During the past decade, thousands of short track racers have entertained fans at race tracks throughout North America. While each and every grassroots racer deserves a pat on the back for what they do, there are a handful of racers who established themselves as the best of the decade.
In recent weeks, the Speed51 staff has worked to narrow down the list to a group of 10 drivers who stood above the rest during the 2010s. Due to the various divisions that these drivers compete in, our list is not in any particular order.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 short track racers of the past decade.
After checking out the list, be sure to let us know who you think should be on this list. Head over to our Five Star Race Car Bodies Facebook page or our PFC Brakes Twitter feed to join the conversation.
There was nobody better than Bryan Clauson in the USAC Midget and Sprint Car ranks during the first half of the decade. Prior to his death in August 2016, Clauson was widely regarded as one of the best dirt racers on the planet, and he had a resume that easily backed up that claim.
Beginning in 2010, Clauson enjoyed four consecutive championship-winning seasons in the USAC ranks. The California native won the 2010 and 2011 USAC National Midget Series championships before scoring USAC National Sprint Car Series championships during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Overall, Clauson won 36 USAC National Sprint Car Series races and 26 USAC National Midget Series races during the decade. To go along with that, he won 25 POWRi Midget Series races. He was also a winner with the All-Star Circuit of Champions, USAC Silver Crown Series, Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Series, and many other series throughout the country.
One of Clauson’s signature victories came in 2014 when he broke through to win one of the most-coveted prizes in motorsports, the Golden Driller at the prestigious Chili Bowl Nationals. From 2011 to 2016, he never finished outside the top 10 in the race.
Clauson was certainly one of the best to ever climb behind the wheel of a Midget and Sprint Car. He will always be remembered by those who knew him as a great person and one heck of a wheelman.
When it comes to Late Model racing in the 2010s, the story begins and ends with Bubba Pollard. Although there were a handful of drivers who proved they could beat Pollard at times, there was nobody who won big races at the same pace as the Senoia, Georgia driver.
After dominating Late Model competition in the Southeast, specifically the Gulf Coast region, Pollard began traveling to major events throughout North America. During the process, he established himself as the face of Super Late Model racing in America and built up a fan base of fans in California, Maine, Wisconsin and everywhere in between.
During the decade, Pollard amassed 104 race wins, including 59 in the Super Late Model ranks and 45 in the Pro Late Model ranks. His key victories during the decade include the Rattler 250, Winter Showdown, Summer Showdown, CRA SpeedFest, All American 400, Money in the Bank 150, Slinger Nationals, Oxford 250, Canadian Short Track Nationals, Snowflake 100, Master of the Pros and Speed51 Super Select.
In addition to big race wins, Pollard also secured a Southern Super Series championship in 2014 and a World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing championship at New Smyrna Speedway in 2019.
With even more short track races on his radar moving into the new decade, it’s going to be fun to watch where Pollard goes and where he wins next.
If there was a Super Late Model race on the west coast during the decade, Derek Thorn was more than likely in contention to win. Although his statistics may not match other drivers not included on this list, his level of dominance within his region was unmatched.
In addition to winning a record four SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series championships during the decade, Thorn also made his presence known on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (now ARCA Menards Series West) circuit by winning two championships in 2013 and 2018.
Overall, Thorn won a championship in six out of 10 years during the past decade. Additionally, he added 41 SRL victories in 85 starts, nearly winning half of the races he entered. He also won seven NASCAR K&N Pro Series West events, all of which came during his three full-time campaigns.
Thorn’s signature victory came at the beginning of the 2018 season in his hometown of Bakersfield, California when he won the Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway Park. He ended the decade by adding another big victory to his resume when he won the Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway this past December.
While there may be short track drivers with more wins during the decade, there are very few with win percentages as high as Thorn’s.
Over the course of the decade, Schatz built up a resume that puts his name next to some of the greatest Sprint Car racers of all-time. While the title of “King” is already taken by Steve Kinser in the Sprint Car world, Schatz’s performance over the last 10 years has at least earned him the honor of being “The Prince.”
Since the beginning of the decade in 2010, Schatz has not finished any worse than second in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series championship standings. His impressive run includes six series championships and a streak of five consecutive titles from 2014 to 2018.
And let’s just be clear. Schatz’s championship dominance has not been accomplished by simply being consistent. He’s been flat-out dominant while competing against the best of the best in Sprint Car racing.
Overall, Schatz has recorded a whopping 182 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series wins during the decade, bringing his career total to 299 series victories.
Outside of the WoO circuit, Schatz has been just as dominant when making appearances at other events such as the All-Star Circuit of Champions. During the decade, he added 11 ASCoC wins to this resume while making a limited amount of starts with the series.
While all of these achievements are already enough to place him in our list of top 10 drivers of the decade, it is his performance in the prestigious Knoxville Nationals that bring him to another level. In the 10 versions of the race completed during the decade, Schatz won six of them, including a run of five straight from 2011 to 2015. In the races he didn’t win, he finished second on three different occasions. His worst finish of ninth in the race came this past season.
Add all of this up and there’s no doubt that Schatz established himself as the greatest Sprint Car racer of the decade.
To begin the decade, Doug Coby didn’t have a full-time ride on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Now, at the end of the decade, Coby has put himself into the conversation of being an all-time great within the Modified ranks.
Coby’s rise to stardom began in 2011 when he partnered with car owner Wayne Darling and won his first race in five years. One year later, he scored five victories on the way to his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship.
The next step of his career took place in 2014 when he was named the driver of the No. 2 car owned by Mike Smeriglio. That pair, including crew chief Phil Moran, found instant success on their way to a record four straight championships from 2014 to 2017.
During the decade, Coby visited NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory lane 28 times, with seven of those wins coming during a dominant 2015 season.
Outside of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Coby has also scored wins with the Tri-Track Open Modified Series, Valenti Modified Racing Series and NEMA Midgets. He added another feat to his resume in 2019 when he traveled south to New Smyrna Speedway and won his first World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing feature.
With a new decade here and the 2020 season approaching, Coby is currently searching for a ride after team owner Mike Smeriglio announced his retirement following the 2019 season. Regardless of where he ends up, we expect to once again see Coby competing for wins and championships during the 2020s.
When it comes to Dirt Late Model during the last decade, Josh Richards has established himself as one of the best. While competing against some of the fiercest competition in the land on both major national touring series circuits, the driver known as “Rocketman” has consistently found success.
One of Richards’ most impressive achievements is a feat that no other driver can lay claim to during the decade. While competing with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and World of Outlaws Late Model Series over the last 10 years, Richards is the only driver who can say he won both series championships.
After winning three World of Outlaws championships in 2010, 2013 and 2016, Richards made the switch over to the Lucas Oil circuit in 2017 and found instant success in the form of a championship.
In each of his full-time season on the Lucas and WoO circuits, Richards has not finished any worse than third in any championship battle over the last 10 years.
Overall, Richards tallied 56 World of Outlaws Late Model Series wins and 25 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series wins during the decade. His three World of Outlaws championships were also the most of any driver.
When it comes to the big-money races, Richards was no slouch. His marquee victories include Dirt Track World Championship wins in 2017 and 2018, as well as a pair of USA Nationals wins.
While Richards still has a bucket list of items he’d like to accomplish, there’s no doubt that his achievements during the past decade are impressive.
In the Late Model Stock world, Lee Pulliam established himself as one of the all-time greats during the 2010s. With NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) track, state and national championships and marquee races to his credit, Pulliam became one of the most recognizable names in the MId-Atlantic region.
During the 2010s, Pulliam won four NWAAS National Championships, earning the distinction in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017. Pulliam only trails Larry Phillips and Philip Morris in total championships, with those drivers holding five national championships. Pulliam won track championships at Motor Mile Speedway (VA), South Boston Speedway (VA) and Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC) during the decade as well.
While his consistently strong performances made him a national title contender year after year, Pulliam also turned up the wick for Late Model Stock’s major events. Pulliam is a two-time winner of the Martinsville 300, capturing the coveted grandfather clock in 2011 and 2014. Martinsville always brings out the best in Late Model Stock Car racing, yet Pulliam not only has won the event more than once, but has completed every lap of the often-chaotic race since 2014 and has finished runner-up five times.
Pulliam also won the South Boston 200 six consecutive years during the decade, while also scoring wins in the 2013 Myrtle Beach 400, the 2015 Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway (VA), the 2015 Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC), the Late Model Stock portion of the 2018 Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) and the inaugural CARS Tour Old North State Nationals at Orange County Speedway (NC).
With strong performances in those major races, Pulliam is a two-time Virginia Triple Crown champion, winning this year’s Triple Crown with a runner-up finish at the Martinsville 300 to Josh Berry.
In the last two years of the decade, Pulliam showed signs of scaling back his racing appearances. However, there is no doubt entering the new decade that he will still be a force to be reckoned with any time he shows up at the track.
Competing against the best of the best in Big-Block Modified racing, Matt Sheppard established himself as a superstar during the decade. While he started finding success just prior to the start of the decade, “Super Matt” really stomped on the loud pedal at the beginning of the 2010s.
As he battled the likes of Billy Decker, Brett Hearn and Stewart Friesen for much of the decade, Sheppard won the Super DIRTcar Series championship in seven of the 10 seasons. During those 10 years, the Waterloo, New York native amassed 59 victories, the most of any driver during that time.
In addition to his success with the Super DIRTcar Series, Sheppard became a dominant force at race tracks throughout the region, whether he was competing in a Big-Block or Small-Block Modifieds.
Sheppard’s home track dominance bagged him five Mr. DIRTcar Big-Block titles, most recently in 2019. A 2010 track title at Weedsport was only the beginning of his Empire State glory which has seen two titles at Outlaw Speedway, three at Utica-Rome Speedway, four at Brewerton Speedway, and an amazing eight at Land of Legends Raceway in Canandaigua, New York.
Three DIRTcar Nationals titles at Volusia Speedway Park (FL), the 2016 RoC Dirt Modified title, and a hard earned win at the 2017 edition of the Super DIRT Week Big-Block 200 at Oswego Speedway (NY) are some of the bigger stats of his 271 wins in Big-Block and Small-Block Modified competition since 2010.
In 2019, Sheppard became the first driver to sweep the Short Track Super Series North and South championships, in addition to winning his third straight American Racer Cup, a sweep which netted him an extra $57,000 on the year.
When it comes to Big-Block Modified racing in the Northeast, there was nobody who has won more races and more championships than Matt Sheppard during the decade.
If Matt Sheppard has been the face of Big-Block Modified racing in the past decade, then Mike Harrison has unquestionably been his counterpart in the UMP Modified ranks.
Harrison is now a seven-time DIRTcar UMP Modified National Champion, with six of those titles coming in the past decade (2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018). Harrison is also a six-time Summit Nationals Modified Champion during that span, with titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Throughout the decade, Harrison has also won a slew of major UMP Modified races. Harrison ended the decade with a preliminary night victory at the Gateway Dirt Nationals, an event he won in 2018. The 2019 season also boasted wins at Modified Mania at Tri-City Speedway, the Brett Korves Memorial at Belle-Clair Speedway and the Diane Bennett Memorial at Macon Speedway.
Other UMP Modified wins in the decade for Harrison include the 2010 Pepsi Nationals, four wins in the Prairie Dirt Classic, nine wins during Modified Mania, the 2018 FALS Frenzy and more.
Harrison entered the decade with a strong resume in the UMP Modified world, and he leaves it as one of the true greats of the discipline.
You didn’t think we were going to leave one of the best Dirt Late Model racers of all-time off the list, did you?
At the young age of 56, Scott Bloomquist continues to be one of the most successful and most discussed drivers in short track racing. Whether you like him or dislike like him, you’ve more than likely talked about him over the course of the last decade.
Competing primarily on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series over the last 10 years, Bloomquist added two championships to his resume in 2010 and 2016. During that time, he won a whopping 77 races on the Lucas Dirt LM circuit, including some of the biggest races in Dirt Late Model racing.
Throughout the decade, Bloomquist also made frequent appearances with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, specifically during some of their bigger events. Overall, he totaled 13 WoO victories during the decade and stole the show during some of the biggest events, including the Dirt Late Model Dream and World 100 at Eldora Speedway.
Other big victories on his resume during the past decade including the Dirt Track World Championship, Gateway Dirt Nationals, Show-Me 100 and Blue Gray 100.
Bloomquist also added victories with other series including the ULTIMATE Super Late Model Series, Southern All Stars and Spring Nationals.
When you begin a conversation about Dirt Late Model racing, it starts with Scott Bloomquist.