Each year, short track racers throughout North America grab the attention of fans, media and those watching from the higher levels of motorsports. Before we turn the calendar to 2017, we give you a list of drivers to keep an eye on next season.
Carson Hocevar – We will finally be able to get a good clean look at this kid in 2017. After the age issue at Berlin last season, Hocevar got national attention from all types of media. It’s in the past and now it’s his time to shine. On the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour he had three top-five finishes in four starts. Now he’ll be a full time JEGS Tour driver and it will start in January at SpeedFest for this upstart.
Cole Anderson – The Minnesota driver announced his prescreens with authority in 2016 by starting the year off with a win in the Red-Eye 100. He backed that up with victories at the Orange Blossom 100 and a Pro Late Model victory at Speedweeks. Is that enough? He kept going with wins at South Alabama and Montgomery with the Southern Super Series. He ended the year with a top 10 run in the Snowflake 100.
Cole Butcher – The one thing we like about Cole Butcher is that he’s not afraid to come to the states and run. The 2016 Atlantic Cat 250 winner rode the coat tails of a fine season to win the PARTS for Trucks Pro Stock Tour title. The 20-year-old Nova Scotia driver then when to Pensacola for the Snowflake 100 where he logged a top 10. Hopefully we will see him more in 2017 and he can mix it up with the PASS guys to create that border war rivalry like we saw in New England in the 90’s.
Christian Eckes – 2016 could not have ended any better for Christian Eckes. Wins at Myrtle Beach Speedway in the Myrtle Beach 400 and then Southern National at the Thanksgiving Classic paved the way for his 2016 Snowball Derby upset win. Eckes will now continue his career and see what more he can do after winning the biggest pavement short track race of the year.
Connor Okrzesik – We see good things on the horizon for Connor Okrzesik. After finishing 13th in his first Snowball Derby and Florida Governor’s Cup we expect growth in the off season. You have to make laps before you can start winning races and Okrzesik stayed in the game all season logging laps. He still may be another year away, but we expect the name to be around in 2017.
Garrett Evans – Ageless Garrett Evans just keeps on trucking in the Northwest. After pocketing his third straight title in the Northwest Super Late Model Series it bring his touring series championship total to eight and it may be more. The 60-year-old driver just stays after it and we will see what 2017 will bring him.
Matt Swanson – The changing of the guard in the Modified ranks is well underway with older drivers stepping down and new ones popping up. Just five years ago Doug Coby had only two wins; now he’s a four-time champion. Matt Swanson could be one of those up and coming drivers after taking the Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He racked up seven top 10’s and posted a ninth-place finish in the final standings. He kept his nose clear and finished 15 of the 17 races. Look for more good things next year.
Scott Payea – After a year of shaking off the rust we are ready to see if Scott Payea can be an ACT champion in 2017. He completed all but two laps this past season and had three wins. After sitting out several season he showed he belongs behind the wheel and now we could see him at his peak beginning next season.
Ty Majeski – Another ARCA Midwest Tour title, another Florida Governor’s Cup 200 win, a Speedweeks title, a Rattler 250 win, 27 total wins and all we can ask is what’s next? Majeski is a modern day Dick Trickle type driver who races every week and wants to get better. He can pretty much almost win every week, too. Had it been on their radar they might have taken the NASCAR Whelen All American Series title as well after coming up third with 14 wins in 25 starts.
Raphael Lessard – Let’s keep in mind that Lessard was a still a rookie at the begin of 2016. That was hard to tell as he won the CARS Tour Super Late Model title with four wins. He first put his name on the map when he scored a win at Smyrna Speedweeks in February in a Pro Late Model, and from there he switched to the big power. After his title he finished on the podium at the All American 400, crashed out while leading at the Winchester 400 and came from the back for a 10th-place run at the Snowball Derby. We look forward to his transition into 2017.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com