the 2017 NASCAR Truck Series Champion.
2016 – Ty Majeski – Majeski was a back-to-back ARCA Midwest Tour Champion and had just won three races during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing en route to the Super Late Model title in that event when he was drafted first in 2016. With 100 victories now under his belt, including virtually every major event in Wisconsin as well as the SRL Winter Showdown, Majeski now competes full-time in the NASCAR Truck Series.
2017 – Todd Gilliland – Gilliland won six races as part of a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship run in 2016, one year after winning in his ARCA debut at Toledo Speedway. Gilliland scored his first career NASCAR Truck Series win in 2019, and now competes full-time in that series with Front Row Motorsports.
2018 – Harrison Burton – 2017 saw the second-generation Burton score a marquee Super Late Model win at CRA SpeedFest, as well as his first ARCA victory and a tear through the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East to the tune of five wins and the series title. Burton now competes full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he scored his first career victory at Auto Club Speedway in February.
2019 – Chandler Smith – Smith is unquestionably one of the brightest stars in racing, even if his current age prohibits him from capitalizing fully on that distinction. The 17-year-old won CRA SpeedFest in 2018 for a breakthrough Super Late Model win, and added two ARCA wins later in the year. Smith scored three top-five finishes in four NASCAR Truck Series starts in 2019 for Kyle Busch Motorsports, who he will again race for part-time in 2020.
Who will be the next driver to join this list and hear their name called as the number-one pick in the 2020 Short Track Draft? Tune in to Speed51’s live selection show at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 30 to find out.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans