Here are the 2016 Short Track Draft Picks #11 through #25.
Hometown: Winamac, IN
Series: NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
The #1 pick in the NFL Draft was quarterback Jared Goff, selected by the Los Angeles Rams. If you’re not a football fan, yes, the Rams are back in Los Angeles. They were an LA-based team originally, then moved to St. Louis, and now they’re back. The name change may catch you off guard, just like it did for most race fans when “The Driver Formerly Known as JJ” Haley won his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Greenville earlier this year. Yes, Justin, as he is now known, scored that first victory at the beginning of his second season in the series, which undoubtedly aided his ascent to the 11th spot in this year’s Short Track Draft.
It’s an eye-opener that even though the kid has been racing Late Models for several years now and even won a JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour race in 2014, this is his first appearance in the Short Track Draft.
Haley’s victory early in 2016 helped overcome an up-and-down rookie season in the K&N Pro Series East. Racing for series super-team HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, Haley couldn’t break out and win when his other teammates, especially series champ William Byron, made the headlines. Still, his strong runs and the Greenville win helped build the buzz that landed him just outside the top-10.
Pros: Very personable and no longer a member of the “When are you going to win?” club in K&N East. Family NASCAR ties (Braun Racing) helping him move up the ranks.
Cons: Will once again need to consistently beat his strong teammates, one of whom has already won a race this year, if he’s going to be the hands-down star of the series this year.
Hometown: Knoxville, TN
Series: NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Late Model Stock Cars
Another first-time Short Track Draftee, Chad Finchum perhaps was boosted by some pre-Draft successes to land this high up on the board. Deservedly so, might we add. The former Tennessee NASCAR State Champion Late Model racer has been lights-out in the month of April. He won the Bristol K&N East race (in his first start of the year) and two NASCAR Late Model races at tough places like Motor Mile (VA) and Kingsport (TN).
Finchum’s Draft stock certainly grew with his recent triumphs, but perhaps if the wins had come even earlier than right around Draft selection time for our voters, he could have been even higher on the board than he ended up.
Pros: A proven winner in Late Model ranks around Tennessee and Virginia. Bristol win put him on the map as someone who could win big races, not just weekly shows.
Cons: Only a limited schedule of K&N events remain on his schedule for 2016. While Late Model wins are nice for the stat sheet, the eyes remain on the higher series, especially for a driver already in his 20’s like Finchum is.
Hometown: Hendersonville, TN
Series: Late Model Stock Cars
Josh Berry hails from SEC territory. The Southeastern Conference terrorizes the rest of the College Football world, and that’s exactly what Josh Berry does to the Late Model Stock Car world.
Berry didn’t run for a title anywhere in 2015, but the 2014 Hickory Motor Speedway track champion did rack up the wins. He scored three victories in four CARS Tour starts, as well as four wins at Hickory in weekly competition and two wins at Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway.
He also turned a lot of heads in his one and only NASCAR XFINITY Series start at Richmond International Raceway last September. He qualified fifth and finished seventh after running up front almost all race long.
Berry is also an easy person to talk to and is usually smiling. He never comes across as too busy or unapproachable.
Pros: Wherever Berry goes he wins, and that garners someone a lot of positive attention. Berry also jumped from 21st to 13th from 2015’s Draft to this year.
Cons: At 25 years old, this is Berry’s final year of draft eligibility. For someone hoping to make the next step to NASCAR’s top-three series, his time is just about up.
Hometown: Upper Lake, CA
Series: Super Late Models
The Oakland Raiders had the 14th pick in this year’s NFL Draft, and coincidentally a driver whose hometown is less than 150 miles away from O.co Coliseum – home of the Raiders – has been selected as the 14th pick in the Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes.
Jeremy Doss, a Super Late Model standout from Upper Lake, California earns the 14th pick in the Draft, putting himself in a category with veteran cornerback and Super Bowl champion Darrelle Revis who was selected 14th in the 2007 NFL Draft.
While Doss may not refer to himself as “Doss Island” anytime soon, he certainly has shown the ability to make “big plays” and win championships. The 2012 Pacific Challenge Series champion is currently viewed as one of the strongest Late Model competitors hailing from the Left Coast.
In 2015, Doss added four PCS wins to his resume bringing the youngster’s all-time wins total in series competition to 16. In addition to his Pacific Challenge Series success, he has also recorded four SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series wins and finished runner-up to Derek Thorn in the championship standings during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Doss’ performance on the track impressed the panel of experts voting in this year’s draft so much that he was selected 15 spots ahead of his selection as the 29th pick one year ago. Doss received 17 quality votes from the panel including seven top-10 votes in this year’s draft.
Pros: His West Coast on-track performance is well documented with a keen ability to get to victory lane.
Cons: Whiffed on a big opportunity to make a country-wide name for himself by DNQing for the 2015 Snowball Derby.
Hometown: Wheeling, WV
Series: Super Late Models, ARCA
Coming off the heels of two straight ARCA/CRA Super Series championships in 2013 and 2014, Travis Braden took a step back in 2015 and decided to not compete full time. Instead he tried to venture out of his comfort zone a bit and do some different races.
It’s hard to say whether that move paid off or not. Braden surprised many when he picked up the checkered flag in his first ARCA Racing Series start at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis back in July. He also finished second in his second ARCA start at Kentucky Speedway and sixth at Kansas Speedway in his third ARCA start.
Braden did receive one vote for first overall, but in the end Braden is picked in the same spot as 2015. For the second straight year, Travis Braden is off the board at 15th.
Pros: Braden is one of the nicest and most personable drivers out there, and can get the job done in a light and fast Super Late Model or a heavier stock car.
Cons: While Braden did branch out more and find success in 2015, it so far hasn’t been enough to garner Braden a shot at one of the higher levels of racing.
Hometown: Lake Oswego, OR
Series: NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Super Late Models
Gracin Raz turned a lot of heads in his workouts for the pro scouts in 2015. He won the penultimate race in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at All American Speedway in California and finished fourth in points as a rookie.
The year before he was a virtual unknown until veteran driver, turned team leader, Jeff Jefferson spotted the youngster after Raz turned in some consistent, yet non-winning, performances in Late Models.
This year he is a title contender in the West circuit for Jefferson-Pitts Racing and chasing checkers in some of the toughest Super Model races in the West.
Pros: He, like No. 2 Draft pick Todd Gilliland, has the look to back-up the performances on the track. He is cut from a mold that would make any sponsor pleased.
Cons: Needs to compete east of the Mississippi more in 2016 to get noticed and to see how he stacks up against some of the toughest talents in the country.
Hometown: Olympia, WA
Series: Super Late Models, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West
When NFL coaches and general managers get to the 17th pick in the NFL Draft, they’re usually looking for value. During the middle stages of the first round, teams want a player that isn’t necessarily the next superstar but a guy who can, as Bill Belichick would say, “do their job.”
In the short track racing world, 18-year-old Parker Stephens is that type of driver. While he may not have the flash, the pizzazz and the hype that some drivers have, he’s a driver that knows how to get his job done and get to victory lane.
Stephens, who debuted in a Late Model during the 2015 season, didn’t waste any time getting to victory lane. The Washington state driver picked up his first Late Model win during a Northwest Super Late Model Series race at Evergreen Speedway (small course) and later followed that up with a big $11,000 win in a non-points-counting Super Late Model race at Kern County Raceway Park (CA).
Despite the two wins, the highlight of his career thus far came during the Second Annual Winter Showdown at Kern County at the beginning of the 2016 season. With a national audience watching on Speed51.com, Stephens finished a close second to Bubba Pollard in the West Coast’s richest Late Model race.
The panel of voters recognized Stephens’ impressive last 12 months by giving him 14 quality votes, four top-10 votes and one first-place vote.
Pros: Very humble kid who appreciates every opportunity he gets and tries to make most of it.
Cons: Needs to win more to continue building his reputation on the track.
Hometown: Clute, TX
Series: ASCS, Sprint Cars
Reutzel is this year’s Carson Wentz – a hard working, blue collar racer from the Heartland that few had heard of until he turned heads big time with an impressive 2015. Reutzel was the champion in the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series (ASCS), winning 7 races and grabbing 26 top-tens in what is America’s premier 360 touring Sprint Car series.
Tack on a few victories in some other Sprint Car events, including down in the Arizona desert, and it’s easy to see why Reutzel went all the way up to 18th on the big board. He even received one first place vote. It’s a good time to make an impression because he’d be too old for the 51 Draft if it were held just two weeks later.
The biggest thing holding Reutzel back right now is the 360 ranks in which he competes. 360 Sprints are just as competitive as the 410s featured in the World of Outlaws, but it’s a much more crowded field in the 360s to stand out from. If he can find his way into a few WoO events later this year and turn some good runs in, Reutzel might be able to cement himself in the top-ten of young guns in the Sprint Car ranks.
Pros: Strong PR effort behind him helping him get his name out there more and more. Solid background of victories and titles in an ultra-tough Sprint Car scene.
Cons: 360 Sprints are just as competitive as their 410 big-brothers like in the World of Outlaws, but it’s perhaps an even more crowded field that could be hard to stand out from.
Hometown: Ransomville, NY
Series: Pavement Modifieds, Dirt Big-Block Modifieds, TQ Midgets
There are some players that start off hot their first two years of college, then fall off the radar of NFL scouts their Junior year, only to make a big resurgence their Senior year or later. It might not be until the January all-star games or even the Combine where a big performance can bring a player’s Draft stock back up.
Such as the case with New York State’s Erick Rudolph. “The Firestarter” hit it big in 2009 at age 17, winning on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and finishing top 10 in points during 2010 and 2011. But then he returned home for a time, doing a stint in RoC Asphalt Modifieds. He remerged on the short track scene running Big Block and Small Block Dirt Modifieds in New York returning to victory lane with a Super DIRTcar Series victory in 2014.
But his exploits of the past winter, winning two of the three Indoor Auto Racing Championship races plus the 2016 title for TQ Midgets has brought the attention back to Rudolph and his stock to its highest level in years.
Pros: Rudolph has shown the ability to drive very different classes of racecars in a wide range of environments and be able to win in these classes. His calm and cool attitude makes him a fierce opponent to take on once the green falls.
Cons: While the Iceman demeanor is good on track, the ratings go down when talking with him off the track. While his list of racing disciplines are impressive, Rudolph has no significant time driving full-body cars.
Hometown: Minden, NV
Series: Dirt Midgets, Outlaw Karts
Sometimes the best picks aren’t the high picks. NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan was selected in the second round of his Draft year by the New York Giants. Tanner Thorson is hoping he can be similar. Thorson wasn’t even in the top 51 in 2015, but now in 2016 he’s in the top 20.
Thorson drives out of the Keith Kunz Motorsports stable in the world of Midget racing. He’s started the Chili Bowl Nationals A-Main twice, with a top five and a top 10 to his credit. Thorson is a four-time USAC National Midget Series winner as well.
He’s also strong in Outlaw Karts, winning twice in his trips to North Carolina’s Millbridge Speedway in 2016.
Pros: Thorson is always smiling. No matter where you see him, he always has a smile on his face, and that makes Thorson fun to talk to for fans and media alike.
Cons: Thorson runs a Keith Kunz Motorsports Midget and should be dominating, but so far he has yet to do that.
Hometown: Newton, NC
Series: Super Late Models
Ohio State Defensive End Joey Bosa went in the first round of the NFL Draft, just like his father, John, did back in 1987. John had a decent NFL career, but hopes are even higher for his son who was selected by the San Diego Chargers. Similarly, Dennis Setzer was an accomplished short track racer and a well-known NASCAR driver, especially in the Camping World Truck Series, for many years. But, his son Brandon may be showing even more potential than the old man did at a young age.
The younger Setzer has made a huge splash in the short track scene with victories in the tough PASS and CARS Super Late Model tours in 2015 and 2016. He toiled around in weekly and touring competition for a few years before re-focusing on winning against tough competition. That stepping-up also upped his success rate. He won in two consecutive starts on the CARS Tour at Orange County (NC) and Myrtle Beach (SC), plus a PASS race at his home track of Hickory (NC) in 2015. He started the season off with another PASS win to open 2016 at Dillon (SC).
Pros: Super-friendly and represents himself well, which was noticed by the Kulwicki Driver Development Program, where he is a finalist for 2016. A proven winner with a winning pedigree.
Cons: Running the Snowflake 100 in 2015 and SpeedFest in 2016 were a step towards racing even more big shows outside of his Carolinas comfort zone. Will need to continue to venture out to prove he’s a top nation-wide talent, not just a local hero.
Hometown: Belleville, IN
Series: UMP-style Dirt Modifieds, Outlaw Karts
A year ago nobody outside of the Carolinas knew Nick Hoffman’s name. He wasn’t in the top 51 of the Short Track Draft. Now he’s in the top 25. That’s what winning does. It gets people noticed. The great thing about Hoffman is that he hasn’t let winning get to his head. Johnny Manziel used to win all the time in college football. This year he watched the NFL Draft from a bar as a free agent. That would never be Hoffman. Hoffman is too focused and too determined.
Hoffman has been on the scene for a while, making plenty of dirt starts and even some asphalt starts here and there, but he really had a coming-out party of sorts earlier this year. Hoffman dominated his competition during Florida/Georgia Speedweeks in January and February. He picked up four wins at Golden Isles Speedway, then followed that up with four wins and the championship at Volusia Motorsports Park during DIRTcar Nationals.
He also owns his own chassis business, so you know that Hoffman is determined to succeed.
Pros: In addition to the constant winning, Hoffman is as easy to talk to as anyone. He also tries to help everybody. Hoffman will walk through the pits at Millbridge Speedway asking anybody if they need any help with their Outlaw Karts.
Cons: At 23 years old (and soon to be 24), Hoffman probably has already missed his shot at the higher levels of racing.
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Series: NASCAR K&N Pro Series East & West, Super Late Models
Noah Gragson is kind of like a Matthew Stafford. He’s not blowing anyone away with his performances, but they’re still consistently good. The 17-year-old driver is consistently at the front of the pack, especially in NASCAR K&N West competition.
Gragson scored two wins last year at Tucson and Meridian Speedways en route to finishing second in K&N West points. So far this year Gragson is running in both the West and East series and he’s seen some success with two top-10 finishes in each.
The Las Vegas native scored 15 quality votes in this year’s draft to catapult him from the 50th pick last year to pick 23 this year. That’s what running up front can do for you.
Pros: Gragson has one of the best personalities in short track racing. He is never not smiling or chuckling with his buddies at the track. Even after reinjuring his wrist at the Snowball Derby Gragson was still able to crack a smile.
Cons: Wrecking your best friend is never a good thing, like he did to Gracin Raz in the Winter Showdown at Kern County. Also crashed out of his only Snowball Derby appearance to date, which could have been an eye-opening event for national-scene voters.
Hometown: Mitchell, TX
Series: ARCA, Sprint Cars, Midgets
The youngest Indiana driver to win a 410 Sprint Car race – yes, a list previously headlined by Jeff Gordon – Briscoe ranks 24th in the eyes of our voters in his first full year of ARCA Racing Series competition driving for Cunningham Motorsports.
In last night’s NFL draft, the Denver Broncos selected Paxton Lynch late in the first round and if there’s anyone comparable to Lynch, it’s Briscoe. He’s gone this year to a powerhouse team in Cunnigham but comes in as a raw prospect after limited stock car experience . He’s run good in Dirt Midget races of late but his Asphalt career has been mixed at best entering 2016. His ARCA season is off to a solid start with two straight poles and a near-win at Daytona.
One big plus for Briscoe however is his polish. He finished runner-up in the PEAK Dream Challenge in 2013, a program designed not only to showcase rising drivers’ talents on the track but make them more marketable and PR-friendly. Briscoe’s got the good looks and family history behind him to propel him forward. If he racks up a few ARCA wins in 2016, he’s primed for a run up the ladder.
Pros: A proven background of victories in open-wheel ranks. Teamed up with strong ARCA team that should see success in 2016.
Cons: Will need to win and win a lot in ARCA. Open wheel guys going stock car racing is becoming more and more the “cool thing” to do, but drivers like Briscoe will have to shine to stand out.
Hometown: Northfield, MN
Series: Super Late Models
Talent can from anywhere, at any level, as long as the competition is tough and competitive. Look at Carson Wentz. The quarterback grew up playing football in his native North Dakota, which is admittedly not the first place the scouts would look for top NFL talents. But after advancing on a national scale through the FCS playoffs with North Dakota State in back-to-back years, people took notice and he landed the No. 2 NFL Draft selection.
Cole Anderson has done much the same, starting off in his native Minnesota, a place the teams in Charlotte don’t tend to look first. After finding his footing in Big 8 Late Models with a fifth place in the 2015 championship, Anderson took his talents southward to state of Florida over the Winter.
There, he caught the attention of short track watchdogs by winning the Red Eye 100 and Orange Blossom 100 at New Smyrna Speedway in January. He also showed a lot of grit in February in the World Series at New Smyrna, winning in Pro Late Models after destroying his Super Late Model.
Pros: Anderson is still young at age 18 and continues to enter races down South early in 2016 while gaining experience running against the best in Super Late Model racing.
Cons: While showing great strength of resolve at the World Series, Anderson still needs some work with media etiquette. He has also gained a bit of a “One Track Jack” rep with success coming at New Smyrna, but not much elsewhere to date.
– Text by Speed51.com Staff