One of the greatest features of the Speed51.com Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes is that it features drivers from many disciplines of racing. It’s not limited to Late Model racers. It’s not limited to pavement racers. The Short Track Draft truly features the top Short Track Racing prospects regardless of what or where they race.
As we continue our analysis of the 2016 Short Track Draft, we’re going to take a look at the best drivers from each discipline. First up, we’re going to focus in on the top-10 Modified racers in this year’s draft.
Drivers in the Modified category qualified by competing in any of the following series: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour, Lucas Oil Modified Series, Valenti Modified Racing Series and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
Keep in mind that not all Modified racers are eligible for the Short Track Draft. Drivers must be under the age of 25 as of May 1, 2016. Additionally, if they lose their rookie status in any of NASCAR’s top-three series by the end of the 2016 season, or if they run more than 10 races in one of NASCAR’s top three series, they are no longer eligible.
#1 – Timmy Solomito (27th pick) – NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
Following his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) in April, Solomito saw his stock rising going into this year’s draft. “The Natural,” as they call him, is considered by many as the biggest threat to stop Doug Coby’s bid for a third straight NWMT championship. A few more wins over the course of the 2016 season and a run at the championship could certainly help Solomito’s stock rise even more before next year’s draft.
#2 – Austin Barnes (29th pick) – Lucas Oil Modified Series
Barnes led the way for the Lucas Oil Modified Series contingent in this year’s Short Track Draft. The two-time series champion has been tough to beat in recent years and the panel of industry experts recognized that by making him the 29th pick. If he could get into a Late Model on a few occasions and show the same dominance he displays in a Modified, he could improve his stock for 2017.
#3 – Dylan Cappello (34th pick) – Lucas Oil Modified Series
Another Lucas Oil Modified Series driver comes in as the third best prospect in the Modified ranks. Dylan Cappello, the 2014 series champion, has four career wins in the series and has established himself in the same category as Barnes. Like Barnes, he could certainly improve his stock by continuing to win races as well as expanding his horizons.
#4 – Chase Dowling (Best of the Rest) – NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
Dowling entered the 2015 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season with high expectations stemming from his success in the SK Modified ranks at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT). He was, and still probably is, considered to be the “next big thing” on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. His performance one year ago didn’t turn a lot of heads, but he still has the potential to be a star in the Modified ranks.
#5 – Kyle Tellstrom (Best of the Rest) – Lucas Oil Modified Series
Tellstrom is considered to be one of the rising stars hailing from the Lucas Oil Modified Series after scoring his first series win in 2015. He showed consistency throughout last season and is already off to a solid start in 2016. He’s also a very personable driver and that definitely helped his stock with this year’s panel of industry experts.
#6 – Ronnie Williams (Best of the Rest) – NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
If Chase Dowling isn’t the “next big thing” in Modified racing then look no further than Ronnie Williams. Williams battled the best in Modified racing on a weekly basis in the SK Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway and won six times during the 2015 season. He’s expanding his racing a little more in 2016 by also competing at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
#7 – Jimmy Zacharias (Best of the Rest) – NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
When it comes to weekly Modified racing in New York there’s nobody better than Jimmy Zacharias. The three-time NWAAS New York State Champion picked up a whopping 15 wins at Chemung Speedrome in 2015 on his way to another track championship. At 24 years old, Zacharias is reaching the point of being “too old” to make it to the big time but that’s not stopping him from dominating on the short tracks.
#8 – Patrick Emerling (Best of the Rest) – NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour/RoC Modifieds
Emerling experienced mixed results on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2015, but he was able to get his name in the public eye by winning three Race of Champions Modified races. Winning is the best recipe to help a driver’s Short Track Draft stock rise, and Emerling did exactly that in 2015.
#9 – Taylor Minch (Didn’t Make the Cut) – Lucas Oil Modified Series
Minch used a season filled with consistency to record a top-five finish in the Lucas Oil Modified Series championship standings. The 21-year-old driver captured eight top-10 finishes in 10 races on the very competitive series one year ago.
#10 – Matthew Swanson (Didn’t Make the Cut) – NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
At 16 years old, Swanson is making a name for himself in the Modified ranks by gaining experience and turning in consistent runs on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He’s yet to score a breakout victory in Tour-Type Modified competition, but there’s no doubt that it may be coming very soon. At this time next year Swanson could definitely see his stock rising if he’s able to record more strong runs.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Featured photo credit: Roger Seymour