Often imitated, but never duplicated, the Speed51.com JRi Short Track Power Poll ranks drivers from all across the land on their strength to this point in the season.
A panel of industry experts from all four corners of the country and Canada have voted on their choices for the final Short Track Power poll of 2017. Drivers in all forms of short track racing, including Late Models, NASCAR Touring Series, ARCA, Dirt Late Models and Modifieds, NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and everything in between were eligible.
The rankings shown below were decided after polling our panel of experts in the industry. Rankings were based on overall number of votes, with more weight given to each vote the higher the vote. Example, a #1 vote would be more valuable than a #2, #3, etc.
Here are the results of the short track power rankings for the 2017 racing season:
#1 – Matt Sheppard – Dirt Modifieds - There was very little debate about who the most dominant driver was during the 2017 season. With a total of 41 wins in 82 starts this past season, Matt Sheppard was simply unbeatable. Despite missing two races, Sheppard totaled 12 Super DIRTcar Series wins on his way to winning the championship. He also earned track championships at Canandaigua Motorsports Park (NY), Outlaw Speedway (NY) and Utica-Rome Speedway (NY). Oh, and he also won the biggest race of the year at Super DIRT Week. Simply put, there was nobody better than Matt Sheppard in 2017.
#2 – Matt Hirschman - Tour-type Modifieds – “Big Money Matt” had a season for the ages in 2017, winning half of his 34 starts. At one point Hirschman won seven races in a row. He scored wins at a variety of different tracks from New Smyrna Speedway (FL) to Star Speedway (NH) and just about everywhere in between. Hirschman also made his mark by sweeping the Tri-Track Open Modified Series events on his way to clinching the series championship after three of the four races.
#3 – Bubba Pollard – Late Models – Pollard was nearly unstoppable this season, especially in the southeast. Pollard won the Blizzard Series championship at Five Flags Speedway (FL) where he was flat-out dominant, winning three of the four races. He also went to the Midwest and won races up there including the inaugural Money In the Bank 150 at Berlin Raceway (MI) and the Slinger Nationals at Slinger Superspeedway (WI). He ended the year by winning the Snowflake 100 during the 50th Annual Snowball Derby weekend at Five Flags Speedway (FL).
#4 – Casey Roderick - Late Models – The season Roderick had in 2017 will be talked about for years to come. Eighteen overall wins, most coming at the wheel of the Ronnie Sanders No. 18 Pro Late Model, where he also won track titles at Five Flags Speedway, Montgomery Motor Speedway and Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Roderick also captured the North/South Super Late Model Challenge at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN) in April.
#5 – Ty Majeski – Super Late Models – While the former Speed51.com Short Track Draft No. 1 spent portions of the season working on his future in NASCAR, he made another big impression on the short tracks. Majeski collected his fourth straight ARCA Midwest Tour title along with his six tour wins. Among his 16 overall wins are the Rattler 250 and Florida Governor's Cup 200.
#6 – Josh Richards - Dirt Late Models – One year after setting the single-season win record with the World of Outlaws Late Models, Richards went over to the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and continued his Late Model dominance by scoring 10 victories and the series championship. Richards also added an unsanctioned win at LaSalle Speedway (IL) to bring his total wins to 11 this season.
#7 – Austin Theriault - ARCA Racing Series – Austin Theriault accomplished something never done before during the 2017 ARCA Racing Series season. The driver from Fort Kent, ME scored victories at all four types of race tracks that the series visited. Theriault kicked off his championship season with a superspeedway victory at Daytona International Speedway (FL). He followed that up with short track wins at Elko Speedway (MN) and Madison International Speedway (WI) before hitting the road and winning on the Road America road course. Theriault then put a cherry on top by winning a dirt track race at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds.
#8 – Brandon Sheppard - Dirt Late Models – The World of Outlaws Late Models were turned on its head in 2017 as Sheppard contested his first full season, winning 18 times and handedly taking the the season title. Overall, Sheppard hoisted the winner's trophy 29 times, also taking wins on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, DIRTcar Summer Nationals, NeSmith Winter Shootout and Southern All Stars.
#9 – Harrison Burton - K&N East / Super Late Models – After being held winless during his rookie NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season, Burton responded in a big way in 2017. After breaking into victory lane for the first time on the big stage at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN), Burton scored five victories on his way to winning the series championship. In his only ARCA Racing Series start of the season, Burton went to victory lane at Toldeo Speedway (OH). While mixing in a handful of Super Late Model starts, he also picked up big wins during SpeedFest at Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA) and the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway (FL).
#10 – Donny Schatz - Sprint Cars – Once again the top dog of the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars in 2017, Schatz captured his ninth Outlaws title, and fourth straight. Along the way he accumulated 20 wins during the Outlaws season. Schatz also collected a trio of wins in the All-Star Circuit of Champions during the year.
#11 – Mike Harrison (Dirt Modifieds) – If there's a driver that maybe deserves to be higher on this list, it's Mike Harrison. The Dirt Modified ace captured an astonishing 37 checkered flags during the season and only finished outside the top 10 six times in his 59 starts. The majority of Harrison's victories came in the states of Illinois and Missouri.
#12 – Todd Gilliland - K&N East / K&N West – For the second straight year, Todd Gilliland proved to be the dominant driver in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. The teenager picked up six victories, including four in a row in the early part of the season, en route to the 2017 championship. Gilliland added four more victories across the country with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East on his way to a runner-up finish in the championship standings.
#13 – Lee Pulliam - Late Model Stock Cars – After holding his breath for a couple of extra days, Pulliam celebrated his fourth NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title. While Pulliam's 19 wins all across Late Model Stock Car racing in the Southeast helped him to prevail, it was his consistent 36 top-five finishes that ultimately helped him win the prize.
#14 – Spencer Bayston - USAC Midgets – Spencer Bayston scored the 2017 USAC National Midget championship for Keith Kunz Motorsports with three victories, 14 top fives and 19 top 10 finishes in 23 races. Overall, Bayston scored 13 victories and 37 podium finishes in 2017. He also become the first driver since Kasey Kahne to win both the Belleville Midget Nationals and the 4-Crown Midget feature at Eldora Speedway (OH) in the same season.
#15 – Doug Coby - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour – Four straight NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour titles was a feat never accomplished before, until Doug Coby did it in 2017. His fifth overall title, Coby accomplished it with a late-season run through the points standings after a difficult start. A well-timed win at Seekonk Speedway (MA) in August helped give Coby the leverage he needed to secure the driver's title. His fifth championship ties Tony Hirschman, Jr. and Mike Stefanik as the only drivers to win five titles in the current NWMT era.
#16 – Preston Peltier – Super Late Models – While he may not have raced full-time with a series or tour, Preston Peltier made some noise when he showed up to a race track in 2017. The driver who now resides in Colorado scored a trio of big Super Late Model victories including the Easter Bunny 150 at the historic Hickory Motor Speedway (NC), the $25,000-to-win Summer Showdown at Evergreen Speedway (WA) and Spud 150 at Magic Valley Speedway (ID). Not to mention, Peltier stole headlines by winning the pole for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL).
#17 – Derek Thorn – Super Late Models – Another year, another year of Super Late Model success for Derek Thorn on the West Coast. Thorn's biggest win of the year came right in his hometown when he broke through and won the 3rd Annual Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway Park. He added three more SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series wins to his resume throughout the year on his way to winning his fourth career SRL championship. To end the year, Thorn also picked up a $10,000 victory in the Senator's Cup Fall Classic at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
#18 – Dave Shullick - Supermodifieds – After an impressive ISMA title in 2016, "The Shoe 2" changed things up in 2017 on the Supermodified circuit, and came away with a season to remember. Shullick celebrated his first career Oswego Speedway Supermodified title while also taking the title in the Triple Crown Series of Supermodified Racing. Among his wins in 2017, September was the biggest as he celebrated victory in the Bud International Classic at Oswego Speedway (NY) and the ISMA Star Classic at Star Speedway (NH).
#19 – David Gravel - Sprint Cars – The Outlaw from Connecticut put on a showcase season that many will take notice for years to come. In the shadow of the Schatz dynasty, Gravel went on a tear in 2017, collecting 18 wins on the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series in a championship podium performance.
#20 – Matt Craig - Super Late Models – If you wanted to win a PASS South race in 2017, you basically had to hope Matt Craig’s No. 54 would have mechanical trouble. Matt Craig was certainly the dominant driver in that series in 2017, scoring six victories and eight top five finishes in 10 races. Craig also scored a pair of CARS Tour Super Late Model wins to bring his season wins total to eight.
#21 – Ryan Preece - Tour-type Modifieds – “Preece Lightning” only finished sixth in the 2017 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings because he missed two races. One was to get married and the other was for a NASCAR Xfinity Series start. If he didn’t miss those two races we might be calling Preece a two-time champion. Preece won five of his 14 starts with 12 top five finishes as well. Additionally, Preece picked up two victories on the Modified Touring Series and one Sunoco Modified win at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT).
#22 – Trevor Huddleston - Late Models – Huddleston batted over .500 in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series competition in 2017. The California driver scored 22 Late Model wins in 35 starts while competing at Irwindale Speedway (CA), Kern County Raceway Park (CA) and Tucson Speedway (AZ). At the end of the year, he came up just three points shy of Lee Pulliam in the battle for the national championship.
#23 – Keith Rocco - Modifieds – In another story book year of Modified competition in Connecticut, Rocco became the first driver to win track championships at the state's three short tracks -- Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and New London-Waterford Speedbowl -- in the same season. Rocco collected 13 wins at the three tracks, include nine at Waterford, two at Stafford and two at Thompson. He also scored the Waterford Late Model championship.
#24 – Josh Berry - Late Model Stock Cars – Josh Berry (LMSC) – Josh Berry showed in the past that he was hard to beat at CARS Late Model Stock Tour races, but until this year he had not run a full season and therefore did not contend for the championship. This year that changed. However, his dominance did not. Berry scored four wins out of the 13 races to score the championship. He also shook the monkey off his back with a big-race win in the Myrtle Beach 400 to end the year.
#25 – Dalton Zehr - Super Late Models – By our count, Zehr totaled 10 Super Late Model victories during the 2017 season. The Port Orange, FL native broke into ARCA Midwest Tour on two occasions with his biggest win coming after a duel with Ty Majeski at Elko Speedway (MN) in September. He also used four top-five finishes in six races to earn his third career TUNDRA Super Late Model Series championship.
#26 – Reid Lanpher - Super Late Models – There was nobody in the Northeast Late Model scene that flexed their muscles more than Reid Lanpher in 2017. The Manchester, ME driver scored nine total victories during the season and used a dominant stretch of four victories in a row to win his second NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship. Lanpher added two Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North victories early in the year, including the PASS 300 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME).
#27 – Casey Johnson - Super Late Models – Casey Johnson showed his power at a variety of different tracks and in different vehicles in 2017. His biggest win came at Wisconsin International Raceway in the Dixieland 250 when he inherited the victory after Kyle Busch was disqualified in post-race technical inspection. He scored four wins at Jefferson Speedway (WI), and picked up wins at Dells Raceway Park and Marshfield Motor Speedway, as well as a win in a truck with the Midwest Trucks Series.
#28 – Sam Haefertepe - Sprint Cars – One of the most dominating forces in 360 Sprint Cars was that of Haefertepe as he dominated the 2017 ASCS National Series season with 15 wins on the tour en route to his second straight ASCS National championship. Overall, Haefertepe ended the year with 19 major wins.
#29 – Rocky Warner - Sportsman Modifieds – Competing in the Sportsman Modified ranks at dirt tracks throughout the Northeast, Rocky Warner enjoyed a stellar season with 23 total victories. In addition to his wins, Warner was crowned the King of Dirt and DIRTcar East Region champion, the Grit Series Hoosier champion, Albany-Saratoga Speedway (NY) champion and Fonda Speedway (NY) champion.
#30 – Stewart Friesen - Dirt Modifieds – “Mr. Freeze” didn’t run as many Modified races this year due to running most of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule, but when he did get to sling some dirt he was as dominant as ever. He scored four victories at Fonda Speedway (NY), two Super DIRTcar Series wins, two Short Track Super Series wins and a win at Albany-Saratoga Speedway (NY).
-Text by Speed51.com Staff
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos